Cornelia Stokes and Laura Erazo Santanilla – Summer 2016 Curatorial Interns


Here at Telfair, we’re always fortunate to have great volunteers and dedicated interns! This summer, we hosted two of those interns, Cornelia Stokes and Laura Erazo Santanilla. They joined our curatorial team to help put on new exhibitions and plan those for the year ahead. Cornelia and Laura are both fantastic people with a real love for art, and we’re thrilled to introduce them top you in the interview below.


Telfair: Tell me about the program you are enrolled in at school?

Cornelia: Currently I’m in the Curatorial Studies program at Spelman College in Atlanta.

Laura: I am an uprising senior undergrad student at SCAD Savannah. Throughout my time at school I have taken a wide range of art history classes.


What interests/excites you about contemporary art?

Cornelia: Contemporary art is exciting and innovative. There’s always something new to learn and an artist to describe it.

Laura: In some cases, it is the idea that the events that the artists are reflecting on are events that I am also experiencing, and to see their take on it is always fascinating. Also since I study art history, I can identify how some themes emerge multiple times through history, but each time with a different take. It is also fascinating to see the exploration of new media as ways to convey a message, or the medium being the sole message.


What projects did you work on at Telfair this summer?

Cornelia: My daily duties included research and exhibition support as well as a full range of exhibition programming. Examples include: Childe Hassam Projects – researching museums that received gifts of Mrs. Hassam, input the catalogue of etchings & dry-points into Excel, Nick Cave research and exhibition planning, researched and labeled writings for the Telfair’s Modern and Contemporary permanent collection shown in Complex Uncertainties, Pulse data based installations/sculptures, Cemetery Art, and Tsar Cabinet decorative arts show.  I also was able to experience multiple studio visits with local Savannah artists.

Laura: I helped Rachel Reese to create wall text for some artworks that will be included in the upcoming exhibition Complex Uncertainties: Artists in Postwar America. I also helped to update some information regarding the Kirk Varnedoe Collection.


What did you learn?!

Cornelia: During my internships at the High Museum in Atlanta and this summer at Telfair Museums I was able to develop a basic understanding of exhibition planning process as well as conduct presentations based on my research.

Laura: Before this summer I wasn’t truly familiar with a lot of American artists from the last half of the twentieth century. By working on the wall texts I was able to learn about the artists and their work, additionally to understanding the political, social, and cultural arena of the United States. Most of all, I experienced how a Curatorial Department functions and got to meet great people who are very passionate about their work.


What local art institutions, exhibitions, artists did you enjoy seeing or learning about?

Cornelia: I enjoyed spending time with all the curators at the Telfair as well as visiting other sites while in Savannah like the SCAD Museum and other historic house museums.

Laura: I enjoyed learning about the Telfair’s permanent collection, some days it even felt like a treasure hunt. The piece and artist I learned the most was Frank Stella and the print Bene come il sale, which is part of the Kirk Varnedoe Collection. As the great prolific artist he is, it was a type of mystery identifying to what body of work it belongs to, and of what series it was part of. Every step of the research was more interesting than the previous one, and I learned a lot about Stella’s work and this specific print.
What did you do in Savannah this summer that was super fun around town?!

Cornelia: The most fun I had this summer was exploring Savannah’s historic district and spending time with Telfair colleagues outside of the office.

Laura: I went to a Savannah Bananas game thanks to the Telfair Museums staff night!