Southeast Missouri State University student Marqusha Oliver traveled to New York City this summer to intern in one of the city’s finest and most highly respected art galleries.
Oliver interned at Viridian Artists Inc., an artist-owned, professionally operated gallery, located in New York City in the Chelsea region of Manhattan. The gallery is one of the city’s oldest artist-owned galleries housing contemporary art.
As a gallery intern, Oliver worked with Art Director Vernita “N’Cognita” Nemec and Assistant Director Jenny Belin. Being able to work in such a prestigious location with talented, professional artists was an opportunity she’s been wanting her entire life, she said.
“I feel like everything I’ve dreamed of and wished for had finally come true, and there were moments I had to stop and realize how surreal it was for me,” she said.
Oliver, a Kansas City, Missouri, native and senior majoring in fine arts with an emphasis in painting at Southeast, contributed to artwork installment and positioning while coordinating press releases, price lists and visual documentation into archives.
She helped to organize, update and display paperwork that had any affiliation with the gallery and its history. Her work as a gallery intern also included administrative jobs such as mailing postcards for upcoming shows or stopping at a nearby bodega to pick up refreshments for gallery openings.
“Viridian Artists Inc. recently celebrated their 50th anniversary as a gallery, which echoes the history of all the shifting artists and artwork that they produced, curated, judged, bought and sold,” Oliver said. “I got to feel that energy of its history.”
Her internship allowed her to learn about how to run a professional gallery, while growing personally as an artist.
“I learned and experienced how to be an art director, working in a gallery and artist life,” Oliver said. “It takes patience, active engagement and artistic outreach, time-management, an open and welcoming mind, organization, integrity, productive transitioning, persistent documenting, and most importantly, a passion for the arts. Vernita Nemec has done, and continues to do, an exemplary job at executing those qualifications. The internship was fitting and very rewarding.”
She said she has most enjoyed interacting with New York natives and hearing their stories of the city.
Oliver took advantage of her time in the city by not only working as a gallery intern, but also as an artist assistant for artists such as Nemec, Nina Kuo and Steve Cannon.
Her tasks as an artist assistant varied depending on the artist and their agenda.
Assisting Nemec, her main responsibility was to build preservation on her collaged paper “junk mail scrolls” by using acrylic matte medium to conceal loose remnants. Working alongside Kuo, Oliver would climb ladders, varnish brick walls and paint on top of a large, unstretched canvas.
Cannon, who is visually impaired, asked for her assistance in reading and discussing current events while updating him on the latest art shows she attended.
Oliver said the opportunity helped her to grow professionally, as she gained the ability to build on artist connections and interpret and engage in new art trends. Personally, she has grown in confidence and self-discipline.
“Overall, it showed me that art doesn’t just have to be a job — it can be a lifestyle,” Oliver said.
In her own art, Oliver has worked with various art disciplines and mediums. She has used oil-based materials such as oil paint and pigment sticks on cradled panel board, but she also has experimented with gold leaf and saw dust. Her work has been exhibited at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, Catapult Creative House, in the Kenneth and Jeanine Dobbins River Campus Center hallway gallery and in the Rosemary Berkel and Harry L. Crisp II Museum, where she works as a gallery and museum attendant.
Her time in New York City allowed her to explore her niche and artistic purpose.
“Once I came to New York, I witnessed the spike of confidence that other artists had in their artwork,” Oliver said. “That source of inspiration heightened my passion to explore deeper into my artistic curiosity.”
In the future, Oliver plans to continue working with art galleries, and she hopes to eventually become a gallery director or manager.