Dr. Cheng and Mr. Harrell wearing tuxedos with black bow-ties, smiling.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art has announced a visionary gift from Tai-Heng Cheng. The gift will help support five paid graduate interns annually over five years. Named in honor of Dr. Cheng and his husband, Cole Harrell, the Cheng-Harrell Graduate Interns will learn from each other and the museum’s preeminent experts, contributing to projects in the museum’s curatorial, conservation and collections-management departments. By working on museum exhibitions, research, symposia and public programs, the interns will gain intimate knowledge of museum work across teams and disciplines while receiving payment and recognition for their efforts and contributions.

The Cheng-Harrell gift is vital to the museum’s efforts to expand internship opportunities to everyone. These paid internships will provide intensive exposure, mentoring, networking and team-building experiences. The goal is to foster interest and deliver training in museum work among graduate students who may not otherwise have the resources to pursue a career in this professional sector.

“Internships provide formative experiences and opportunities that can shape the direction of a student’s career path,” said Chase F. Robinson, the Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the museum. “As the museum prepares to enter its second century amidst a historic reckoning about diversity, equity and inclusion, we are committed to creating a culture that reflects our country and the cultures represented in our collection. This commitment starts with graduate internships that reflect the diversity of our community and nation.”

“The rise in Asian hate crimes and the Black Lives Matter movement have underscored that much progress remains to be made in cultural equity and inclusion,” Dr. Cheng said. “It is my intention that providing graduate interns with a living wage at the National Museum of Asian Art will open up these coveted positions to talented persons regardless of their financial situation. I hope this program will diversify the pool of interns, enrich the museum with their unique perspectives, and, in time, help to transform the cultural landscape by creating a pipeline of diverse candidates for senior museum positions.”

About Tai-Heng Cheng

International lawyer, legal scholar and philanthropist, Dr. Cheng is the global co-head for arbitration and trade and co-managing partner in Singapore for Sidley Austin LLP. He was a tenured professor of law at New York Law School from 2007 to 2012, serving as co-director of the Institute for Global Law, Justice, and Policy. Dr. Cheng holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from Oxford University, earning first class honors in law. He earned his Master of Laws and Doctor of the Science of Law at Yale Law School. Dr. Cheng has extensive leadership experience and a distinguished record of board service for arts, civic and professional organizations. He serves on the board of trustees of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art and the Frick Collection in New York City.

About the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art is committed to preserving, exhibiting and interpreting exemplary works of art. It houses exceptional collections of Asian art, with more than 45,000 objects dating from the Neolithic period to today. Renowned and iconic objects originate from China, Japan, Korea, South and Southeast Asia, the ancient Near East and the Islamic world. The museum’s Freer Gallery of Art also holds a significant group of American works of art largely dating to the late 19th century. It boasts the world’s largest collection of diverse works by James McNeill Whistler, including the famed Peacock Room. The National Museum of Asian Art is dedicated to increasing understanding of the arts of Asia through a broad portfolio of exhibitions, publications, conservation, research and education.