La Vie en France: Emma Cunningham-Bradshaw (A25) Shares Memories of Summer Internship Abroad

February 16, 2024 | By Kirstin Fawcett

Emma Cunningham-Bradshaw (A25) has many hobbies: philosophy, photography, and restoring antique furniture, to name just a few. But while her interests are broad, her ideal summer internship in 2023 hinged on two specific requirements: the position had to be in the arts, and—here was the challenging part—it had to be in France, where she plans to live post-graduation. 

Emma Cunningham-Bradshaw (A25)
Emma Cunningham-Bradshaw (A25)

Enter the Annapolis Career Development Office and the Johnnie alumni network, which helped Cunningham-Bradshaw secure a fully funded position with Touchstone, a Washington, D.C.-based contemporary art gallery. After scanning the institution’s roster and noting they represented artists who lived in France, the rising junior proposed a mostly remote role in which she would travel the country interviewing said artists while documenting her experiences on the gallery’s blog. Her internship supervisor was on board, so after spending three weeks in D.C. learning the ropes, Cunningham-Bradshaw jetted off for a whirlwind summer abroad, laptop and camera in tow.

Internships are increasingly receptive to working with students remotely thanks to the rise of video chat and messaging apps. Cunningham-Bradshaw had other useful tools in her arsenal: French language skills, acquired through attending an immersion school as a kid, and deep familiarity with expat life thanks to a childhood spent in Tanzania and Uganda and boarding school in England. After falling in love with analog film at St. John’s and working in the Mitchell Art Museum as a gallery assistant, pursuing a related career in France—a nation with a famously rich arts tradition—made sense given her background. But going about it logistically as a U.S. college student was tricky.

“I was looking at tons of places in France: galleries, museums, lots of different art organizations,” Cunningham-Bradshaw says. “And it was just denial after denial after denial. They don’t have the same kind of internship infrastructure that we do here.”

Following rejections from French employers, Cunningham-Bradshaw networked locally via Daryl Locke (A23), a friend and fellow artist. He had worked at Touchstone and introduced her in passing to executive director Abbey McClain. The two touched base and were chatting about various internship opportunities when Cunningham-Bradshaw had an epiphany: “There were Touchstone artists that had really close relations to France. I thought it would be great to do a series on them highlighting their experiences in the country.” Her proposed project title—which quickly became a working one—was “French Connections.”

After securing funding through the Hodson internship program, researching various artists, and finalizing her travel schedule, Cunningham-Bradshaw kicked off her summer in D.C., performing on-the-ground duties at Touchstone like guiding visitors, supporting events, and learning about gallery curation. Then it was off to France for seven weeks—namely Paris, home to urban landscape photographer Rick Braswell. Cunningham-Bradshaw interviewed Braswell about the city’s influence on his career and work before heading to the South of France and connecting with watercolorist Amy Sabrin and abstract painter McCain McMurray. She wrote online articles based on the resulting conversations and supplemented them with her own original travel photography and videos. Between these projects, she completed online tasks for Touchstone such as creating online galleries and maintaining their social media presence.

All the while, Cunningham-Bradshaw remained in touch with her supervisor via regular video conferences. “I wanted to maintain a close connection with her and the gallery for the sake of it being a successful remote internship,” she says. “I didn’t want to just be like, ‘Oh, I am doing my own thing.’ You don’t just wait for someone to put something in your lap; you have to set your own deadlines and goals [as an intern].”

Cunningham-Bradshaw returned to D.C. at the summer’s end with improved French skills, an expanded appreciation of the nation’s vast contribution to arts and culture, and newly forged relationships with artists around the globe. “These experiences further cemented my goal of working in the art field in France upon graduation,” she says. “I was also exposed to many more work opportunities in museums, and graduate programs at universities that are of interest to me.” Since returning to the U.S., she has worked as a French language assistant, further honing skills she will need for future opportunities abroad—ones that now exist thanks to a Hodson internship and a little networking.