Earlier this spring, 35 college students—including several from New College of Florida—interviewed to be part of the inaugural class of the Diversity in Arts Leadership (DIAL) internship program through the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

The competitive initiative, which is national but new to Sarasota-Manatee, places undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds in 10-week paid internships in arts leadership roles. On May 3, the five DIAL winners were announced, and two were from New College (students Lauren David, who will be interning at The Sarasota Art Museum; and Jonathan Lee, who will be at the CreArte Latino Cultural Center).

“The DIAL program presents an awesome opportunity for New College students with diverse identities and backgrounds to break into arts administration, which is a popular career interest among our students,” said Dwayne Peterson, the executive director of career education at New College. “I appreciate how the program provides direct access to essential career training and connections through its paid experiences and mentorship. These are essential aspects for early career success and may otherwise be inaccessible to diverse students.”

Representatives from Americans for the Arts (DIAL’s sponsor) selected these five emerging leaders to conduct their internships in Sarasota-Manatee this summer. The area is now one of six DIAL host sites countrywide, joining New York; New Jersey; Raleigh, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; and Boston, Massachusetts. The students in Sarasota-Manatee will also be matched with individual mentors during their internships.

The five matches are as follows:

“I’m honored to have been chosen to participate in the DIAL program at the Sarasota Art Museum,” said David, a third-year New College student who is majoring environmental studies with a specialization in urban studies and a minor in museum studies. “This internship, I believe, will give me a better understanding of the complexities of curating, nonprofit work, and the art of placemaking. I hope to bring a new perspective to future exhibitions by combining my commitment to creating inclusive spaces for underrepresented communities with my love of art, inspiring others to fall in love with museums in the same way that I have.”

The Cross College Alliance (CCA)—a consortium of five local higher education institutions—was instrumental in helping students like David participate in the matchmaking process. The overarching aim of the DIAL program, which begins on June 6 and ends on August 11, is to connect learning cohorts of interns, arts hosts, mentors, and emerging arts communities, and to build habits of continuous learning and cultural equity.

“Sarasota’s world-class arts community is the perfect classroom, and it’s exciting that we could have more New College students spending the summer in Sarasota—not only learning from the best in the industry but also contributing directly to our local economy,” Peterson said.

So, how did this nationally-recognized program find its way to Southwest Florida? Last year, arts patron and donor Flora Major—hoping to help build the careers of professional arts leaders locally—approached the Community Foundation to see if there was a way to connect the DIAL program to Sarasota-Manatee.

The Community Foundation had already been exploring how to help with the long-term sustainability of arts and cultural institutions in the area, especially after the effects of the pandemic. Then, the CCA got involved, acting as the coordinating agency for DIAL and helping gather students for internship interviews.

“With the success of the CCA’s environmentally-focused summer paid internship for the past three summers (the Environmental Discovery Awards Program), the CCA was a natural fit for coordinating the DIAL program in the Sarasota-Manatee area,” said Josephine Eisenberg, the coordinator for the CCA.

The CCA serves students who study at New College of Florida, State College of Florida, Ringling College of Art and Design, the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and The Ringling Museum of Art.

“CCA partners from each institution do an amazing job letting their students know about internship opportunities and supporting their students throughout the process,” Eisenberg said. “The Sarasota-Manatee region is a hub of arts and cultural excellence for thousands of talented artists. The DIAL program will serve as the bridge for undergraduate students interested in exploring and honing their arts management and leadership skills.”

For more information on the DIAL program, click here.

Abby Weingarten is the senior editor in the Office of Communications & Marketing.