Photo of Winston Kam holding an art frame during his internship at the Cleveland Museum of Art

Spartan Showcase: Winston Kam

Major: Art history
Minors: Materials science and engineering, Italian, pre-architecture
Class: Fourth-year

When Winston Kam was in second grade, his art teacher showed his class one of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian’s red, blue and yellow composition paintings and asked them what stood out. Kam vividly remembers saying “the yellow rectangle, because of how bold the color was compared to the red and blue.”

Twelve years later, he had the chance to unframe and see a real, raw Mondrian painting while working at the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA).

Kam, a fourth-year art history student at Case Western Reserve University, worked as a conservation frame intern at the CMA this past summer, where he learned how to create gilded replacement liners—thin frames inserted between the larger frame and the painting—for three artworks currently on display at the museum (Kirchner, Derain, and David).

“I learned so much about how an art museum functions on an average day; the behind-the-scenes work is so profound,” Kam explained, sharing how, even though his internship is over, he feels like he never left when he runs into the conservators during his art history classes. “There are so many moving parts that co-exist and collaborate to ensure that the artwork in the museum remains in pristine condition.” 

Kam is passionate about art because it influences history, documents and cultural evolution—and he considers it to be the world’s “visual language that transcends time and space by conveying tangible and abstract ideas about anything, and everything.”  But, his interests extend far beyond art—and he’s glad he found CWRU, a university that accepts students to the institution as a whole instead of by subject matter. 

Photo of Winston Kam wearing an apron that says Cleveland Museum of Art Conservation

“This policy alone shows how committed CWRU is to ensuring students find their place and passions within academics, which I am so incredibly grateful for,” he said. 

Kam is from Lake City, a rural town in north Florida. As an aspiring STEM student, he knew how important it was to have a strong math background in order to attend a prestigious private university. With not many options to take AP calculus AB in high school, Kam opted for an online version of the course.  

“Long story short, teaching yourself calculus through Google and online assignments is entirely doable, but it’s not fun at all,” Kam said. “I didn’t have the luxury of taking calculus at a nearby college or a more academically challenging high school so I had to make do with what I had available to me.”

When he graduates, Kam wants to help young people in similar situations. He plans to join Teach For America to teach high school calculus in a rural area, because he doesn’t want kids who come after him to “struggle through the same things I had to just because of where I grew up.” 

At CWRU, Kam has also been involved with Swing Club, Salsa Club, Spartan Running Club, Humanitarian Design Corps, Malawi Solar Team, Yoga Club, Art History Club, and he’s been an orientation leader for the past three years. Kam is also a recipient of The Gates Scholarship.