Canada Constructed: My internship with… The SSAC

August 12, 2021 by Olwen Alaminos

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 Olwen Alaminos reflects on her internship experience with the SSAC…

Tell us about yourself!

Hi everyone! My name is Olwen Alaminos and I am going into fourth year, double majoring in Ethics, Society, and the Law and Art History with a minor in Psychology. After I graduate, I’m hoping to fuse my interests in art/architectural history and the law by pursuing a law degree and then working on the legal team of an auction house or art gallery.

In my spare time, I enjoy playing tennis, traveling with friends, and drawing.

Olwen Alaminos

What drew you to the internship? What was your placement and what did it involve?

When I found out about the FAH481 internship course, I was immediately intrigued by the rare opportunity it provided to see the practical side of work in the world of art and architecture. I applied and was selected for a placement with the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada (the SSAC), helping to prepare for and execute the Society’s annual conference. Throughout May I attended regular meetings to discuss conference planning, used a graphic design program to create promotional materials for key conference events, and communicated directly with paper presenters. In this way, I chatted with a number of diverse professionals across architecture-related fields, including scholars, urban planners, architects, architectural historians, and heritage specialists.

As the week of the virtual conference approached, I signed up to assist with 8 events. During these events I monitored the chat function of the Zoom call, acted as a host who could admit/remove attendees as necessary, and problem-solved my way through a few technical mishaps. It was fascinating to learn about up-and-coming architectural research in areas such as ecologically sustainable religious architecture, the significance of graffiti in the creation of urban cityscapes, and Indigenous approaches to design.

Image from the SSAC’s 2021 conference materials. Courtesy of the SSAC.

What were some highlights of your internship experience?

Two highlights of the conference week were the Pub Quiz social (held online this year), and a virtual screening of the film City Dreamers (Joseph Hillel, 2018). For the social, I helped prepare a list of multiple choice questions, researching fun facts about Canadian architectural history, as well as trivia about the Society itself. We also created an accompanying slideshow presentation with graphics and photos. The Pub Quiz was especially fun since I experienced for the first time the close connections between SSAC members, many of whom have known each other for years and swapped funny stories, old and new. At the City Dreamers screening I was thrilled by the surprise attendance of and the chance to speak with Phyllis Lambert, a widely renowned Canadian female architect.

I was immediately intrigued by the rare opportunity […] to see the practical side of work in the world of art and architecture.

I truly enjoyed my time working with the SSAC, and the valuable connections I gained from this experience. Every Society member that I met was welcoming and encouraging, and I received the added bonus of membership in the Society for a year!

FAH481 helped me increase my comfort with networking, learn how to problem solve on the fly while remaining professional, and gave me practical skills in graphic design and with Zoom technology. I highly recommend FAH481 to all Art History students with a passion for architecture, and who wish to get hands on experience working with a non-profit or research organization.

Thanks, Olwen!

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

This article was originally published by Canada Constructed on August 11, 2021; reprinted with permission.