Information technology and art make for a unique combination, but Pyae Thein was able to explore two of his interests through an internship at the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA), one of the world’s leading comprehensive art museums, while also enhancing other skills that will serve him well in the future, all courtesy of an APEX Fellowship from Wooster.
The eight-week internship allowed Thein to gain experience in two areas of the museum, as he worked in the department of digital innovation and technology services and the ARTLENS gallery, a main interactive space for visitors to discover a collection utilizing digital technology. When he wasn’t imaging replacement laptop computers for employees or fulfilling various other IT-related assignments, he was helping guests fully experience the innovative gallery.
There are four primary components of the gallery, and Thein was trained in each. Some days he would be stationed by the ArtLens Wall, a 40-foot, multi-touch screen (the largest of its kind in North America) with vast information on each piece of the museum’s permanent collection; sometimes he was in the ArtLens Studio, a hands-on area that encourages children to unleash their creativity; other days he’d be at the ArtLens Exhibition, an experiential area that allows the viewer to engage with pieces of art on a personal level in order to enhance their understanding of a current exhibition; and he would often be promoting and teaching visitors about the award-winning ArtLens App. Other times, he would test the interactives to make sure there were no bugs or simply be asked to take a photograph of a family striking a pose in front of an artifact.
Altogether, Thein was subtly gaining a sometimes overlooked, but extremely important characteristic that is valuable to all employers – people skills. Those are especially meaningful for someone such as Thein, who is coming from a different culture. Originally, from Mandalay, Myanmar, he has spent the last six years in the U.S., two as an exchange student in high school and now four years at Wooster, but the experience at CMA allowed him to communicate daily with a broad group of visitors.
“It helped me, in terms of how to interact with a wide variety of people because everybody comes in (to the museum) differently. There were times when I have to approach immediately and go through step-by-step, or sometimes when I needed to take a (step) back and … let people figure things out on their own,” said Thein, who also studied abroad in Denmark. “I did not come from this culture. I wasn’t born and raised here, so it helped me learn how to communicate with people. This experience provided me that in a good way.”
Being much more confident in his communication skills will only help Thein as he pursues a career in architecture, and there were components of the internship that were also beneficial in that area.
“Whether it’s in my home country or the world in general, I need to be able to talk well to the point that it’s easily understandable and I can get my point across. In the long run, I hope that I can carry that over to all these other areas that I find interesting,” he said. “The CMA is actually one of the most advanced (museums), especially the existence of that ARTLENS gallery alone. Not only am I thankful for the opportunity to intern there, I also plan to keep expanding my knowledge on IT, specifically relating to presentation using the latest technology, my love for art and architecture moving forward.”
Thein is exploring graduate school options in both the U.S. and Europe, and hopes to make an impact professionally with environmental-friendly architectural designs, utilizing recycled material and green spaces, and of course, the latest technology, such as interactive displays – an element that he now has significant experience with.