By Ariana Cammllarie
I started my internship at the beautiful Basilica of Santa Maria Novella in September with a packet of notes and a pocket full of nerves. I was told straight up that my internship would be almost completely independent, and for a gal that thrives off of thorough study guides, I was worried. The initial wave of anxiety passed as I was welcomed with open arms by both the staff of the church and by my organization, Ars et Fides. I quickly got into a pleasant groove, chatting with my co-workers to learn more about the church and crafting a script for my guided tours.
Something that became very apparent within the first week of my tours was just how dependent on technology people are. Each person had an iPhone or camera glued to his or her face like an extremity, desperate to capture every second of their experience by taking pictures or reading a highlighted version of the church guide on an iPad. Often, they were forgetting to look up and enjoy the experience.
Tourists are often hesitant to go with me because I look so young, but as I take them on a trip from the 13th to the 18th century, I see their eyes open a little more, a seed of knowledge being planted and grown as I explain why the works of art in Santa Maria Novella are important. Brunelleschi, Masaccio, Giotto. Anyone can recognize a name, but few recognize the stories behind it. I describe the little details that make each work of art unique, I show them the hidden giraffe in the main altar or explain why a certain work is called the crucifix of the eggs. I try to bring them closer to the things that can be felt, not told.
By the end of my tour, cameras are dutifully stowed away — I was able to give the visitors something far more useful than a picture, something a computerized device cannot. I gave them knowledge. Memories. A permanent snapshot of their time in the church, like a mental scrapbook they can flip through when they return home and reflect upon their vacation.
The greatest aspect of my internship is not explaining the artwork, but rather watching the people as I speak, seeing the sparkle in their eye as they come to the realization that art is something more than what you capture in a photo. It’s meant to be heard like a visual poetry book. It’s meant to be shared. This internship may be unpaid, but I walk away a rich girl every day, knowing that I was able to help a person understand that sometimes the most beautiful things in life cannot be captured; they are meant to be enjoyed, admired, appreciated. Sometimes, they are just meant to simply be.
Ariana Cammllarie is a double major in Art History and Advertising at the University of Georgia. During her studies at LdM she participates in both the Internship Programme and the Professional Opportunity Programme, where she interns at Basilica of Santa Maria Novella and writes for the LdM Art and Restoration blog, respectively. After graduation she hopes to go into the emerging field of advertising for museums and art institutions.