UTA alumnae receive prestigious summer internships researching art history

UTA alumni, Jessica Khazem, left, and Mya Lewis received prestigious post-graduation internships focused on art history.

UTA alumnae Jessica Khazem and Mya Lewis received prestigious postgraduate internships focused on art history.

Khazem and Lewis received Bachelor of Art degrees in art history and worked as staff members at UTA Libraries Special Collections scanning and gathering metadata for the Dr. Jack Franke collection of African maps.

Khazem received a Library Research Grant to conduct research on special collections housed at the Getty Research Institution in Los Angeles, California, and Lewis received a virtual internship with the Smithsonian Center of Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, D.C.

“What I will be doing at the Getty is focusing on their orientalist photography collection,” Khazem said.

Khazem’s area of focus involves non-Western cultures, primarily the Mediterranean.

She said art history is rigorous in research, and gaining a position doing something she is extremely interested in is an opportunity most students do not get.

“Me and my curatorial team are developing a summit to bring together African American artisans, writers [and] curators to this summit to talk about their work and why it’s important to their heritage,” Lewis said.

She is currently researching African textiles and African American crafts.

Lewis’ main interests involve art from the African diaspora, contemporary work and any underrepresented asset because there’s no reason they should be excluded from the historical canon, she said.

Lewis said she was “completely astounded” when she learned she had received the internship.

These opportunities are not just given; both students took the time and put in the effort when applying for these positions, said Leah McCurdy, art and art history professor.

Both of them first joined Special Collections in fall 2019 through an internship arranged by McCurdy.

McCurdy applied for the Faculty Teaching in the Archives Grant and used the funding for internships that would allow Khazem and Lewis to get hands-on experience digitally archiving new maps.

McCurdy said they worked with all 200 maps, digitized them and created metadata for a digital database, which is now a publicly available online gallery.

“They are the picture of who is going to bring the arts to where it should be in our lives, and their voices are so important,” McCurdy said.

Cartographic archivist Ben Huseman said Khazem and Lewis are bright, intelligent and creative.

Huseman worked alongside them within UTA’s Special Collections.

“Students like [Khazem and Lewis] benefit the university; they benefit the instructors. We all benefit from wonderful students like them,” he said.

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