The summer internship is a rite of passage for college students, but very few have the pleasure of interning in a place as beautiful and culturally rich as Venice, Italy. Last summer, Erica Kamin ’11 and Lauren Novotny ’11 spent two months learning about art restoration with the non-profit organization Save Venice.
This coming summer, art major Megan Cassidy ’12 (Manalapan, N.J.) and Katharine O’Neall ’12 (Monroe, Conn.), a double major in art and economics, will be the second group of Lafayette students to intern with Save Venice.
The internships and living expenses are funded by Mary Kolarek Frank ’79 and her husband, Howard. Mary Frank is a member of the boards of Save Venice and Miami Art Museum. Diane Cole Ahl, Rothkopf Professor of Art History, worked with the Franks to arrange the Lafayette internships at Save Venice.
Although the actual restoration work is left to experts, Kamin (Woodbury, N.Y.), an art major, and Novotny (Montville, N.J.), an art and economics double major, were able to observe art preservation efforts up close in restoration labs and in churches throughout the city. Novotny says it was thrilling to be inside the churches seeing the art that she had studied in the Italian Renaissance class she took with Professor Ahl.
The two spent time inside the Church of San Sebastiano, where three ceiling canvases by Renaissance master Paolo Veronese were being cleaned and restored, and were allowed to go up on the scaffolding and see the experts at work.
Before her internship, Kamin wrote a research paper about the Church of San Sebastiano, which made seeing it in person that much more rewarding, she says.
Their internship duties included copy editing a book about the artwork that Save Venice has restored, and creating a database that organized information about all the Save Venice projects.
“Now they’ll be able to sort through every project they’ve ever done,” Novotny says.
They learned about the fundraising and policy making aspects of running a non-profit organization, knowledge that Novotny says will be useful to her as she pursues a career in arts management. They also attended weekly lectures and site visits with Columbia
University students throughout their stay.
For Kamin and Novotny, it was their first experience traveling abroad, and they loved it.
“Venice is a beautiful, enchanting city,” Kamin says. “This was the most incredible summer of my life.”
“Every day I miss it,” Novotny says.
When they weren’t working at Save Venice, the two would spend long afternoons reading and relaxing in cafes, or exploring the city’s unnamed streets by foot and intentionally getting lost to discover new places.
“No matter where you went, you were seeing something cool,” Kamin says.
Both students took Italian language classes before going to Venice, but say they appreciated that many Venetians speak English, which made adapting to the culture easier. They also had help from their Save Venice internship supervisors, two American women.
Novotny’s advice for the new Save Venice interns is to immerse themselves in the experience, and not worry about the American lifestyle they left behind, because the two months will go by quickly.
Save Venice was founded in 1967 under the umbrella of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization in response to the flood of the previous year. Its mission is to restore and protect the city’s threatened masterpieces. Each year, the board chooses projects to sponsor according to artistic merit and urgency of need. The organization has completed more than 200 restorations.