From New Jersey to New Mexico

Although the names of both states start with “new”, the similarities end there. Thinking back six months ago, sitting in my apartment and filling out an application, for an internship with the Georgia O’Keefe museum, I never thought I would actually make it out here to the state of enchantment. I will say though, I am glad I’ll be spending my summer here. So far it has been an amazingly terrifying experience. Amazing because I’ve been living in the heart of a huge art city, eating great food, hiking awe inspiring mountains, and experiencing a culture so much different than the one I grew up with. Terrifying because I moved across the country by myself to work with kids for nine weeks, Wow!

Judging by my first few days here, I though this summer was going to be a disaster. I spent my first two days in Santa Fe curled up in my bed sick with food poisoning that I had to deal with for a six hour flight and two days after that. Either by Coincidence or by some symbolic metaphorical grace my first day of work was also the day my food poisoning had gone away. Taking the bus to SFUAD I was pretty nervous to meet my soon to be boss and fellow interns. But walking into the studio space I was greeted by people with kind faces and great personalities. Although no one will replace my family and friends back home I feel like I now have a second family on the west coast; one of the many unexpected surprises of this internship. Intern training week went pretty smoothly. Thinking back now I can’t recall much of the particulars but I know I must have learned a lot of great things because this internship has been going great and all of us (the interns) have clicked amazingly. The one thing I do distinctly remember is getting to experience ghost ranch. I don’t think I’ve experienced a more beautiful sight then the view at the top of Kitchen Mesa after the long hike with some great people. With the end of the first week I felt ready to conquer the eight weeks ahead with rambunctious kids.

Was I really prepared for the first group of kids?!? No way! I wasn’t ready for the next two weeks but everything felt like it fell into place and went really well anyway. One of the greatest feelings ever was able to remember all the kids’ names, not sure why, but it felt like it helped us connect. The first groups of kids were super bright eyed, energetic, and awesome. We had a really amazing visiting artist and great work was created by all. A little nerve racking was the fact that I had to present an intern art activity for this wild bunch crazy kids. I presented to them Abstract Expressionism and allowed the kids to make big pieces of work with large brushes in the style of Pollock and it was super rewarding to see the kids make really awesome work. First week down, all went well, kids were great! The second week was going to be a cake walk. I guess I’m not a cake guy, because the second week of the new boys was a little rougher than anticipated. By this time the kids got to know each other and the interns. Bonds were being formed and boundaries being tested, which was frustrating at first, but contemplating about I’m proud that the boys had the confidence to question the somewhat authority figure that was presented to them (the interns). If you’ve ever wondered what chaos theory is or what atomic particles smashing into each other looks like, I encourage you to watch a group of boys during lunch, especially while playing four square*. Aside from all the sometimes frustrating, sometimes inspiring energy the week went great. So great in fact that it was really hard to say goodbye to the boys. Creating work, helping boys create work, bonding with certain boys and being a part of this chaotic week of art, leadership, and energy was a rewarding experience I would never trade in.

The first week of the Returnee Boys was a little melancholic from the beginning knowing we would only have a week together. It was a cool week though, I presented another intern activity (this time the projected expanded to other 20th century abstraction movements), we had great visiting ceramics artists, and we did silk screening. Each kid had a really awesome personality and brought a lot of fun to the group. I’m not sure if it was the length of the week ( or lack thereof) but connecting with the kids felt a little harder and I think there age may have played a part in being somewhat uninterested in anything we wanted to teach. My only hope is that a couple of the kids got something out of the program. Also overall I hope that if anything these kids learn one thing from me. Forget teaching them about art, forget life lessons, I really hope that the one thing the boys can learn from me is to go for what they want in life no matter how crazy it seems. Regardless of whether or not you want to intern for a prestigious organization and have to travel across the country to do so go for it. Travel from New Jersey to New Mexico to achieve what you want and live your life.

*Four Square is a playground game where friendships are broken and glory is stolen at the end of a bouncing ball. The premise of the game is to bounce the ball into an opponent’s square in an effort for the ball to bounce out of there square and get them out. The main goal is to occupy the King’s square.


Alex Natale, Art and Leadership intern