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Graduate Student Selected for Prestigious National Gallery of Art Internship

Maryam Athari (Master of Art History ’17) gained a unique behind-the-scenes perspective of the esteemed institution.

The University of Houston’s new College of the Arts (CotA) is rife with talented emerging leaders. Art History graduate student Maryam Athari (MAAH ’17) is one such CotA trailblazer.

Athari spent the summer interning for the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington D.C. As one of only 18 students selected for their Summer Internship Program, she had the unparalleled opportunity to work on a project directed by the NGA’s Department Head of Curatorial Records. She also attended bi-weekly seminars designed to introduce interns to the diverse scope of NGA’s internal operations, covering everything from development to facilities.

“The experience was deeply enriching,” said Athari, pointing to the in-depth training sessions and the caliber of the other interns, with whom she enjoyed lively debates and discussions. “All of my fellow interns were bringing new, sophisticated ideas into their fields and I think we really benefitted from one another’s points of view.”

The NGA acquired several thousand works of art from one of the oldest art museums in the nation, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, after it dissolved in 2014. Athari spent the nine-week internship developing the bibliography of the American painting collection until 1945 that was acquired from the Corcoran Gallery of Art. She also conducted provenance research to establish and document the history of a French Rococo collection that was donated by The Kress Collection.

Athari said that she and fellow interns were entrusted with a unique level of responsibility, which she found both challenging and rewarding. “I would work on a bibliography and the next day it was accessible to the public,” she said.

Athari’s momentum hasn’t slowed since she retuned to Houston. Last fall, her time was split between the UH main campus and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, where she worked as a Curatorial Fellow in the department of Islamic Art. Before the internship, she also held the role of Curatorial Fellow at the Menil Collection through a partnership between UH School of Art and the Menil Collection.

After completing her master’s degree this spring, she plans to pursue a doctoral degree to continue her research into Middle Eastern art in the global contemporary market.