Philosophy Major | Art History Minor | Baker College, '21 | HEDGE summer intern
“There is a lot of opportunity in the museum world and in the auction world. People always need art.”
At the beginning of her Rice career, Eponine Zhou took a chance that transformed the trajectory of her academic pursuits. At the recommendation of an O-Week advisor, she took an intro-level art history course despite her STEM-oriented focus. She has since concentrated her studies in Rice’s vibrant Department of Art History as well as pursuing a Philosophy major.
“At first, I thought Rice was a very STEM-oriented school, but in my first year, I realized there are a good amount of resources in the humanities,” she says.
In 2018, Zhou participated in the Department of Art History’s annual New York trip and earned a fellowship with the MFAH at Bayou Bend, a house museum for American decorative arts and paintings. These experiences motivated her to venture further as a 2019 summer curatorial intern at the MFAH in the American Sculpture and Painting Department. “That [Bayou Bend] internship got me interested in American art,” Zhou says, adding that her 2019 experience allowed her to move beyond the focus on decorative arts promoted at Bayou Bend and pay greater attention to painting and sculpture.
Gaining experience in the museum environment and honing her research skills were her primary goals. “I’m interested in a research-based job in art history, so it’s also about learning how the museum works; how different departments interact; what a curator’s typical day is like,” Zhou said.
Zhou contributed to a variety of small-scale art historical research projects before taking an active role in research and preparation for the MFAH’s exhibition Norman Rockwell: American Freedom.
Kaylin Weber, associate curator of American Painting and Sculpture, notes that Zhou’s lack of previous experience in the museum environment endowed her with a unique analysis of artistic works from an academic viewpoint. “Having her fresh perspective on the museum experience was very useful,” Weber says.
“I think the experience that we’ve been able to give Eponine is commensurate with the type of experience she would get if she were to become a museum professional,” adds Weber. ““It’s a rarity for an intern to get to see an exhibition life cycle from its inception to the opening. She has been not only able to just see how our various departments work together to make exhibitions happen, but actually be a part of that team working to present the exhibition to our audiences.”
Profile written by Katelyn Landry, Editorial Assistant, Office of the Dean of Humanities