Story by Alyssa Tremblay
The path to building a career in the dynamic, ever-changing arts world isn’t always a straight line.
That’s why the School for Studies in Art and Culture (SSAC) at Carleton offers practicum programs to help students on their journeys from the classroom to their future careers in the cultural sector.
SSAC’s practicum programs give Art and Architectural History, Film Studies and Music students the chance to gain first-hand experience working at public and private organizations across the National Capital Region and beyond.
By completing a practicum placement, students build their resumes and network at museums, galleries, orchestras, film festivals, archives and research centres — all while earning course credit towards their degree.
“Through our practicum programs, we are helping to develop creative people with skillsets (and mindsets) that make them employable in so many fields.”Mitchell B. Frank, Associate Professor of Art History and Director of the School for Studies in Art and Culture
“Through our practicum programs, we are helping to develop creative people with skillsets (and mindsets) that make them employable in so many fields.”
Since 2017, SSAC has helped connect its undergraduate and graduate students with over 160 practicum placements at partner organizations, including:
Asinabka Festival, CBC Radio, CKCU Radio Station, Canada Council Art Bank, Canada Science and Technology Museum, Canadian Film Institute/International Film Festival of Ottawa, Canadian Museum of History, Canadian War Museum, Carleton University Art Gallery, Digi60 Filmmakers' Festival, Digital Arts Resource Centre, Dominion Carillonneur Office & Library, Heritage Canada, Independent Filmmakers Co-op of Ottawa, Inside Out: Ottawa 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival, Library and Archives Canada, NYCE Image Productions, National Arts Centre Orchestra, National Gallery of Canada, One World Film Festival, Orkidstra, Ottawa Art Gallery, Ottawa International Animation Festival, Ottawa Public Art, Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, Parliament Hill, Research Centre for Music, Sound and Society in Canada, Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada, Society of Architectural Historians
In the stories below, you’ll meet six current students and alumni whose practicum experiences helped shape their careers.
Art History and Humanities Student
“You don’t know about all the potential job opportunities in the art world until you start working in it yourself.”
In her final year as a Carleton undergraduate, Taylor Simard decided to wrap up her degree by completing two practicums: one with the National Gallery of Canada in the fall semester and another with the Canada Council Art Bank in the winter.
Having already worked at the National Gallery as an interpreter, Simard was excited to see a different side of Canada’s art museum through her practicum with Christopher Etheridge, Associate Curator of European and American Art.
Under Etheridge’s supervision, Simard helped rearrange a file on Impressionist painter Alfred Sisley. Full of images, exhibition catalogues and writings about the artist’s work, these files also include private documents that the public never gets to view, such as personal correspondence, conservation files and letters around bidding.
“I got to see the professional, behind-the-scenes part of art curation, the reality of desk work and administration.” Simard said. “It gave me an important chance to see if the job would be for me.”
These experiences got put to the test in her next practicum at the Canada Council Art Bank, an unassuming office space lined with endless racks hung with the world’s largest collection of contemporary Canadian art.
At the Art Bank, Simard is the creative lead on an important pilot project for the organization: a travelling art exhibition in partnership with the Manitoba Art Network.
To get the project started, Simard first needed to identify potential exhibition themes from the Art Bank’s extensive collection, while also working around real-world limitations and logistics such as budget and the size of each artwork.
“Right now, I’m trying to figure out how many pieces of 2D art I can fit into a single crate!” she explained. The exhibition is scheduled to tour community centres across Manitoba in 2024, so compactness is key.
As the project’s curator, Simard is also tasked with writing all the notes and labels for the exhibition, drawing on her Art History studies which gave her the language to critically discuss art, as well courses in the Humanities that honed her reading and writing skills.
“Taking apart a great book or a work of art and putting these elements back together into an essay is something I’m very practiced at now,” she said.
Upon finishing her undergraduate degree, Simard’s interested in staying at Carleton to pursue a Master of Arts in Art History while continuing her work at the National Gallery — in addition to doing two more practicum placements as a graduate student, of course.
“Being self-sufficient is important when doing a practicum,” she advised. “Take it seriously and remember who you’re doing it for — the person who benefits the most from you doing a good job is you."
“I’m only at the beginning of my journey as a musician. But everyone has to start somewhere.”
Music Student An Bui recently completed a practicum at the Canadian Museum of History, where she helped with research for an upcoming exhibition on Popular Music, including the acquisition of an early 1960s recording from Winnipeg band The Squires, led by a young Neil Young.
