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11 Best Art and Design Internships for High Schoolers

5 minute read

When I was in high school, I had an image in my head of what an “internship” looked like: sitting at a desk, taking notes, occasionally bringing people coffee, and slowly succumbing to boredom… all for free (i.e. in exchange for “experience”). As someone who highly valued (and still highly values) being creative, I gave a wide berth to anything that smelled remotely like an internship.

Art and Design Internships: What’s the Point?

Now, it turns out that there are actually fantastic internships in art and design available for creative high school students. Below , you’ll find a variety of different types of internships emphasizing personal expression, arts leadership, portfolio development, curation, and more. I genuinely wish I had known about these opportunities when I was a high schooler.

Note: you’ll want to avoid applying to professional internships by mistake, such as the Disney Animation Studios Apprenticeship program, which is geared towards college students and early career professionals.

Looking for more of an independent project? Polygence has you covered. We’ll match you with an artist mentor in your preferred medium to guide you through whatever artistic and/or technical questions you may encounter. Most importantly, you’ll remain in control of the project throughout the entire process. Click here to learn more and sign up now!

Here are eleven great art and design internships for high school students to consider, from my perspective as a professional artist.

Top 11 Art and Design Internships for High School Students

1. Bloomberg Arts Internship (BAI)

The Bloomberg Arts Internship (BAI) program connects high school students to local artistic and cultural organizations for paid summer internships. Through these programs, students get to learn about and try out various careers in the arts while developing professional skills and connections. Each local program has different eligibility requirements and application deadlines.

This program is well-funded and very flexible. Plus, in Philadelphia, there is also the Bloomberg Arts Internship — School Year (BAISY) program. The first step is to apply for the summer internship, as the school year program is reserved for current seniors who wish to continue their project from the previous summer.

2. Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) Artslife Internship Program

  • Location: New York, NY

  • Eligibility: rising 10th and 11th graders in NYC public and charter schools

  • Duration: July 9 to August 16, 2024

  • Paid? yes

  • When to apply: by April 7, 2024

  • More information: https://madmuseum.org/programs/teen-programs-mad 

The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) Artslife Internship Program is a five-week summer position open to rising high school sophomores and juniors. Interns work on questions relating to art and design, leadership, and community engagement. The best part? During the five weeks, interns work collaboratively with museum staff, local artists, and other mentors on joint projects.

3. Metropolitan Museum of Art High School Internship Program

  • Location: New York, NY

  • Eligibility: grades 10 - 11 (school year) or rising juniors and seniors (summer)

  • Duration: school year (January - June) or summer (June - August)

  • Paid? yes

  • When to apply: by October 27 (school year) or March 10 (summer)

  • More information: https://www.metmuseum.org/about-the-met/internships/high-school 

This prestigious internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art focuses on art history, research, and conservation. The program runs from January to June, and again from June to August. Current sophomores and juniors in high school are eligible to apply.

4. The Art Institute of Chicago Teen Council

  • Location: Chicago, IL

  • Eligibility: Chicago area high school students; for summer session, must be at least 16

  • Duration: school year (September - June) or summer (June - August)

  • Paid? yes

  • When to apply: by early August (school year) or in spring (for summer internships)

  • More information: https://www.artic.edu/learn-with-us/teens/opportunities-for-teens 

The Art Institute of Chicago has a school-year teen council (about 4 hours of commitment per week) and a summer teen council program. While the school-year program is open to all high schoolers in the Chicago area, the summer program is more intensive and is therefore limited to students who are 16 or older at the time the internship starts. The program focuses on developing arts leadership skills and allows participants to play a direct role in curation and programming.

5. The National Gallery of Art Teen Volunteer Program

Teen volunteers at the National Gallery of Art work on arts administration projects behind the scenes. The program is only open to upper level high school students (juniors and seniors).

Explore the Fine Arts through research

Polygence pairs you with an expert mentor in your area of passion: literature, drama, film making, theatre, writing, poetry. Together, you create a high quality research project that is uniquely your own. We also offer options to explore multiple topics, or to showcase your final product!

6. The Whitney Museum of American Art Youth Insights Program

  • Location: New York, NY

  • Eligibility: NYC high school students

  • Duration: varies

  • Paid? no

  • When to apply: by December 22 (for spring 2024 program)

  • More information: https://whitney.org/education/teens 

Through their Youth Insights (YI) Artists Program, the Whitney Museum connects high school students with contemporary artists to create collaboratively over the course of the semester. In addition, the Whitney offers a free program called YI Careers, in which students explore arts careers through meeting with museum staff and professionals. Graduates of either program are then eligible to become YI Leaders, which is a year-long paid intern position.

7. Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Teen Arts Collective

The Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) internship program is very flexible compared to some of the others on this list. It consists of a variety of learning opportunities ranging from meet-and-greet opportunities with professional artists to drop-in studio sessions. There’s not much structure, but the fact that it’s MoMA means it must be cool!

8. Brooklyn Museum Creative Practice Internship

This paid internship at the Brooklyn Museum is a teaching assistantship in which participants engage with audiences of all ages to explore creativity, social justice, and community liberation. Most of the work happens on Thursday evenings and weekends.

9. Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s Teen Museum Council

Members of the Teen Museum Council at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery work to make the gallery an engaging space for teenage visitors. The council meets weekly on Wednesdays during the school year.

10. Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) Boston Teen Programs

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston has a robust offering of paid programs for high schoolers, ranging from the Teen Arts Council (focused on arts leadership) to studio art classes and workshops. In addition to the Teen Arts Council, the Museum currently has two other active programs: the Curatorial Study Hall internship, which is a project-based exploration of exhibition creation, and the STEAM Team, in which students explore museum careers related to science, technology, engineering, art, and math.

11. Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum’s Design Hive

The “Design Hive” is a gathering of high school juniors and seniors that takes place at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum on Tuesdays from 4:30 to 6:30 pm from November to May. Participants in the student-led initiative are paid a stipend of $2,000 for their involvement. The goal of the project is to work together to design a more responsible, equitable, and collaborative world. The program is open exclusively to high school juniors and seniors.

Experience Artistic Freedom with Polygence

These internships are wildly different from one another and from the expectations that I had around internships when I was a high school student. Whether you are interested in working in a project-based creative role, collaborating with local artistic and cultural organizations, or learning about potential career paths in the arts, there are some great options out there that don't involve going crazy from sitting still all day (as I feared)!

On the other hand, if you are self-motivated and looking for an even more flexible internship-type experience, check out Polygence’s virtual mentorship programs. Through Polygence, you’ll work on your art or artistic research from anywhere with just the right amount of structure from an artist mentor who specializes in your medium of choice. Want to learn more? Click here!

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