A Hands-On Internship Downtown Opens Doors to Grad School

Working at the Allentown Art Museum gave Yuyang (Hector) Chen ’23 valuable experience he will carry into a master’s program in art business.

By: Meghan Kita  Thursday, October 20, 2022 03:55 PM

Yuyang (Hector) Chen ’23 at the Allentown Art Museum

As a teenager in London, Yuyang (Hector) Chen ’23 visited the city’s art galleries and developed a deep appreciation for Renaissance painters. As an intern at the Allentown Art Museum this summer, he got to see such works every day.

“They have a very, very good collection of Renaissance artists,” says Chen, a history major and studio art minor. “And it’s a completely free gallery. It used to be $5, but the museum recently got a grant. It will stay free for a very long time. That really opens up the community engagement [opportunities].”

Chen worked as a curatorial research intern, an opportunity he learned about through Professor of Art Margo Hobbs while working as her writing associate. A major part of his internship was designing an iPad experience for visitors to guide them through the newly reinstalled American art galleries. 

“I was given all kinds of freedom,” Chen says. “I was told, ‘You can do whatever you like to educate people as they look around the gallery.’”

As he read the research documents for each painting, he started to see connections between artists — some trained under the same teachers, for example, or crossed paths in major cities. He had the idea to use a mapping software he’d learned while completing a project with Special Collections & Archives Librarian Susan Falciani Maldonado and Associate Professor of History Lynda Yankaskas to map out each artist’s path and show their intersections. The interactive iPad experience, “Globalizing America,” is now in use at the museum.

“I gained valuable first-hand experience on exhibition curation, on how to conduct research in the museum world and on how to present my research not just to scholars but to the general public,” Chen says.

Chen is currently completing Muhlenberg’s Washington Semester Program, interning with Kiplinger in D.C. He will graduate a semester early, in December, and start an art business master’s program at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in the spring. Hobbs recommended the program and put Chen in touch with Samantha Schoenbart ’13, who completed a master’s at Sotheby’s and is now working at a major auction house — a career path Chen is interested in for himself.

While Hobbs was a pivotal mentor this year, Chen benefited from close relationships with faculty throughout his time at the College: “Every professor I’ve worked with at Muhlenberg — all of my history professors, the art professors, every professor I’ve worked with — has been great,” he says. “All of the faculty members have been really helpful and without them, I would not be in the position I am today, so I’m very appreciative of their work.”