Senior art major and photographer Jasmine James spent last fall in London, England, interning at a non-profit gallery located on the edge of the city’s museum district. James worked as an administrative intern at the gallery Art Catalyst, which commissions and produces transdisciplinary art and research and expands artistic practice into areas commonly associated with science and specialist research.
It was the Montgomery native’s first time overseas, but James isn’t a stranger to exploring new territory. When she first came to UA, she knew she wanted to major in photography, but then discovered she also liked history, something she hadn’t studied in-depth before. Now she is a senior double major in studio art and history.
At the gallery, James was tasked with a job for which she had no experience: renovating their exhibition archives, both paper files and online records, that, she said, went back to the early 1990s. Before she could tackle that huge assignment, however, she needed to research the methods other galleries used and get a crash course in archival management. She visited several including the Whitechapel Gallery around central London and interviewed gallery directors to find out how they kept their records, how they archived their exhibitions and how best to make these public resources accessible to the public.
For the semester in London, James also learned firsthand about living in a different culture. Before she went, she said, “I thought to myself, ‘I’m not going to drink tea.’ Now, all I drink is Yorkshire tea. I can’t look at Starbucks.” She laughed about her preconceptions. “I was expecting everybody to be walking around in trench coats and calling each other ‘love.’” There are certain words James still pronounces with an English accent, like “Yorkshire,” where the new headquarters of the gallery will be located. She got so used to pronouncing them the “right” way in England, that saying them with an American accent just sounds funny now.
James is a little apprehensive about the next few months, waiting to see how the coronavirus pandemic will play out, but she’s optimistic about her future. She’s applied to internships at two nationally known museums as well as a regular position in another. “As of right now,” she wrote when we got back in touch on the first day of virtual classes, “I’m still handling my schoolwork, and my photography project is still underway. My current project is a full 180 from my previous work, so I’m quite proud of myself for this sole reason.”
“I still wish to become a curator at some contemporary art museum in the future, but I won’t give up my photography skills. Rather, I’ll just keep taking pictures and developing my skills over time and looking forward. The main goal I want to accomplish post-graduation is to renter the art curator-world like I did in London. I can’t say with confidence what the future will hold for me,” James wrote, “but what I can say with certainty is that one day I’ll be where I need to be.”
For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in studio art and art history, visit our Degree Programs page.