Aidan Miles-Jamison, a sophomore from Anniston, AL, combined his creative passions with a double major in art history and piano performance. After graduation, he plans to pursue a career as a curator of Asian art at a major museum.
How did you choose your major? What sparked your interest in the field?
I chose the major art history because I have always had a love for history and historical narrative, but I always felt like the written and spoken descriptions of historical events did not have enough life. So, when I took an art history course at my high school, I fell in love with this unique view of history through art.
Art allows for the historical events, political interests, and beliefs of a period manifest within a visual work. This alighted all of my senses in a way no other field had. That is why I think art history is the right fit for me.
What do you like about studying your majors at UA?
I love Woods Quad and the gorgeous buildings we take classes in. They are visually stunning and the quad always puts me in a nice reverie even on some of my most stressful days.
What are your career goals? What about your dream job?
I hope to become a curator of Asian art at a major art museum. This would fulfill a number of my goals because I would get to present the public with art for them to take in, and then (hopefully) change the way they see the world. I hope this makes the viewers of the show more empathetic and aware of the many beauties our world offers.
Talk about any career-related experiences you’ve had. How did you find these opportunities?
I have had two invaluable job and internship experiences. The ways I found both were by cold calling and emailing my resume to each institution’s hiring officer or curator and asking what opportunities were available.
For the first, this past summer I emailed my local museum in Anniston, AL, The Berman Museum, and asked what opportunities they had. (Side note: before COVID hit I was going to be in France at this time for 8 months through an exchange program.) The curator let me know I could come volunteer at the museum. As I did cataloging and minor research on the pieces before me, I would present my findings to the curator.
As I continued to work and present pieces of knowledge I had found, she offered to work with me on some future show ideas. This led to me doing a version of my dream job in the least assuming of places, in an Alabama small town! I was able to work with a curator and create shows for a public audience. This allowed me to learn what it actually means to diligently research pieces of art, but it also taught me how rewarding it is to hold a piece of art and have the power to display its beauty to the external world. My official title was Volunteer Collections Assistant at the museum and one of my show ideas will be executed in late-2021 to early-2022.
The second opportunity has been in this school year where I am a gallery assistant at the Paul R. Jones Museum and Dinah Washington Gallery. I reached out to Daniel White, the museum and gallery’s director, about job opportunities. He liked my resume and email and now I have been working at these galleries all semester. I have learned invaluable knowledge about the ins and outs of taking down and putting up shows (lights, safety, proper etiquette, etc.).
Tell us about your experience working with the community.
Last semester, I had planned to perform a piece by Erik Satie called Vexations in the Ferguson Center. This piece typically takes 14–18 hours to perform. I was going to do a fundraiser for the piano department at UA where all of the pianists would take shifts executing the piece. We would be simultaneously raising money to better our facilities, while also spreading modern art and performance to the UA student body.
Unfortunately, I have had to postpone this fundraiser until COVID is over, but this experience of planning and working with the student organization MTNA on campus led to me making a number of new friends within that organization. I also learned how much energy and continued diligence is needed to create public events on campus.
What surprised you the most about college?
How many niches there are! Given that UA is a big university, I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to find my group of people on campus, but through Blount LLC, the music school, and the art history department, I have been able to make numerous long-lasting friendships.
How did you make friends and find community on campus?
I attended many of the UA sponsored events like Get Active Day and I went to a number of the freshman events and found a solid group of friends.
What advice do you have for future students?
I would say to always have your eyes open for new opportunities and don’t be afraid to ask for them. I have found if you go up to a professor, leader of a student group, or administrator and ask what opportunities are available for you, there are many life-changing ones waiting right under the surface.
UA is a big university with many many many connections to institutions abroad, teams of people wanting to work with you on applications, and many institutions that UA can get you in touch with. This is a valuable resource that all students should take advantage of, especially in a field like art history where research and work experience really count.