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The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s flagship building on Fifth Avenue.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Will Begin Paying All Interns after Receiving $5 Million Donation

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art will begin paying all of its interns after receiving a $5 million donation from art collector and philanthropist Adrienne Arsht. The pledged gift, which will also help fund the museum’s MetLiveArts performance series, will establish a fully paid internship program starting next spring, to be named after Arsht. The institution’s current seasonal, unnamed internship programs, which last year included seventy undergraduate and graduate students across more than forty departments, offer to arrange academic credit at interns’ schools in the way of compensation. The Met, which had already offered paid nine-month and yearlong full-time internships, claims that it is now the largest art museum in the country to provide entirely paid internships. The application process will open in September, shortly after the museum’s planned August 29 reopening date for its Fifth Avenue building.

The change arrives a little over a year after the board of trustees for the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) urged museums to end unpaid internship programs, which create barriers to diversity endemic to all fields but extremely common in museums (overall, college interns in humanities and social sciences report higher rates of free labor). “Internships provide critical opportunities for students considering careers in art museums as well as the experience necessary for entering the workforce,” the AAMD board said in a resolution published last June. “Paid internships are essential to increasing access and equity for the museum profession.” That July, Art + Transparency—an initiative founded by curator Michelle Millar Fisher—launched a spreadsheet compiling anonymous firsthand data on art-world internships; out of hundreds of contributors, most interns, under the compensation section, reported zero.

“Paid internships are an important step towards increasing opportunities and supporting equity in the art field,” Arsht said. “This, along with an enduring focus on themes of resilience, lifting up artists from a variety of backgrounds through the museum’s performance programming, forms the foundation of my gift.”

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