Click here or tap the play button above to learn more about An's experience.
Film Studies Student
“You don’t need to be able to do everything yourself, to be perfect at everything, to still be successful in a film and arts career.”
Anna McFaul wasn’t familiar with SSAC’s practicum program in Film Studies until she received an email informing her that her grade point average qualified her to participate.
Thanks to that reminder, she spent a semester working with the Asinabka Festival, an organization dedicated to showcasing contemporary Indigenous arts in Algonquin territory.
McFaul describes the practicum program as a terrific way of getting practical experience while learning theory through coursework.
“It’s a big shock transitioning from school to the workforce,” she said. “You only learn what info and skills you need to use once you’re actually working.”
Asinabka puts on two major events each year: the Asinabka Film & Media Arts Festival in August and the Snowscreen — an outdoor theatre made of snow — in February during Winterlude.
By joining the organization in the fall semester, McFaul got the opportunity to assist with crucial pre- and post-event tasks and experience the real behind-the-scenes life cycle of a festival. For instance, in the wake of the big summer event, she combed through hours of footage to create Reels for Instagram and cut together videos of individual performances for the festival website and archives.
“I got a lot of experience editing video in different ways than I was used to,” McFaul said. Specifically, she found herself having to work backwards — taking already-captured live feed footage and making something interesting out of it, rather than editing video that she’d scripted and planned out in advance.
Afterwards, in preparation for the winter event, McFaul helped with researching films for the screening, getting distribution permissions, developing promotional materials, and sorting out details around heater rentals and fire permits. For those tasks, being a strong writer was perhaps the most valuable skill in her toolbox.
“I already knew how to edit video from my coursework; I just needed to adapt to new software. It was writing film papers and having experience drafting formal emails to professors that helped make all the administrative work much smoother. I really saw how important writing is as a foundational tool in the workforce.”
Overall, McFaul feels that the practicum served as a “soft reality check” as she plans for her future career in film and the arts.
“I learned that you don’t have to be able to do everything yourself in film,” she said. “For instance, I like writing and editing, but shooting film is trickier. I thought this would be a huge barrier for me, but in most cases, it turns out you can collaborate with someone to do that bit! The industry is very collaborative, and you can always outsource the stuff you don’t know how to do.”
Bachelor of Music (2019)
“It’s wonderful how many different avenues there are in music.”
Before she was a Juno Award-winning multi-instrumental artist with a stellar blues performance career, Angelique Francis was a student in the Carleton Music program.
Between studying a wide range of topics including blues harmonica, upright bass, song writing and film composition, Francis completed a unique practicum placement shadowing audio engineer Instructor John Rosefield.
By following Rosefield to venues and gigs across Ottawa, Francis learned what working behind the scenes at music events was like. This included helping to implement some of the very first sound design workflows for the Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre and the ByTowne Cinema’s audio set-up for playing live music during silent films.
“The fun thing with audio engineering is that there are always last-minute issues,” she said, whether you’re recording atypical instruments (Francis mentioned a mix of Celtic bagpipes) or in non-traditional spaces.
“It’s really exciting to encounter a problem and be able to overcome it in the moment.”
Francis then used the knowledge she gained during her practicum to navigate the festival and live music circuits with her own band. This is crucial, she explained, as many big music festivals only provide performers with a quick fifteen minutes for changeover and no soundcheck.
“That means you have to ask for things during the show. Thanks to my practicum, as a performer, I can better communicate my needs from front to back of house. It also assists me with sending more detailed sound requirements in advance.”
The semester of hands-on experience working with live sound also helped Francis with her own studio recordings — particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, when public health guidelines and capacity limits prevented her from recording in commercial recording studios with her full band.
Using what she learned during her practicum, Francis was able to record tracks with her band members remotely and in her studio — all of which allowed for the creation of her Juno Award-winning blues album Long River.
Having a home studio and being her own audio engineer also helped Francis with her voice-acting career.
“You don’t have to live in LA to be a voice actor anymore! With the right set-up and skills, you can do all that work remotely, right from home.”
To current Music students, Francis recommends making sure you’re taking advantage of everything the program has to offer.
“Talk to an academic advisor, go through all your options and understand everything that’s available to you. There are so many hidden gems on that course list, and so many of the things I was able to do within the Music program I learned about just by talking to people.”
Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies (2018)
“Every job that you do is meaningful in some way. You never know where it’s going to take you. Keep an open mind and make the most of the opportunities in front of you.”
