Media Studies Major Helps Plan Arts Gala
During the summer after her sophomore year, rising senior media studies major Gabriella Solimine had an internship at Newark Museum in her home state of New Jersey. The largest museum in the state, it features 80 galleries of world-class collections.
Although she grew up in the affluent town of Short Hills, Solimine says that Newark, with all of its inner-city flaws, holds a special place in her heart. So when she began to plan for an internship following her junior year, she wanted to head back to that city.
“My dad grew up in Newark. I know the city and its strengths, most especially the people. But I know it often gets a bad rap because, like many cities, it has its share of poverty and crime,” says Solimine.
“I would love to see Newark get attention for positive reasons. Many companies and organizations are investing in the city, from building to arts to education. There’s a revitalization going on and I want to be part of that.”
One of the best examples of that revitalization is the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC). And that’s where Solimine set her sights.
“I didn’t find any internships advertised on NJPAC’s website so I sent a letter to the director of human resources and proposed an internship,” says Solimine. That was in November 2012. In January she got an email response.
“I was shocked. They asked me to come for an interview. By the time I left the meeting I had a summer internship.”
NJPAC opened in 1997 and since then, more than 7 million visitors have attended performances or other programs there and more than 1 million Newark and New Jersey children have been involved in its Arts Education Program.
Solimine’s internship was with the Women’s Association of NJPAC, a fundraising group that since 1994 has raised more than $40 million dollars for the arts center and for arts education in New Jersey, particularly aimed at Newark schoolchildren.
Working for the managing director of the Women’s Association, Solimine’s primary responsibilities involved research and planning for the annual Spotlight Gala, NJPAC’s largest fundraiser for the year.
“The theme for this year’s gala is the Wizard of Oz, so I spent quite a bit of time researching hot air balloons and how we could get them to this venue,” says Solimine. She participated in planning meetings for the gala and learned all aspects of event planning from invitations to marketing to menus to budget.
“After graduation, I plan to return to the New York–New Jersey area and, hopefully, work for a large venue such as NJPAC, Lincoln Center, Madison Square Garden, or Radio City Music Hall,” says Solimine. “I learned a lot about the skills I will need to do that and I made connections that will last past the summer.”
Because it was an internship for credit, Solimine worked closely with her adviser, Associate Professor Stephen McKenna, chair of the media studies department. “He is one of my favorite professors and it was fun to be in touch with him during the summer.” One of her credit requirements was to interview two staff members at NJPAC about their jobs. So in addition to interviewing her internship boss, she interviewed John Schreiber, CEO of NJPAC, a Tony- and Emmy-award-winning producer.
“I couldn’t believe how generous he was with his time. He asked me so many questions about myself and gave me great career tips,” says Solimine. “He and the many women I met through the Women’s Association were such great role models to me not just of career success, but of how to use your success to improve your community. That’s what will really stay with me about my summer internship experience.”
Favorite place on campus: John K. Mullen of Denver Memorial Library. “It’s been my second home on campus and I love the architecture.”
Favorite place in D.C.: American History Museum. “I love pop culture, which is one of the reasons I’m a media studies major.”
Favorite class: : Museum Studies. “The course is offered jointly through the art department and media studies. I highly recommend it. We toured D.C. museums and we had to curate our own exhibits.”
Now that her internship has ended: “I’m headed to the beach with my parents. We’ve been going to Wildwood, N. J., every summer since I can remember.”