University students of every discipline are constantly looking to the future. With academic deadlines and seemingly endless lists of internships and applications to complete, it can be difficult to imagine one’s life past graduation. The latest addition to the Georgia Museum of Art, Emily Hogrefe-Ribeiro, can relate to students who take time to figure out where they are meant to be. She graduated with an undergraduate degree in art history in 2011 and now holds the position of assistant curator of education. In a brief interview, Hogrefe-Ribeiro discussed the path she took to get here, the value of her work and what she looks forward to in the future.
After finishing her undergraduate degree at Sarah Lawrence College, Hogrefe-Ribeiro says she spent a few years doing some internal searching — a possibility with which no undergraduate is unfamiliar. She then worked as an artist’s studio assistant, a gallery attendant in a museum and a marketing assistant for a historic house museum. With some time in the field under her belt, she returned to get her graduate degree from Tulane University, with a background in contemporary art of the African diaspora and a focus on education.
She then interned with the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., as part of her graduate studies and completed her graduate internship at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where she worked with local schools. Among other projects, she created art-integrated programs for 7th-graders and their teachers during multiple visits to the museum. She also worked with student and continuing education docent programs.
In her search for the next step after her graduate internship, she came across the opening at the Georgia Museum of Art. “I had friends visiting for the fourth of July,” Hogrefe-Ribeiro said, “And I was like ‘Oh my goodness, this position sounds perfect!’ So, I sent them off to continue to have fun and I pounded out my application in two days.” Luckily, Hogrefe-Ribeiro had visited Athens before and had found it very much to her liking. She saw stand-out qualities of the museum in the number of field trips regularly coming through its doors, the community and student docent programs and the size of the teaching collection.
She points out that the galleries are incredibly useful as an educational tool because they are arranged chronologically and focus on different trends in the development of American art, including a great cross-section of works by African American artists. Frequently rotating exhibitions fill gaps in the permanent collection and provide spotlights through which to examine artistic concepts in tighter focus.
Hogrefe-Ribeiro’s position allows her to guide directly the ways in which visitors to the museum learn. This accessibility to historic material and the relationship of the museum to the university and the surrounding community appeal to her drive to knock down elitist roadblocks in the field of art history. “What’s the point of learning all this stuff in graduate school if you only are speaking to one niche audience?” she asked, “I want everyone to know what I know and have access to what I’ve had access to.”
Now Hogrefe-Ribeiro is working on 5th-grade tours, a donor-funded program that allows every 5th-grade student in Athens-Clarke County to come to the museum. This year, all 5th-grade tours have been scheduled to come during the run of “Richard Hunt: Synthesis.” These tours are supplemented by tactility-centered art carts and interpretive activities to lay foundations for art appreciation. The tours are led by the community and student docent corps, which Hogrefe-Ribeiro will take over leadership of in the spring. She is excited about revisiting and adapting tour stops to put new spins on the way visitors experience the museum’s collections.
And how is she settling in? After one month, Athens already feels like home, she said. Although she’s only been at the museum a few weeks, and she looks forward to learning its intricacies and taking on more as she goes, the job so far suits her perfectly. “I’m excited by what I’m doing,” she said. “I feel very personally fulfilled coming to work each day.”
Intern, Department of Communications