photo of Summer Brown with a purple blue green and yellow color wash overlay

An Invitation for Exploration

I’m forever grateful-and very glad that other students at UArts will continue to have the same opportunity.”

For more than two decades, the Richard C. Von Hess Foundation has presented UArts students with new horizons. 

When Summer Brown MFA ’04 (Museum Exhibition Planning and Design) first heard about the Von Hess Museum Design and Museum Education internships, she was financially distressed and on the brink of dropping out of her Master’s program. 

“The director at the time had just heard of the internship and thought I’d be a great candidate,” Brown said. “She encouraged me to apply, and I was lucky enough to have the chance to work at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.” 

Named for its benefactor—a Philadelphia native and a graduate of the Museum School—the Richard C. Von Hess Foundation has a mission to further art education, support museums, and promote the humanities. After completing his own education, Von Hess went on to become an award-winning illustrator, graphic designer, art director, and founder of the Wright’s Ferry Mansion Museum in Columbia, Pennsylvania. Eager to give back to emerging generations, Von Hess bequeathed money to start his namesake private foundation upon his passing in 1991. Today, it’s run by his close friend, Thomas Cook. 

“The foundation publishes books and conducts research,” Cook said. “We also help museums across America with conservation and exhibitions. But a big focus is funding students at PAFA [Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts] and University of the Arts to encourage the next generations of artists.” 

Cook, who was personally trained as an art historian, said that the best aspect of his multifaceted job is delivering scholarships to students, which he used to do in person each year. Now Zooming with students and faculty, Cook continues to look forward to the announcement of recipients and serves as a mentor in the UArts community. 

In addition to the Museum Education internship, Von Hess sponsors a publication arts visiting artist program at UArts and also offers UArts students unique scholarships for a year of study that include a stipend for travel. The awardees of all the foundation’s prizes are selected by faculty. 

It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to help people launch their careers and find their passion.”

The foundation has also provided support for the Richard C. Von Hess Illustration Gallery and the Von Hess Resource Center—both celebrated additions to campus. 

“It can be challenging to work in the arts—it’s lonely, and there is often not enough support,” Cook said. “So it’s a wonderful feeling and very gratifying to be able to help people launch their careers and find their passion.” 

For Brown, the internship was life-changing. While at Walters, she had the chance to work on an exhibition of Brian Pinkney’s work. Not only was it an honor to assist the museum in introducing others to one of her favorite artists, but Brown also gained hands-on experience creating computer renderings for the exhibition, picking out colors for the walls, and creating the flowchart for how visitors would enter and move through the galleries. That project, she said, helped her solidify her career ambitions. Brown has since worked in museums and design firms, and she currently teaches at Howard University and Prince George’s Community College while making and exhibiting her own work. She also runs her own company, which holds “sip-and-paints” and other community art events. 

None of this would be possible without the support that got her across the finish line and set her up for success in the years to follow, she noted. 

“The internship helped me out economically, so I could graduate,” she said. “I also made connections and gained a lot of experience. It gave me the tools I still use today. I’m forever grateful—and very glad that other students at UArts will continue to have the same opportunity.”