Spotlight Interview: Cambra Overend


New York City

WFU Class of 2004

Major: Theatre and Religion

Minor: Gender Studies



Cambra Overend is the Production Stage Manager for the play Children of a Lesser God.  You may have heard of her stage managing plays such as, Tony Award Winning August: Osage County, Oslo, This is Our Youth, and many more. We recently got her thoughts on her stage managing experience and the theatre scene!


DeacLink: Can you please walk me through your path from graduation to your current job?

Cambra Overend: I started working towards my career while I was still in school. I spent a couple of summers at the Williamstown Theater Festival in Williamstown, Massachusetts. They do a lot of professional theater work during the summers which often later ends up in New York. After I graduated, I applied for internships at various theaters around the country. I got an internship offer in Baltimore at a theater called Center Stage. I decided to take it because they had a great program and because of its proximity to New York. After a year at Center Stage, I obtained another internship in NYC at an off-Broadway theater called Playwrights Horizons. Technically I was a production assistant, but I worked backstage like an assistant stage manager; and I started freelancing from there. After that year, I got a couple of small jobs off-Broadway, working as a production assistant and assistant stage manager. A big break for me was when I landed a job on a play called August: Osage County. In 2008, it won the Tony Award for Best Play. I have just been working my way up the ladder ever since.


DL: What was your favorite production to work on?

CO: Gosh, that is hard to say. August: Osage County was really important to me because it was such a success - artistically and critically. August was also my first Broadway show. I recently did a play at Lincoln Center called Oslo by J.T.  Rogers. It was very special for me because I started with it off-Broadway and then it transferred to Broadway. Last year it also won the Tony Award for Best Play. And I am still involved with it to a certain extent.


DL: How much did your studies and your general experience at Wake Forest University drive your career path?

CO: I went into college thinking that I might do something in the theater, but I was not a hundred percent certain. That uncertainty is why I chose a liberal arts school instead of a conservatory. I also am a firm believer in a liberal arts education generally. I think 18 years old is a bit young to know what you are going to spend the rest of your life doing, for most people. The Theater Department at Wake gave me a really great foundation for my professional career. I got a lot of opportunities. For instance, I got to travel to Europe to study theater. And I got to  participate in my first professional theater production the summer of my freshman year -- at eighteen, I got to stage manage a production in Los Angeles. They also helped me find my way to Williamstown. It was a great introduction to the world of professional theater. Wake Forest was what led me to decide theatre is what I wanted to do.


DL: What's the most interesting thing going on in the theater scene at this very moment?

CO: I think one of the most exciting things happening in the theatre scene right now is the social movement happening around “MeToo” and the current state of politics in general in the country. It is bringing to the forefront the concerns about representations of diversity generally, but women in particular: the need for more female directors, female playwrights, female designers, and in higher levels of the theatrical industry.  Of course, it’s not just happening in the theater, it’s happening across all levels of management in all the industries - higher and better levels of representation overall.


DL: What is your favorite part about working as a stage manager?

CO: The best part to me about being a stage manager is that you are the only person in the room with the actors and the director from the very beginning -- as opposed to being a general manager or a company manager or being a producer. Being a stage manager gives you the most intimate, immediate access to the heart of the process. Even after the director leaves, you are the one who is there all the way through to closing night. It is you there with the actors every single night, maintaining the artistic shape of the show, seeing the show's growth, seeing the show change, and making sure it doesn’t change too much!  That is something you don’t get much practice with in the educational theater world, because the productions do not run that long and the directors are usually still around.


DL: Any advice for our readers?

CO: I think you have to start to look ahead a little bit while you’re in college. Try to do as much as you can to get some experience outside of the educational realm - work somewhere during the school-year if you can (on or off campus, or pick up some hours in your department of study if suitable), look for internships or jobs during the summers. When you start to apply for jobs after college, it will show you have been using your time valuably.  Aim high. Search for internship programs. There is always something you can be doing. And if you do not know for sure what you want to do, then just try things. If you find you hate it, do something different the next summer. Whatever you can do to get yourself out of the educational world and get an eye on the way the professional world works. The experience will always be valuable because it will help you hone your skills and better sort out what you want to do next after you finish your education.


Kelly FitzGerald: Operations Coordinator, UCLA

Los Angeles

WFU Class of 2017

Major: Communication and Media Studies

Minor: Film Studies


Kelly FitzGerald's interest in film was sparked after entering the Team Oscar film competition on a whim.... and winning! We recently had the chance to chat with Kelly about this experience, working on set, and the unique nature of the film industry.  

DeacLink: Can you tell me about your career path from Wake Forest to now?

Kelly FitzGerald: When I first came to Wake Forest, my interests were quite broad. It was not until the end of my sophomore year that I became seriously interested in film. In December 2015, I saw a social media announcement for a film competition called Team Oscar. I entered on a whim, having no prior film experience, and was selected by the Academy as one of six winners. Suddenly, the entertainment world didn’t feel so out of reach. 

I returned to Wake, feeling energized from the experience, and tailored my remaining years around film. I added a film studies minor and during my senior year, began to focus more on production design. I wrote a grant proposal to the Provost Office of Global Affairs and received funding to attend the Sundance Film Festival in 2017. At the end of senior year, I was admitted as a Dean's Scholar to an MFA program for Production Design at SCAD. Once June rolled around, however, I made a gut decision to move to Los Angeles for the summer and apprentice with Production Designer, John Richoux, who I met at a party of a mutual friend. I ended up declining my graduate school offer after making so many connections in LA, and worked with the art department for 9 months on a variety of film, TV, commercial, and music video projects. I recently started working as an Operations Coordinator for UCLA

DL: What was your favorite part about working in Production Design?

