I'm continuously surprised by how drastically my life has changed since my admission to NYU Abu Dhabi. If you had asked me last year what my university summers would consist of, I'd never have guessed they'd include interning in New York for several arts institutions. I'm perpetually inspired by the way life curves.
After a period of interviews and essay submissions, I was fortunate enough this summer to set off for New York with two internships secured. The first, assisting at Visual Aids, a non-profit organization that uses art to fight AIDS by encouraging dialogue, supporting HIV-positive artists, and archiving the artistic contributions of the AIDS movement, and the second at the legendary Clocktower Gallery, an alternative arts space high up on the 13th floor of a building in Tribeca.
Juggling my duties for these two jobs during the day and conducting research at night, I quickly found myself jumping all over the city, navigating from small curatorial gatherings to performance venues to hidden rooftops with ephemeral installations in Times Square. Coming from the relatively slow pace of Christchurch, New Zealand, I felt the epitome of the "small girl/big city" cliché. New York is a city of enticements and the opportunities for exploration felt endless.
Being involved in the non-profit sector has also made me realize how invaluable such work and grants really are to the artists that receive them, and I'm happy to have spent my time working for causes that I wholeheartedly believe in.
The fast pace of my dual internships left me exhausted yet blissful. Besides work, my days in New York were spent in the happiest of ways, dragging reluctant friends to intimate arts gatherings in the boroughs or dedicatedly exploring every little gallery I happened upon in the (albeit sporadic) rays of sunshine during my eight-week stay. The research aspects of my summer were also fulfilling. In my free hours outside of exploring, I receded to the quiet of the gender studies section of NYU New York's Bobst Library to focus on my research with NYUAD Visiting Professor of Social Research and Public Policy Roger Friedland, exploring the intricacies and effect of physical attractiveness on love and marriage.
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of my time interning in New York was that it definitely made me realize that the arts are an area I definitely would pursue. Assisting at a gallery comes with the duty of embracing anything and everything that is thrown your way. From running through Times Square in my first week with swards of red fabric for an Indonesian gong exhibition to carrying stereo equipment down stairs from a secret arts salon at 1am, working in New York reiterated for me the value of resilience and those all too frequent long office nights. During the summer I helped artists curate and digitize their work and helped plan events to facilitate new and necessary dialogues on gender and sexuality within the arts. My work with the team at Visual Aids has expanded my worldview significantly, especially in considering gender and stigma. Being involved in the non-profit sector has also made me realize how invaluable such work and grants really are to the artists that receive them, and I'm happy to have spent my time working for causes that I wholeheartedly believe in.
It was with a heavy heart (and heavier luggage) that I set off to the airport to my native New Zealand before returning to Abu Dhabi for the fall semester. As much as I was sad to leave, I also left inspired by the vibrancy of the New York arts scene. What excites me most about my return is the possibility for such passion and innovation to be expanded to my own country and to Abu Dhabi, my newest home. My return to Abu Dhabi was definitely one for which I counted down the days, especially considering the significant arts investment and growth in the UAE with operations like the Abu Dhabi Louvre and Guggenheim so near on the horizon. I've never had a happier summer, let alone a more fulfilling one, and I'm excited to return to the UAE with new enthusiasm for the future.