Canada Constructed: My internship with… 401 Richmond

August 6, 2021 by Shahza Saeed

In the spring of 2021, a number of students took part in the Canada Constructed internship opportunities, under the course code FAH481H1 in the Department of Art History at the University of Toronto. Here, fourth-year student Shahza Saeed reflects on her internship experience with 401 Richmond…

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Shahza Saeed. I am a fourth-year undergraduate student at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design at the University of Toronto. During my education, I have gained an enriching set of knowledge and understanding within the disciplines of art, design and architecture through pursuing a Specialist in Architectural Studies and a Minor in Art History. I have been able to apply this knowledge in my personal career through co-founding 2036 Design, a start-up driven by a passion for design, art and fashion. I am happy to have built on my experience through the FAH481H1 internship course offered by the Art History Department, under the Canada Constructed Project.

Shahza Saeed at 401 Richmond Street West.

What was your internship this spring?

The internship was designed for students interested in architectural history and heritage, and it gave advanced students the opportunity to receive credit for work with an arts-based organization during the summer term. I had the chance to work with 401 Richmond, a heritage-designated, industrial building turned arts-and-culture hub, located in downtown Toronto.

Wordle showcasing 401 Richmond as an arts and culture hub. Image courtesy of Shahza Saeed.

What did you do in your internship at 401 Richmond? What were some of your achievements?

My placement was centered around a research initiative aimed at capturing the historical narrative of the 401 Richmond building, as well as creating a platform on which the living history of the building can be documented and the analysis of its impact on the arts and cultural scene in Toronto can be conducted. Broadly speaking, the initiative involved the examination of history, philosophy and architecture in relation to the activities and tenancy of 401 Richmond Street.

My interest in the arts and design initially drew me to this internship, as 401 Richmond is home to over 140 artists, cultural producers, social innovators, micro-enterprises, galleries, festivals, and shops.

With the guidance of our supervisor (William Huffman, Curator, Special Projects), Angel Yang (the other 401 Richmond intern) and I began by undertaking a series of preliminary steps; conducting background research, connecting with staff members, and observing the space and architectural heritage of 401. This helped us create a content-rich timeline highlighting the historical narrative of the space. We delved into interviews with tenants to hear more about their stories and find out how art contributes to place-making and community-building at 401 Richmond and in Toronto.

This has helped us create the foundation of the project, which is focused on producing a discussion paper, publication and event series involving a diverse range of participants and stakeholders. Through this internship I acquired a variety of skills and developed a deeper understanding of the organization and function of arts-based organizations.

What drew you to the internship?

My interest in the arts and design initially drew me to this internship, as 401 Richmond is home to over 140 artists, cultural producers, social innovators, micro-enterprises, galleries, festivals, and shops. It gave me the opportunity to work within an organization that cares about its tenants and provides individual artists opportunities to build their careers. This is especially important to me as an artist, who understands the value of having an affordable studio space and the resources that 401 offers in an increasingly expensive city.

In light of this learning experience I would like to encourage my peers and mentees to take advantage of such internship courses. It is a valuable experience, one that has personally allowed me to explore the possibility of careers beyond my comfort zone.

Thanks, Shahza!

Want to get involved? For more information on current internships (including a new opportunity with 401 Richmond!), visit the Internships page. You can also contact directly with questions.

This article was originally published by Canada Constructed on August 5, 2021; reprinted with permission.