She’s worked behind the scenes of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. She’s spent hours in the background of the Gibbes Museum of Art in downtown Charleston. She’s even dug deep into the backstory of Latin American art in Mexico and Spain. But, when it comes to her academic and extracurricular achievements, María Carrillo-Marquina (CofC Honors ’19) has been front and center at the College of Charleston.
Graduating with majors in arts management and art history, Carrillo-Marquina has stood out not just as a student, but as the CofC chapter president of the national leadership honors society, Omicron Delta Kappa; as a senior senator for the Student Government Association; as a peer academic coach in the Center for Excellence in Peer Education; and as an orientation intern in the Office of New Student Programs.
“I’d say the most important experience for me at the College of Charleston was becoming an orientation intern early on,” says Carrillo-Marquina, who started interning with the New Student and Family Orientation program as a rising sophomore. “Starting that early showed me the breadth of what the College of Charleston has to offer and really opened things up for me and expanded the scope of my involvement on campus.”
As the daughter of two Hispanic studies faculty members, Carrillo-Marquina already had a unique perspective when she first came to campus as a student. Her point of view was further differentiated from that of her peers when she began teaching Spanish conversation classes as a freshman.
“It’s really great, especially with the students who took multiple classes with me, to see them go from shy and reluctant to talk to having full conversations and expressing themselves in a second language with confidence,” recalls Carrillo-Marquina, a native English and Spanish speaker who joined the Hispanic studies department as a peer teacher, teaching everything from Spanish 101 seminar courses to 200-level courses. “Seeing their improvement and knowing that I helped facilitate their ability to communicate: That has been rewarding to me.”
As for her own success as a student, Carrillo-Marquina knew she had to leave the halls of the Department of Hispanic Studies and step out on her own.
“I wanted to expand my interests and get some exposure to different areas,” says the graduate of the Charleston County School of the Arts, who had concentrated in music in high school. “I knew I wanted to continue studying the arts, but not music. I just needed a new drive.”
She knew she could find that drive in art history, as she was interested in the backstory of art, how it has evolved – the historical context, influences and conditions that it originates from and how it has been interpreted and communicated over time.
“I also knew it was smart to learn the industry I was going into from all different perspectives, and that there was a lot for me to know about what goes on behind the scenes with museums, nonprofit arts organizations, music and theater companies,” says Carrillo-Marquina, who decided to add arts management to her major at the recommendation of Karen Chandler, associate professor and director of the Arts Management Program. “Dr. Chandler solidified it for me that I wanted to do both. She really impacted my time at the College by supporting me, pushing me out of my comfort zone and believing in me.”
In fact, it was Chandler who encouraged Carrillo-Marquina to apply for the curatorial and collections internship at the Gibbes Museum, a pivotal experience that led to her roles first as an intern at the College’s Halsey Institute for Contemporary Art and then as a research and interpretation intern in the education department of the Whitney Museum. There, she gained invaluable experience with selecting, researching and crafting exhibition content for multimedia guides, wall text, labels and audio guides. The experience also led to a Career Center Internship Award.
Carrillo-Marquina is no stranger to earning awards: She received the 2019 School of the Arts Student of the Year ExCEL Award and the 2018 Office of Institutional Diversity Scholarship Award, among others. She also received a $7,200 Girardeau Travel Scholarship to travel to Mexico City and Madrid to collect research for her Honors College bachelor’s essay, “Depictions of the Virgin of Mary in Mexican Baroque Art: An Interchange of Iconography and Technique.”
“I was interested in these really iconic depictions and images of the Virgin Mary de Guadalupe and how they developed and became the icons we recognize today,” says Carrillo-Marquina. “I wanted to compare the European art of Spain and the more indigenous influences in the art of Mexico and look at the techniques and materials that were used, the mediums that were used to distribute these images to the public, and how they were all synthesized and shaped into these iconic symbols that everyone recognizes.”
Her research has resulted in more than just a thesis paper: It brought her a great sense of pride and a new sense of purpose.
“The fact that I came out on the other side of that project and still found it fascinating confirms to me that I am on the right path,” says Carrillo-Marquina. “It really helped me solidify my interests and my plans to go to graduate school and continue my academic career.”
But first, Carrillo-Marquina is spending a year at the Dallas Museum of Art, where she has been offered the prestigious 2019–20 McDermott Internship for Interpretation.
“It’s the perfect ‘next step’ for me,” says Carrillo-Marquina. “I’ll be developing educational activities and materials behind the scenes and interacting with visitors and the public, as well.”
In other words, it gives her just the kind of background she’ll need to get her to the forefront of her career.