Sophie Johnson ’25

WaterFire Providence, Providence, RI

WaterFire Providence is a nonprofit organization that works to bring the people of Providence together. Modeled on the idea of gathering around a campfire, the executive artistic director developed an outdoor art installation of bonfires floating along the rivers of downtown Providence. Attracting a crowd of about 40,000 per event, there are about 1 million visitors each event season. Although many may expect this large of an event to have a huge staff, there are only about 30 employees at WaterFire Providence. WaterFire also depends on event day staff and hundreds of volunteers. Because of this setup, interns experience hands-on work as part of the team.

Sophie Johnson with a friend.My internship can best be explained as split into two parts. I was an educational programming and partnerships intern and worked closely with my supervisor to secure partnerships with colleges and universities in the surrounding areas. I wrote emails to colleges, updated all intern job descriptions on Handshake, made a career fair plan for the 2022-2023 academic year, represented WaterFire at a PrepareRI Internship Training Conference, attended educational partnership meetings and helped develop the department guide for the future manager of the department. I was also an arts management intern for the founder of WaterFire. This part of the internship was slightly more unpredictable. I took on the revamping of the Rhode Island Holocaust Memorial over the course of the summer. This entailed a series of meetings on how to improve the experience of the memorial for WaterFire attendees. I then made each physical addition to the piece, including jig sawing and drilling new light supports, sewing two versions of a Life Stone covering and managing the materials and logistics that help the memorial to run smoothly on event nights. I’ve never taken any sort of woodshop class, so this was quite a learning curve for me! I also attended some ancillary events with the executive artistic director to help gather contact information of people with whom WaterFire may wish to collaborate. Additionally, I spent some time at WaterFire’s warehouse and got to know the production crew. Of course, I also worked the WaterFire lightings, helping with various aspects from the merchandise booth to Memorial Park.

This internship helped me learn more about my career path and what it feels like to work full time. Although it did not encapsulate psychology or advertising (my two interests right now), I sometimes felt that it was slightly difficult to feel passionate about what I was doing, but I do feel encouraged to find an internship that I’m passionate about for next summer.

I want to thank the Class of 1972 for their generosity that has allowed me to explore a very interesting job and learn so much about the behind-the-scenes of an event series that I’ve been going to since I was a kid. I also want to thank the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for their guidance, organization and help as I navigated the application process and internship itself.