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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

From the vault to the gallery: Students discuss interning for Ulrich Museum

Abby DeHaven, Gus Denneler, Brisa Perez and Lucia Suniga pose for a photo in the Ulrich Museum of Art’s Collection Study Center. (Photo courtesy of Jo Reinert)

With less than 15 full-time employees, a quarter of the staff at the Ulrich Museum of Art is made up of Wichita State student interns. To alleviate the difficulties that come with a small staff, Ulrich annually hires Wichita State students as interns. 

Currently, four students assist Ulrich through various part-time roles, working behind the scenes, in the museum’s vault and more.

Behind the scenes

Gus Denneler, Ulrich’s education intern, said that before working at Ulrich, he didn’t realize all that went into the exhibitions, events and activities that a museum coordinates. 

“When you look at it in actuality — you go to a museum, you go through the exhibits and you think, ‘That was a great experience.’ You might reflect on it once or twice,” Denneler said. “But when you’re … working in it, you get a different experience with how it’s set up, how it’s basically run, how different things have to work together and how all the pieces interlace.”

While no two days are the same, Denneler spends most of his hours on campus, planning and creating materials, helping with events from start to finish, and hanging posters.

“Gosh, I feel that Gus has been all over; he’s here almost every day,” Jo Reinert, curator of modern contemporary art, said.

Abby DeHaven, Ulrich’s collections intern, also does plenty of work out of the public eye — specifically in the museum’s vault, which houses over 7,000 art objects and pieces. 

Prints of Bob Colacello, held by Abby DeHaven. The top two photographs were taken in 1974 and the bottom two were taken in 1977. (Photo courtesy of Abby DeHaven)

Along with helping organize the vault, DeHaven’s internship includes handling artwork, working in the museum’s database and upkeep of the Collection Study Center.

“Seeing the inside of a museum, seeing how it works, handling other artworks, handling famous artists’ artworks like Andy Warhol and (Salvador) Dalí and all kinds of artists that are just incredible to witness having in your hand,” DeHaven, an applied drawing major, said. “That’s really what drew me to (the internship).”

Occasionally taking a golf cart to check on Ulrich sculptures, DeHaven collaborates with Taryn Trapani, Ulrich’s registrar and collections manager. 

“Working closely with Abby has just been really rewarding, just sharing the experiences with young people and that have such a passion for (art and museum work), as well,” Trapani said. 

On the front-end

Lucia Suniga began her internship at the Ulrich later than the rest, a few months into the semester. As the events and community outreach intern, she spends much of her time at events, helping set up and mingling with guests. 

“I’m sort of an introverted person naturally,” Suniga said. “It’s really hard for me to get out there and socialize, so it’s been fun having this job that kind of forces me to do it.”

A ceramics major, Suniga has also done more hands-on work, like learning about laser engraving and cutting. She gets to practice her partnership skills as well; recently, she collaborated with WSU’s Hispanic American Leadership Organization on the Belonging Plaza, a mobile monument. 

Suniga said she’s been motivated by the staff largely being made up of women at the Ulrich.

“I’ve just been really inspired by them — feeling like, ‘Okay, like I could actually do something, like make a move, make a change or start something of my own one day if I keep going along this path,’” Suniga said.

Lucia Suniga, an intern at the Ulrich Museum of Art, talks to reception-goers before an Ulrich event about working collaboratively as artists. (Mia Hennen)

Making art ‘more accessible and inclusive’

Brisa Perez, Ulrich’s curatorial intern, gets to lay hands on various tasks — from doing research and exhibition planning to translating large parts of the museum’s current exhibition to Spanish.

Perez said she’s always had a passion for art, and the position felt like the “perfect chance.” 

“My favorite part about working at the Ulrich would definitely be just the opportunity to witness … the impacts of our efforts to make art more accessible and inclusive, whether it’s through providing bilingual labels and audio guides or just developing educational programs for underrepresented communities or curating exhibitions that celebrate these diverse voices.”

Reinert called Perez the “dream art history student.”

“(She) just has contributed so much research and reporting on different artists for the exhibitions that we’ve had the past year,” Reinert said. 

‘Resilience and growth’

While Suniga and DeHaven are juniors, Denneler and Perez are in their final semesters at Wichita State. For Denneler, nothing’s set in stone, but he thinks the combination of his psychology major and art and design minor sets him up for “a lot of different paths.”

“Having all those different … experiences, to have different places to go is really interesting to me and really beneficial for future career goals,” Denneler said.

Perez plans to look outside Wichita in her future art endeavors, while leaving behind a temporary piece of her and her art. Over the course of the semester, she’s worked on curating a pop-up exhibition in the Rhatigan Student Center’s Looking Glass gallery, which will be up from April 26 to May 31. 

“The pop-up will stand kind of as a celebration to just human growth and change and the overall passage of time,” Perez said. “Over the course of the time that I’ve been at the Ulrich, really, I’ve undergone significant transformation, both in my personal life and academically.”

Perez said, in a way, the pop-up serves as a celebration of her “resilience and growth.”

“I just hope that students and visitors will be able to just take a moment to pause and check out the artwork,”  Perez said. “And maybe just see a bit of their journeys reflected back at them.”

The internship

Internships for the Ulrich open every spring. Funding is provided by the Stev Overstreet Ulrich Museum of Art Internship Fund. The Kouri Museum Assistantship and WSU’s Student Government Association offer additional funding.

While the 2024-2025 applications recently closed, Trapani emphasized the need for internships before graduation.

“It’s really cool to see them develop and grow,” Trapani, “And yeah, just build a resume because internships are — they’re so important.”

Lucia Suniga, Brisa Perez, Abby DeHaven and Gus Denneler jump for a photo in front of the Ulrich Museum of Art. The four were interns during the 2023-2024 academic year. (Photo courtesy of Jo Reinert)
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About the Contributor
Mia Hennen
Mia Hennen, Editor in Chief
Mia Hennen is the current editor in chief for The Sunflower. Before becoming editor, Hennen was the news/managing editor. They are a junior at Wichita State majoring in English and minoring in communications and Spanish, hoping to pursue any career involving writing or editing.

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