What It Is Like to Study Abroad for a Semester at Sotheby’s Institute in London
by| 10 Aug 2015
Robin Klaus, College of Wooster student, tells us about her experience.
When I first considered studying abroad, the options were endless. My university offered countless programs in countries all over the world, and each one promised an exciting and life-changing experience. As an art history major pursuing a curatorial career, however, nothing fit quite right — until I found Sotheby’s Institute of Art.
The Institute offers many courses for the art-attuned, but I found the Art Museums, Galleries, and Curating 15-week program unique in the scope of its content and the intensity of its experiential approach. As the title suggests, we explored the history of collecting, traditions of museum practice, the myriad roles of a curator, and the functions of modern art museums and galleries within these contexts. The ways in which the course exceeded my expectations made for a world-class educational experience. During the more than sixty visits to London art museums and galleries, we went behind-the-scenes and discovered every conceivable profession therein; from conservation scientists to intellectual property lawyers and everything in between. No art museum-related stone was left unturned.
ROBIN GETTING TO GRIPS WITH A TEDDY BEAR DURING A SPECIAL HANDLING SESSION AT THE V&A MUSEUM IN LONDON.
With a new field-visit almost every day (and sometimes more than one), the Art Museums, Galleries, and Curating course was also an in-depth introduction to the London art scene — a sizable task, considering London remains a booming center of the international art world. We experienced blockbuster exhibitions at national institutions, enjoyed private tours at pint-sized galleries, and even walked the streets of trendier neighborhoods to soak up the street art. Each visit and viewing experience was enhanced by our learned lens of museum methodology, theory, and historical tradition — a facet of the course that left us acutely aware of our own role in the trajectory of art museum practice.
“During the more than sixty visits to London art museums and galleries… no art museum-related stone was left unturned.”
The Art Museums, Galleries, and Curating course left nothing to be desired, and I can say the same for the Institute itself. I came to London having never lived in a major metropolitan area (i.e. a public transportation novice), and the Sotheby’s Institute staff were eager to make the transition to London — and for some even the transition back to structured schooling — as seamless as possible. When I needed to replace my watch battery, the Reception staff helped me find a repair shop nearby. When I wanted to maintain my French language skills while in London, my Program Leader advised me on resources within the city. Counselors were available to chat if desired, and, thankfully, everyone was an endless source of transportation advice.
ROBIN WITH FELLOW CLASSMATES AT THE MUSEUM BEELDEN AAN ZEE DURING THE FIELD TRIP TO AMSTERDAM.
What made my experience at Sotheby’s Institute truly great, however, was the exceptional group of students in my course and our unparalleled Program Leader. An incredible range of ages, cultural backgrounds, and professional experiences made each day fresh and interesting. The overwhelmingly supportive attitude of the whole group was even more significant to me; with such a small class size, we became a close-knit bunch, and each person genuinely wanted to see the other succeed. Finally, we would be nothing without our Program Leader, Amy Mechowski, an educational mastermind who gave 110% every moment of the course.
In short, my choice to spend a semester on the Art Museums, Galleries, and Curating course at Sotheby’s Institute of Art was undoubtedly the best decision — personally and professionally — of my undergraduate career thus far. From it, I have a practical and nuanced understanding of my professional field of interest, which has already proved advantageous. I learned from vastly knowledgeable professionals, made an extraordinary network of friends and future colleagues, and, by the end, could even navigate around the city without a hitch.