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Design Internship approved for NEA grant

A Black student intern wearing pink draws intently at a table

Timiya Lewis, student intern during summer 2022

Milwaukee high schoolers are getting a head start on their creative careers through the Design Internship at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. The free, year-long program was recently approved for a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to expand the program in 2023-2024.

Consisting of paid internships, tuition-free access to MIAD’s Summer and Weekend Pre-College program and a strong mentorship component, the Design Internship creates pathways for Milwaukee students to experience creative careers. Program attendance has more than tripled since its inception in 2021, and the NEA grant will support more than 50 internships in 2023 to meet demand for the program. MIAD partners with eight area businesses to provide students paid internships and industry experience in careers ranging from architecture to graphic design.

Two students chat at a table with laptops open in front of them. Two students in the background write on a whiteboard.

Student interns in the 2022-23 Design Internship program.

“My favorite part about the program was how many diverse and creative individuals I was able to see and work with, and also having the opportunity to actually be in a workplace,” says Damarys Cerda, a sophomore at St. Augustine Prep. Cerda was an intern at Hanson Dodge. Sion Martin, a senior at Reagan High School who interned at Maker LLC, appreciated “[t]he unwavering support that we received, as well as constructive criticism … I gained a broader understanding of design in general, but especially in the context of a professional setting.”

The Design Internship began in response to the Greater Equity 2030 challenge, which recognizes the lack of diversity in Milwaukee’s creative economy. As a result, the program gives special consideration to applications from students of color or from economically distressed families with the aim to expand access to Milwaukee’s creative industries. “To be recognized by the NEA is truly an honor,” says Corbett Toomsen, MIAD’s director of youth and community programs. “With their support, we are able to continue to grow the program to meet the demand of Milwaukee youth interested in design professions and make a positive impact for our community.”

Nearly 100 students applied for the Design Internship in 2022. “Each year we receive more applications than we are able to place with our professional partner firms,” continues Toomsen. “The support from NEA allows us to step closer to our funding goals for the program, such as fully covering the cost of paid internships, which will further incentivize new partners to join the program. With more partners, we are able to accept and place more interns that apply for the opportunity.”

Learn more and apply for the Design Internship on MIAD’s website, or read more about the National Endowment for the Arts.

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