Jenna Washington

By Zoë Eitel
From the moment Jenna Washington interviewed for an internship at the Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, she knew it was going to be a good fit. She was drawn to the mission and close-knit nature of the small team and the way everyone’s personalities worked together. As a native Chicagoan, she also felt she could bring a local perspective to the gallery that was based in Seattle until a 2019 move.
“Above all I love that Mariane gives a platform to artists of color through her representation and I also love her dedication to female artists,” she says.

Teacher Assistant at University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

Gallery Intern at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

BA History of Art and Architecture 2019

Jenna works as an assistant to the gallery’s Communications Director and Registrar as well as helping draft press releases, art fair applications and grant pitches and writing proposal text for a catalogue and preparing accommodations for visiting artists. In addition to her internship, Jenna works as a Teacher Assistant at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.
It was Jenna’s friends who suggested she apply for the internship, but it was her work history at respected institutions like the Hyde Park Art Center and the Studio Museum in Harlem that landed her the position.

“What most supplemented my education at DePaul was working at the DePaul Art Museum. Constantly being around art and contemporary artists really tested my skills on how to talk about art, and allowed me time to really think about what I liked about museums, and what I wanted to do in the field.”

At the Hyde Park Art Center, Jenna worked as a creative coordinator for its Creativity Camp, which she was able to get because she had been previously involved with the public programming at the center when she was a teenager and has good relationships with the staff. That experience then set her up to get the internship in Harlem where she worked on the Studio Museum’s arts programming for kindergarteners and on an adult education course.
“Working for the Studio Museum in Harlem was the first time I gained experience with what it is like working as an arts administrator at a large institution,” she says. “After that experience I believe my expectations are higher regarding the ways an arts institution can listen and cater to the needs of diverse publics.”
Jenna’s internships have taught her the importance of education in the arts, and while her dreams of being a curator haven’t completely gone away, she is drawn to the education aspect more now. She says that at good institutions, educational staff get to work closely with curatorial teams and press teams with an added bonus of working with youth.
It is also important to Jenna that diversity is a focus of the institutions she will work for in the future and the ones she has interned at. It can be easy for institutions to only focus on what they are doing within their walls, but having a connection to the communities around them is something Jenna wants to see prosper. As an educator, she could be the one to bridge that gap.
“I’ve gained inspiration from learning how many museums that serve artists of color were started by arts educators, and I appreciate that we are really the ones on the frontlines making the change within communities and neighborhoods,” Jenna says. “I was surprised to see how diverse certain organizations can be. In those spaces, I was often not the only person of color within the room, so that was a refreshing change from many experiences I’d had before.”
When she was at DePaul, Jenna worked at the DePaul Art museum, which supplemented her education by giving her real world experience and showing her what a future in the field would look like.
“Constantly being around art and contemporary artists really tested my skills on how to talk about art, and allowed me time to really think about what I liked about museums, and what I wanted to do in the field,” Jenna says. “It is important for students to really think about what they like and want to do within their career. People who are hiring for jobs want to see someone who is enthusiastic. It is refreshing for them.”