Through an internship program, the FIA Curatorial Department creates professional opportunities for undergraduate- and graduate-level students seeking to enter the museum field. In summer 2018, the FIA was awarded a grant from the International Fine Print Dealers Association (IFPDA) to fund an internship focusing on the FIA's print collection.
Eric Birkle, a graduate student in the Art History and Museum Studies program at Ohio University, was selected for this internship, which researched the Jack B. Pierson Collection of 856 prints. This collection contains works by 404 artists spanning the globe, from North and South America, Europe, and Africa, most dating to the 20th century. Flint native Jack Pierson was a worker at General Motors during the early 20th century, who eventually moved to New York City. He was passionate about prints, belonging to several print clubs, traveling to print exhibitions and galleries, and corresponding directly with printmakers, including local Michigan artists, for commissioned works.
Of his experience at the FIA, Birkle writes, "Through this internship, the FIA, a primary source of inspiration during my formative years, continues to stimulate both my career and personal development. As a native of mid-Michigan, I am excited to contribute to the region's leading arts and cultural institution, and specifically to work in a curatorial capacity with the Jack B. Pierson print collection. Certainly the significance in both quantity and quality of the collection has broadened my knowledge of works on paper and familiarized me with many artists working in a variety of print media-both in the U.S. and internationally-during the mid- to late 20th century."
Birkle hails from nearby Lapeer and comes with a background in museum work, having been employed at the Saginaw Art Museum while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Saginaw Valley State University. His scholarly interest lies in European and American ornament of the 18th and 19th centuries, and his forthcoming thesis will examine the identity of Detroit's Belle Isle Aquarium, forged through a melding of historical style and novel technologies.