Interns learn through hands-on experience


Wine bottles, chicken wire and old book pages are not commonly used in the same sentence, but these eclectic and traditionally unused items stood as a source of inspiration for the interns at local non-profit the Human Empowered Arts Project.

HEAP interns work with kids at the recent Sustainability Fair.

Sitting around a booth comprised of these and other unique items at the Gallatin Earth Celebration’s Sustainability Fair, these students took in the finished product they had worked towards over the past four months.

“This launch has exceeded all of my expectations,” said marketing intern Barbara Kohring. “I learned so much this semester, and I am happy with the turn out and community interest.”

These college students came from a variety of different backgrounds and have diverse interests, but they have collaborated this spring semester to transform this simple idea into an up-and-running organization.

Founded in January by Executive Director Anna Hernandez, these  students started with HEAP from the beginning to promote artistic and environmental education within the Bozeman community.

Hernandez, who is an adjunct instructor within the College of Business at Montana State University, started HEAP to accomplish a few of her own personal goals. One of these ambitions included providing undergraduate students the opportunity to gain start up business experience similar to what she received in college.

“I had a wonderful chance to work within a new business, and that gave me the knowledge and confidence I needed to make it on my own,” Hernandez said. “I know that feeling of building something from the ground up, and I saw that these MSU students had the desire and passion to help me start this.”

HEAP has achieved this goal by uniting students from various programs, and the interns are comprised of students from the Colleges of Business, Art and Architecture. Hernandez  said, “By recruiting from all over the university, I wanted to give HEAP a truly collective feeling. After seeing what we have done, I am very proud of their passion and accomplishments.”

Collaboration was the key to success for this intern-run program and Hernandez said, “They learned from each other, but I also gained knowledge from them as well. I had no idea how to create a lesson plan or the dynamics involved with building a cardboard stool. They helped me as much as I helped them.”

Hannah Safford, an art education and drawing major intern said, “Anna didn’t even realize that you can’t give kindergarteners scissors or that some kids really enjoy eating glue. It was hilarious watching her expression the first time I had told her some of these things.”

When asked what interested her in the program Safford said, “I am fascinated with bringing life to everyday products. I make art out of junk all the time, and I knew I could bring new ideas and concepts to HEAP. Plus, I am a sucker for environmental and sustainability issues.”

Looking at Safford’s work, her contribution is evident throughout the entire booth. “We made caterpillars out of old egg cartons, homemade paint and wildflower seeds. Kids and parents eat this stuff up and I plan to utilize these HEAP activities in my own classroom eventually.”

By making education programs interactive while informative, Safford and visual design intern Jordan Thornton have made art fun again.

Thorton, who describes herself as a painter and printmaker, had received prior education for upcycling through a previous internship in New York City. “I was recommended for HEAP through one of my professors because of my experience with Anthropologie. This company creates displays out of the most random materials, but the windows are truly awe inducing pieces of art,” said Thorton.

With this previous instruction, Thorton designed key elements within the HEAP Bozeman launch booth. “Anna and I got together and we had chicken wire, string, fabric and paper. We had no idea what to do, but four hours later we created the most awesome display I had ever made.”

After completing the launch project Thorton said, “Anthropologie was upcycling for the business world, but I wanted to make it accessible to the people of Bozeman. I want the community to not see chicken wire as trash, but as a potential for something new.”

The mission of HEAP promotes the empowerment of the community and Bozeman remained a consistent theme throughout the entire launch day for these interns. “We are doing this for the public,” said Safford. “We all want to provide a new kind of art to Bozeman.”

Mara Johnson, the accounting intern for HEAP, wanted to give Bozeman something it had never seen before. Through her interest in environmental initiatives, she saw this as a wonderful opportunity for everyone.

“I was so elated to be a part of this program, and I am receiving the start up business experiences I will need in the future,” said Johnson.

With plans to graduate this coming May, Johnson intends on returning to HEAP in the fall while working towards her master’s degree in accounting. “My goal is to give HEAP a proper financial foundation that will help prepare it for the future. I plan to ensure that HEAP has a good head start.”

When the concept of partnership occurred Johnson continued, “We all came together, and I am happy to see other art and business interns here as well. Barbara and I are both in the College of Business, but we never met before this. It was crazy how even different programs within the same college never truly interact with one another.”

Kohring continued this thought by  saying, “I have met so many people, and they are helping me gain the communication, decision making and leadership skills that are mandatory for my future career plans.”

While working for HEAP, Kohring collected information and reached out to other organizations in hopes of finding partnerships that will help the community as a whole.

As a senior in marketing, Kohring found HEAP alluring and different from other opportunities in Bozeman. “My parents are both very involved in non-profit work and I wanted to find a way to contribute as well.”

As she prepares to graduate in December of 2012, Kohring cannot wait to utilize her experiences with HEAP in, “the real world.”

With a vision to change the perspectives of the community, Kohring plans to promote the awareness of thinking before tossing. “Even the small choices we make everyday can make a difference,” she said while Safford added, “HEAP activities are not that hard and anyone can do it if they put forth a little imagination.”

While looking to the future, all the interns expect to apply their HEAP education in one way or another. “We have all said how awesome of a resume builder this is,” said Thorton “But I see it as more than just a reference on paper. My own personal art has changed from this experience.”

Through collaboration and teamwork, the interns of HEAP have succeeded in fulfilling their goals through the promotion of community action.

“I know that everyone in the community will benefit from this as a source for finding new treasures that can enrich their own homes and lives because it has done that to me,” said Johnson.

With an aim of increasing awareness, these interns have accomplished their goal of bringing the Bozeman community a new kind of art. Safford continued, “We have made the common uncommon here at HEAP and we have had a barrel of fun while doing it.”

Edited by Megan Higgins.

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