$5 million grant to pay interns helps increase diversity at the Met

Adrienne Arsht gave $5 million to the Met to pay its interns

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Monday, August 8, 2022
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Adrienne Arsht gave $5 million to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to pay its interns. Since then, applications for Met internships have increased 200%. Sandy Kenyon has more.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- In October of 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we told you about a big donation aimed at expanding diversity among inters at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A single donor, Adrienne Arsht, gave $5 million to the Met to pay its interns. And since then, applications for Met internships have increased by 200%.

More 3,000 applied for 50 slots this summer, and it's no wonder that management calls the Arsht Intern Program a "super success."

Internships are crucial to getting started in any competitive field, and traditionally, these positions were not paid -- so the jobs often went to the sons and daughters of wealthy people, i.e. kids who didn't have to earn money.

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But now, a quiet revolution is underway to make the staff as diverse as the art on the walls and in the galleries.

"Broadening who is at the table, who is in the conversation, will help us," Education Chair Heidi Holder said.

She says the push towards greater diversity has to begin at the entry level, which is why paying interns is so important.

"It gives opportunity to people who would otherwise not have an opportunity to have an internship in the arts," she said.

Ollantay Avila is a case in point.

"I wouldn't have been able to be part of this internship otherwise," she said.

Avila has been getting hands on experience in graphic design by helping with changes to the Met's website, but still, she worries.

"Especially as a person who loves the arts, it's a little bit sad to see that there's not a lot of diversity," she said. "People who look like me in positions I want to be in."

It was to help young people like Avila that convinced Arsht to specify her gift to the Met go to pay the interns, so that this lack of diversity could be addressed.

"It doesn't improve until you start at the bottom and build a base and these different individuals rise up through the organization," Arsht said.

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Inters said meeting with Arsht left them enthusiastic.

"You could tell she was really invested in what she was doing," Sade Collier said. "It's not just someone who's giving money."

Arsht's idea to help grew out of her late father's experience. He had to give up an important opportunity as a young man because of a need to support himself.

It's no wonder then that the program gives her great joy.

"Your presence here is making such a big difference for the Met and how it moves forward," she told Collier.

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