Art internships help students hone both creative and professional skills, but COVID-19 has forced many organizations to change or cancel their programs.

The 4 Biggest Benefits of Art Internships and Fellowships


  • Art majors can hone their creative talents and soft skills by doing an internship or fellowship.
  • Students interested in art internships should consider factors like flexibility and location.
  • The pandemic has forced many art organizations to shorten or cancel programs for students.
  • Despite the issues arising from COVID-19, many groups plan to offer internships this year.

Securing an internship or fellowship this past year has been mostly trial by fire. As businesses pivoted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many opportunities for art majors were put on hold. In a typical year, participating in an internship or fellowship would be a wise move for an art student.

The arts thrive on internships and career opportunities, which promote growth and connection in a variety of creative fields. As remote work continues to take precedence, more companies and organizations are finding new ways to facilitate internships for budding artists.

The arts thrive on internships and career opportunities, which promote growth and connection in a variety of creative fields.

Each year, many art students at the undergraduate and graduate levels look for internships and related professional opportunities, with fall and summer programs typically being the most popular.

Completing a professional program can give art degree-seekers a leg up on the competition when vying for jobs. For some art students, participating in an internship or fellowship may be required for graduation. Other students may enroll in professional programs simply to gain more insight into potential career paths.

Top 4 Benefits of Art Internships and Fellowships

You'll Hone Your Creative and Professional Skills

Internships and fellowships are often treated as proving grounds for creative endeavors. These opportunities help students not only hone their artistic abilities but also learn to interact in a real-world setting with real artists. Students can develop critical soft skills, such as collaboration, decision-making, critical thinking, and communication, all of which can bolster resumes.

You Can Form Helpful Connections

Through internships and fellowships, many art majors will find themselves forming bonds they never expected to. Some students may gain a mentor in their boss or supervisor, which can be helpful when hunting for open positions after graduation. You can even ask your mentor to act as a reference for jobs.

You can also use your internship to forge friendships with fellow interns, who might help you find a job after graduation and offer referrals for positions.

You Can See What You Like (and Don't Like) About the Field

One of the biggest advantages of completing an art internship or fellowship is that you get the chance to try out a professional field and see what you like and don't like about that career path in terms of job expectations and responsibilities, advancement opportunities, salary, and creative freedom.

You May Move Into a Permanent Position

Commonly, art internships and fellowships serve as test runs for employers, who may (but don't always) consider transferring high-performing interns and fellows into full-time positions upon graduation. It's therefore vital that you treat your internship as you would a real job. Should a permanent spot open up, you want to be the first candidate under consideration.

Factors to Consider When Searching for Art Internships

  • College Credit: When applying for art internships and fellowships, don't forget about your coursework. Many art programs require students to complete an internship. Before applying for an art internship, confirm that college credit is part of the deal. If you're unsure, contact the internship provider and ask.
  • Flexibility: Just like any college student, art students lead busy lives, so try to prioritize internships that offer plenty of flexibility in terms of scheduling and hours.
  • Location: Art majors must decide whether they can pick up and move for a brief period or would prefer something close to home. Financial issues and lack of availability often play a major role in this decision, with both options offering pros and cons.
  • Environment: Many art careers are built around the spirit of collaboration. Look for internships that strongly value collaboration among interns, fellows, and/or workers and that provide a creative, nurturing environment.

COVID-19's Impact on Art Fellowships and Internships

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns among art majors seeking real-world experience and affected professional opportunities for art students in several ways.

Due to public health measures, many organizations have either cut down internships by several days or weeks or pulled the plug on programs entirely. Most companies cite safety and health protocols as the main reason for canceling these opportunities, whereas others have chosen to pause recruitment efforts and postpone internships and fellowships until 2022.

Many organizations have either cut down internships by several days or weeks or pulled the plug on programs entirely.

Some places, like local art galleries and the Michigan-based nonprofit Artists Creating Together, are trying out hybrid programs that are part virtual and part in-person.

Unfortunately, many art organizations are seeking fewer interns or fellows due to issues related to the pandemic. Some have gone as far as to only take on one or two students, increasing the competitiveness of these opportunities.

A shift to virtual also means art students must rely more heavily on technology, rather than in-person networking and collaboration, to communicate with employers and gain professional experience.

The Future of Art Internships for College Students

With COVID-19 still gripping the U.S., employers remain uncertain about whether they should return to face-to-face programs or cancel spring and summer internships and fellowships.

Indiana INTERNnet recently conducted a survey of over 150 businesses on the future of spring and summer internships. Even with the pandemic, 64% of employers who typically hire interns for the spring still plan to hire interns this spring, while 24% report feeling unsure. Employers who fell into the latter group point to concerns regarding COVID-19, the economy, and a lack of supervising staff.

According to a recent survey, 70% of employers who typically offer summer internships plan to continue offering programs this summer.

A slightly higher percentage of employers (70%) who typically hire summer interns plan to continue offering summer internships this year. Around 35%, however, intend to make changes to their usual internship structures due to the pandemic.

With the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine and restrictions slowly being lifted, more companies and organizations seem eager to jump back into the internship and fellowship game. The real question, though, is how the pandemic has — potentially permanently — shifted this landscape for art students.


Feature Image: LumiNola / E+ / Getty Images