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Summer Internships: Teri Ke '24

July 12, 2023
Person walking out of a garden greenhouse

Name: Teri Ke
Class Year: 2024
Major: History of Art
Minors: Computer Science and Visual Studies
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Internship Organization: Swarthmore College
Job Title: Research Assistant
Location: Swarthmore, PA, and Elkins Park, PA

What's happening at your internship? We would love to hear what kind of work you are doing!

I'm working as a research assistant for the project "House of the Living," a collaboration between Swarthmore, FarmerJawn, and EMIR Healing Center. Sited in FarmerJawn's greenhouse in Elkins Park, this project is a site-specific work that memorializes gun violence victims in Philadelphia while also offering space for community gatherings and conversations surrounding the topic. A part of our work this summer is making commemorative portrait panels with digital fabrication tools and installing them in the greenhouse. But we are also helping out with other aspects of the project, including interviews, grant proposals, and digital archives. I've been making a 3D model and renderings of the greenhouse in Rhino, as well as a few physical models that will be included in our applications for more funding to expand the project in the future. For the rest of the summer, I'll be leading the development of an AR app for visitors to interact with the portrait panels and learn more about each person's story.


Why did you apply for this internship?

Although I was not born in Philly, I've spent most of my formative years here. At first, my family lived in a particularly afflicted neighborhood in North Philly, and I grew up with first-hand experiences of gun violence and the trauma it left on the community. We’ve since had the privilege to move to a less “troubled” area, for lack of better words, but the issue of gun violence in the city is still something I think about often. Besides this personal thread, I'm drawn to how this project intersects art and social justice activism in a way that is not just simply offering commentaries but also building relationships with the community and centering their needs. I'm also interested in how this project can perhaps propose an alternative model for "monuments." The portrait panels are made out of plexiglass, which is nowhere near as permanent as marble or bronze; but this temporariness also invites the idea that a (living) monument for the community needs to be tended to and cared for rather than erected and forgotten. The site specificity of this project also brings the future into conversation with the past; the greenhouse is a place of community gathering where seeds are sewn, nurtured, and grown.

Model-making studio
A behind-the-scene photo of my modelmaking process.

What has been your favorite part of this internship?

Early last month, we had a soft opening at the greenhouse, and the families involved in the project were invited. It was really special seeing all the families gathering at the greenhouse with their lost loved ones. It was no doubt an extremely emotional occasion (as we ran out of tissue papers), but there was also an air of joy that made it feel like a family reunion almost. I found it fulfilling seeing how much our work meant to the families involved; at the same time, I am also extremely grateful for the incredible amount of trust bestowed on us as the families volunteered to share their trauma and grief for this project. Another favorite part (it's so hard to pick only one) has been the farm works at the greenhouse that we do every week in addition to the project. Under the supervision of FarmerJawn's field manager Tiaza, I've been weeding, planting, harvesting CSA crops, and doing other farm maintenance work. I've learned so much about FarmerJawn's regenerative agriculture practice (and also made a turtle friend).

People in front of a greenhouse.
A photo from the soft opening in June.

Can you give us three adjectives and three nouns that describe your internship experience?

Nouns: threads, wax, returns

Adjectives: synergetic, silvery, soilborne

Visit the Summer Internship Stories page to read more about student internship experiences.

History of Art Computer Science Visual Studies