THE SUMMER SCOOP: Senior discovers vast number of possibilities in art-based careers through internship with M5Arts

Photo used by permission of Mathisen
Senior Bella Mathisen (right) shadows Franceska Gamez as she restores a mural on the corner of K and 8th St. Gamez also helped created the new mural at SCDS.

This is the second installment of a series on internships, jobs and classes that students are doing this summer.

After the encouragement of art teacher Andy Cunningham, senior Bella Mathisen decided to pursue her love for art in the working world this summer.

Mathisen started working for Seumas Coutts, co-founder of M5Arts, an art collective that specializes in large-scale art projects that are “committed to envisioning and creating culturally significant multifaceted and multidimensional art experiences,” according to the M5Arts website.

They work to support not only art but also artists by organizing large groups of artists to work on projects like ArtStreet and ArtHotel in Sacramento.

Q: How did you get the internship?

A: (Cunningham) set it up for me. He is friends with (Coutts), and he’s done projects with M5Arts in the past.

(Cunningham) put out a post on his Facebook asking if anyone needed an intern, and (Coutts) answered.

Q: Do you think you would’ve done this internship if you hadn’t worked with Cunningham this past year?

A: I’ve wanted to pursue a career in art since I was younger, but I haven’t really had enough faith in my skills until Cunningham started mentoring me. He has really helped me discover my talent and pushed me to pursue it.

I really owe everything to him.

Q: When did you start working at M5Arts?

A: I started working while school was still in session after school. Now, I work 9 to 5 every day. It’s fun. The people working there don’t really have a schedule, so sometimes I’ll be stuck places because they don’t show up on time, but I still enjoy working with them.  

Q: What do you do there?

A: It depends; I do a lot of technology stuff for (Coutts). I’ll sort his files and make spreadsheets to store all his contact information. His company is starting to rent out studio space, so I made housing application forms for him.

Sometimes I also work in the field with him. Like right now the team is working on restoring a mural, so I’ll walk down there and bring them paint, brushes and things like that. I don’t actually help with the art, though, because it’s all really serious, and they’re getting paid to work on the mural.

They have another big event coming up soon, so hopefully I’ll be able to keep working for them after school. Since a lot of the stuff I’m doing is tech-based, I can just have (Coutts) send the information to me, and I can do it on my laptop from home.

Q: What mural are you and the team members working on?

A: It doesn’t have an official name, but they have been calling it 726K, which is the mural’s address.

The original was painted in 1873 by Frank Carson and Mitchell Aronson. The team is just restoring it.

Q; What’s the strangest thing you’ve had to do working at M5Arts?

A: The team is basing the mural restoration from old photographs, but for a long time we didn’t have any full pictures of the ceiling. (The mural has two sides and a ceiling.) So I had to piece together what the ceiling looked like from around a hundred detail shots of the space.

Q: How has working for M5Arts affected your career goals?

A: Since starting this internship, I can see that there are actual possibilities to make money with art.

I still want to do graphic design, but it’s nice to know I can push for other forms of art and still make money, which I was kind of worried about.

But honestly this internship has been amazing. I have gotten to make so many good connections and it’s shown me what being an artist is actually like.

—By Mehdi Lacombe