The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

Skip to main content

Important Update

See you in the Archives!

My name is Willoughby Thom, I am from Los Angeles, California, and I am an Honors Art History and French student at the University of Notre Dame specializing in 20th century modern and contemporary art. Going into my Senior year, I had the honor of being the Summer intern at The Aldrich where I worked with Marketing & Communications and Education on a number of diverse projects.

In December of 2020, I visited The Aldrich for the first time. I remember pulling into the parking lot and seeing one of Frank Stella’s Stars in the Sculpture Garden, happily nestled in the fluffy white snow. I knew I was in for a treat. That day I not only saw Frank Stella’s Stars: A Survey, but also Genesis Belanger’s whimsical yet sorrowful world made of porcelain (Genesis Belanger: Through the Eye of a Needle). I was in absolute awe. For months following my visit, I could not stop talking about the Museum. I sported my little Aldrich tote bag everywhere, in hopes of one day having the chance to learn more about this special place.

As the pandemic continued through 2021, I kept my eye out for any internship opportunities at The Aldrich. I waited patiently…. As I waited, I continued to be inspired by the Museum. During the Fall of my junior year, I wrote a final paper about the artist (and Connecticut native) Robert Gober and his use of drains in his sculptures for my contemporary art history course. During my research, I was lucky enough to find Gober’s Larry Aldrich Foundation Award Exhibition catalogue in Notre Dame’s library! This source not only served as the foundation for my essay, but also as a remarkable foreshadow.

Fast forward to May 2022, I had just returned from studying abroad in London, and I saw the Museum posted an ad on Instagram that they were hiring an intern for the summer! I was so excited, I jumped on the opportunity at the first chance I could! After submitting all the typical application elements, interviewed with my future supervisors, and I soon received word that I was lucky enough to be chosen as The Aldrich’s summer intern! I hopped on a plane and arrived on the East Coast for a beautiful, art-filled summer.

This summer, I worked with two different departments — Marketing & Communications with Emily Devoe (Director of Marketing & Communications) and Education with Namulen Bayarsaihan (Director of Education) — and I was responsible for several different projects. The first major project was to digitize the archives with Marketing & Communications.

Because The Aldrich is a non-collecting institution, the Museum’s past is alive and preserved in ephemeral material that is filed away in Old Hundred. Even though we may not have a physical collection, we do have a collection of history. As a result, it was my duty to focus on a specific time-period to digitize, organize, and archive exhibitions on the Museum’s website. While the goal was to streamline the materials, I also hope this archive project will provide contemporary art history students, like myself, with more resources to explore. Therefore, I chose to research the exhibitions from the late to mid-1990s:

20 x 24 Lyle Harris Ashton ; The Nude in Contemporary Art ; Alexis Rockman ; Future-Present: Readers Digest ; Ann Hamilton: Whitecloth ; Here: Artist’s Interventions at the Aldrich Museum ; Roy Lichtenstein: Prints from the Collection of John & Kimiko Powers ; Pop Surrealism ; Melissa Marks, The Adventures of Volitia: Heroic Burlesque ; YaZOO!: James Grashow ; Mark Bennett: TV Sets and the Suburban Dream ; Large-Scale Drawings from the Collection of Wynn Kramarsky ; Robert Gober the 1996 Larry Aldrich Foundation Award Exhibition

Throughout this on-going project, I was able to gain many valuable skills that I will carry with me throughout my career. I was able to learn how to clearly organize archival material, edit and scan large batches of film slides (look out for future #AldrichArchives posts on Instagram!), and see the rise of some of the most prominent and influential artists.

In addition to the online archive project, I began cataloguing and consolidating the Museum’s founder, Larry Aldrich's original collection. Before The Aldrich was non-collecting, Larry Aldrich collected and amassed a large collection of Impressionist paintings as well as emerging artists of the time. Unfortunately, there is no complete list of the original collection, so during my last two weeks of my internship, I dove into the dense filing cabinets and catalogued 132 of the hundreds of works that the museum had gathered during the beginning of the institution’s establishment.

While the archive project was a large part of my internship, I was also responsible for creating and conducting a survey for the Museum’s Third Saturday Program. If you are unfamiliar with Third Saturday, it occurs every month on the third Saturday, and the museum hosts several events for families such as Story Time, open Studio hours, and Family Tours, and there is free admission all day! The Education department was interested in collecting data on visitors’ experiences in the museum, so I crafted a survey tailored toward this specific program. We received incredible feedback!

During my final week as an intern, I had the privilege of hosting a tour for Danbury Youth Services, for children between the ages of 8 and 13. I planned out the tour so we could discuss the ideas of culture, tradition, and identity, as well as artistic concepts such as materials and construction. We began with Someone will make a saddle out of your falling hair (2021) by Astrid Terrazas, and I found that children have astonishing insights! One of them remarked that they would title the work “Never Give Up” and that the horse acted as a border between the artist and her dreams. I was so impressed by this comment and how receptive they were to contemporary art — these children are truly our future.

All in all, I had the most amazing experience working as The Aldrich’s summer intern. I am so lucky that I had the opportunity to learn more about the inner workings of the art world at the museum which has been at the forefront of contemporary art since the beginning. Thank you to Emily and Namulen for trusting me with these wonderful projects and for teaching me so much about life and art along the way. And, I am infinitely grateful for the lifelong friendships I have made in the process. I look forward to coming back in the future and seeing all the new exhibitions and projects the staff have in store.

Thank you!

By Willoughby Thom

Marketing & Communications and Education Intern, 2022

Honors Art History and French student at the University of Notre Dame, 2023

Top image: Photo: Gloria Pérez