As a Carleton Film Studies student in the mid-2010s, Jacob Crepeault wasn’t sure how to translate his passion for cinema into a full-time job.
“I didn’t know what to do with my career,” Crepeault explained. “I loved film but didn’t see myself working on the production side of things.”
It was a film studies course that introduced him to the world of festivals and curation, which led to a practicum placement with the Canadian Film Institute (CFI) in Ottawa.
At the CFI, Crepeault learned first-hand not only how film festivals are organized but how they impact people — how films find their audiences and the networks and communities built around them.
“It was an incredibly social experience, quite different from learning about film theory and history,” he said. “There was something special about seeing a packed room of people watching films that have maybe never been shown in Canada before.”
In addition to helping with event registration and other administrative tasks, Crepeault’s practicum involved researching the films that would be selected for screening.
Jump cut to today, where Crepeault is a film programmer for both the Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival and Pleasure Dome, an artist-run presentation organization and publisher dedicated to experimental media.
“I love putting films together that you wouldn’t expect would pair well,” Crepeault said. “It’s like making playlists, but for movies!”
Crepeault started at Inside Out as an intern, assigning ratings to films submitted to the festival to support the selection committee in making their final choices. He eventually moved into a full-time role, helping the organization set up a Netflix-style website and other digital tools to host virtual film screenings during lockdown.
On top of his work with Inside Out, Crepeault is also an Application Support Coordinator for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), one of the world's largest and most prestigious film festivals.
He began interning at TIFF immediately after his Bachelor of Arts at Carleton, moving to Toronto only a week after graduating to help the film festival organize screenings in small towns across Canada. These days, he uses the technical skills gained in part through his experience at Inside Out to help manage all of the film information in TIFF’s databases.
At TIFF, he is also a part of the LGBTQ+ Community Cluster, a staff-run initiative that helps develop queer activations for the public and for staff. As a member of this cluster, Crepeault has attended festival preview screenings of potential TIFF selections and offered feedback about how LGBTQ+ characters are portrayed on-screen to the Festival Programming team.
While some of his friends like to joke that he “watches movies for a living”, in reality, Crepeault’s job requires a keen eye and level of knowledge far beyond the average cinemagoer.
“You need a critical approach to decide what gets programmed,” he explained, citing his Film Studies courses at Carleton as key for helping sharpen that approach.
Master of Arts in Art History (2018)
“Everyone in my graduate cohort has a job in the arts now, in either Ottawa or Gatineau.”
While working on her graduate thesis on the professionalization of interior decoration in Toronto in the early 1900s, Nicola Krantz happened to meet Alan Elder, a curator at the Canadian Museum of History and Adjunct Art History Professor at Carleton.
Krantz completed a practicum placement with Elder, spending much of the semester aiding him with archival research at Library and Archives Canada, looking into design and architectural details about the Canadian Pavilion at the Expo 67 World’s Fair.
“The practicum was a fantastic addition to my resume,” said Krantz, who also spent the final summer of her graduate program working at Library and Archives Canada through the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP).
Between her FSWEP position and the practicum experience, she was bridged into a permanent full-time role as an archivist at Library and Archives Canada the same week that she handed in her thesis.
Krantz credits the transition to good timing, being bilingual and having had the opportunity to network.
“The arts and culture scene in Ottawa is such a small community, so it’s helpful to forge connections,” explained Krantz, who said she took steps to get noticed at LAC by taking the lead on a major project at the end of her FSWEP term and handing out memorable neon pink business cards to colleagues.
Because working on the other side of the table as an archivist is “completely different from what you imagine it’s like as a researcher,” being able to gain insider knowledge through her time as an FSWEP employee — for instance, she learned that there were two different branches of archives: government and private — was a crucial advantage for Krantz.
Krantz also says her experience as a student researcher who regularly accessed archives helped make her a better archivist, as she gained a strong sense of how to ensure best that the processes to access materials are clear and easy to follow.
For SSAC students interested in pursuing a career in arts and culture in the National Capital Region, Krantz highly recommends supplementing your studies with Carleton’s French courses and participating in both the practicum and FSWEP programs.
“Doing my Master’s degree in Art History at Carleton was incredibly helpful and gave me so many new opportunities.”
Learn more about the School for Studies in Art and Culture (SSAC)
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
330 Paterson Hall
1125 Colonel By Drive
FASSOD@Carleton.caPhone: 613-520-2355Contact page