When applying to colleges, Taylor Hunkins ’17’s top priority was a place where he could forge his own path. Today, he is a gallery intern, volunteer, tour guide and a cappella vocalist who combines his love of history, art and museums as an art-history major with a minor in classical studies. Below, Taylor discusses how an intro class unexpectedly led him to new ways of viewing the world, his sneak peek behind the curtain of a secret society, his museum internships and the good things that come when we trust ourselves.
Art history (classical studies minor).
Clubs and organizations:
Eta Sigma Phi honor society.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
On choosing Dickinson:
When I was applying to colleges, I wanted a school that would allow me to explore all my interests. I wanted to be active in my academic planning and not limited to a predetermined track. Dickinson was the only school that emphasized students’ ability to have control of their time on campus. Dickinson encourages its students to study in all areas in which they are interested. ... I knew that Dickinson was where I belong.
On choosing a major:
In high school I was set on studying history and working in a history museum. I didn’t find art history interesting at all. But my mom, who feared that I wouldn’t get a job with such a narrow mindset, strongly encouraged me to take an art history course, so I took AP my senior year. That class changed everything for me, and I came to Dickinson knowing that it would be my major.
Favorite place on campus:
The caf at 4:50, when no one else is there.
Favorite Dining Hall food:
It’s a toss-up between the chicken parm and beef stroganoff.
Favorite class (so far):
Africana Studies 101 with [Associate] Professor [of Africana Studies Lynn] Johnson. I took the course somewhat on a whim, although it did sound really interesting. The course turned out to be a lot about the discipline as well as a comprehensive understanding of black history, culture and experience, and Professor Johnson did a great job at really helping us connect with the concepts about which we were learning. One of my favorite memories from this class was when we were studying how societal pressures and stereotypes affect black identity. She had us go around and share how we each defined our own identity and asked us questions on how our definition has impacted our lives. It was pretty unusual to get so personal in a class setting, but the exercise helped all of us understand just how the black identity is shaped and is constantly changing.
I like to collect really old books, like anything published before 1940. It’s not a big collection, but I’ve found some neat stuff. My favorite is a book is a 1930 edition of The Iliad in Ancient Greek. Inside are loose pages of English translations that the person who had it before me must have written. It’s awesome!
As a kid, I wanted to be …
… an illustrator. I took art lessons when I was really young, and I thought that I would spend the rest of my life just drawing pictures. As I grew older, I guess my passion for creating art turned into an appreciation for studying art. When I took a painting class last year, it was very clear that I am not cut out to be an artist, so I’m glad I made the switch.
About my internships:
Last summer I interned at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pa. I worked under the director of education and new media initiatives. I was drawn to this internship because of the research opportunities it offered. My days were spent reading about upcoming exhibitions, interviewing artists and exploring the archives to create family guides. I also was able to work with the museum’s social media, and I ended up writing a few blog posts for its educational blog.
This past year I started interning at The Trout Gallery, on campus. I found out about the job just before coming to school [in fall 2014] and thought it was perfect. Essentially, I am applying all the skills I learned at my internship at the Michener. I’ve helped with planning and running events, and I’ve created educational material and an audio tour. Also, I have been involved with process to develop a strong social media presence for The Trout. It’s been fun working with [Curator of Education] Heather Flaherty and the other interns, brainstorming how we should create those types of forums.
What I learned:
These internships taught me just how multi-faceted an education department in a museum can be. When I think of [careers in] education, I don’t necessarily think primarily of research and writing opportunities. My internships have really taught me how there are so many different jobs within the education department of a museum—and within the museum as a whole, for that matter—and that you really need to have many different skills to have a career in that field. They also have taught me just how frequently museums need to re-examine their structures and resources to stay in touch with the community. Social media is a great example of this—with everyone engaged online now, museums need to have a strong presence on social media, because that will help bring more visitors to the exhibitions.
On getting in on the secret:
The summer after my senior year of high school I was invited to attend a Freemasons meeting (usually, no one is allowed to sit in on a meeting unless he is a Mason, so it was an honor). I had to wait outside of the meeting hall until I was allowed to enter, and one of the members waited outside with me. He had a sword (part of the ceremony, I guess). And then there was some secret knock he had to do at the door with another guy before he let me in. It was all very official and bizarre, but an extremely cool experience.
Most important thing I’ve learned (so far):
Instead of trying to plan out your life and make sure everything is how you want it, just live, and it will all work out how it’s supposed to.
My dream for a long time has been to work in museums and someday become a curator. At the moment I am interested in studying African art in grad school. From there, I don’t know where life will take me. Hopefully, I’ll find myself working in a museum, but above all, I hope to find something that I am really passionate about.
Published September 29, 2015