KF: The best part about working on set is that every day is an adventure. Nothing is predictable, you’re always working with new people, and you have to learn to think on your feet. It keeps you sharp. The best part about production design, specifically, is seeing the director's vision come to life...and knowing you helped accomplish that.

DL: How did your studies at Wake Forest impact or drive your career path?

KF: The classes I took in the film department provided me with a theoretical lens through which to understand the social impact and responsibility of filmmaking. In real life, once the camera is set, it’s like “quick, find something to hang on the wall in that awkward white space!” In such a moment, I could throw just about anything up on the wall to achieve a better composition, but I always try to take an extra second to consider how the viewer might interpret this new visual in relationship to the narrative. Establishing mental checks and balances between pure composition (what simply looks nice) and critical interpretation (what impact this choice might have) is something my studies trained me to do.

DL: On the other hand, what do you think that Wake could have done better to prepare students for life after graduation?

KF: I could have benefited from more hands-on experiences and opportunities outside the classroom. I think it should be a requirement for every film studies student to PA before graduating. Theory is important, but technical skills are invaluable in the working world.

DL: What has your job search and application process been like throughout your career? Do you have any tips for students about networking or applying for jobs in the film industry?

KF: Networking is everything! The application process isn’t formal (it’s very referral based) and every film job I’ve gotten has been through networking. Don’t worry about trying to get an official internship with a big, prestigious company. Just get on set in any capacity, and the opportunities will multiply from there.

DL: What is your favorite part of living and working in LA?

KF: Los Angeles is an amazing, multicultural city with endless things to do. I’m currently learning to surf, dancing tango, and working on writing a screenplay in my free time. I really like the anonymity of being in such a big city. If you are looking for opportunities in the arts or any creative industry, this is absolutely the place to be!

DL: What is next for you in your career?

KF: While I’m currently not working in the film industry, I always want to make the arts a part of my life. Finding the right balance between work, creativity, and travel has been (and still is) an ongoing process. Establishing my creative voice without becoming a cog in the machine is perhaps the biggest challenge. Luckily, my new job comes with a lot more free time, so I am finally able to work on personal projects and get my thoughts on paper. I’m no longer coming home after 12 hour shoots feeling like I got hit by a bus.

DL: Do you have any advice that you would like to give to current students?

KF: Don’t compare yourself to friends who have full time job offers before graduation. The arts are inherently unique, so you’re playing an entirely different ballgame. Don’t expect to be asked for your resume, be prepared to show what you’ve worked on. Be friendly, always willing to help, and don’t forget to check your ego at the door.

Spotlight Interview: Fannézha Ford


Los Angeles

WFU Class of 2012

Major: Communications 

Minor : Dance

Fannézha Ford headshot.jpg


Fannézha Ford graduated Wake Forest University with a major in Communications and minor in Dance. DeacLink recently got to catch-up with the Cum Laude Graduate. She spoke to us about her exciting dance career and how she founded Daily Dose Dance, a resource to connect dancers and dance enthusiasts worldwide through dance history, education, and events. Her desire to be a well-rounded artist led to her commitment to providing resources for other dancers. 


DeacLink:  Please walk me through your path from graduation day to your current job.

Fannézha Ford: Upon graduating, I joined forces with Wake Forest Alumni David Curameng to become the Director for Events for KODACHROME NC (KCNC), a non-profit organization dedicated to exposing the true colors of dance.  KCNC was a complete passion project. A group of dancers, who wanted to pour into the North Carolina dance community, came together to host affordable dance workshops at college campuses across the state of North Carolina.  As the Director of Events, I facilitated the KCNC workshops by booking the dance studios and choreographers and managed the day of operations. I, also, coordinated fundraiser dinners with local businesses to maintain revenue so that we could keep the workshops affordable for the students.

While serving as the Director of Events for KCNC, I was working in Washington, DC as a dance instructor.  I taught ballet, tap, jazz, and hip-hop for the city of Greenbelt in Maryland, the Paula Brown Performing Arts Center, District Dance Arts, and Joy of Motion Dance Studio.  I, also, joined DC dance crews TeamWeGonMakeIt and Fierce Collabo Elite Crew which gave me the opportunity to continue to perform.

My journey to Los Angeles was a quest to start anew in dance.  I wanted to become a student of the art form again, focusing on training and learning different techniques of how to teach.  My desire to be a well-rounded artist led me to think of all of the resources that would be needed in order to truly be limitless.  I created Daily Dose Dance as a resource to connect dancers and dance enthusiasts worldwide through dance history, education, and events.

DL: How much did your studies and general experience at Wake inform or drive your career path?

FF: The opportunity to craft my education at Wake Forest through the liberal arts curriculum gave me a sense of ownership of my educational path.  This fundamental concept reflects my decision to pursue entrepreneurship as I create my career path from working with the startup KCNC to founding my startup Daily Dose Dance, LLC.


DL: How did you find and apply for the various positions you’ve held?

FF: I have found jobs through online searches, community bulletin boards, networking referrals, and temporary agencies.  Being a freelance artist can be challenging to maintain an income that will sustain you in between projects, so I recommend finding a flexible job that will work with your artistry.  

Hospitality is a go-to industry for freelance artists.  As wonderful as it is to have a flexible work schedule in the service industry, the work can be taxing on the body and oftentimes your income fluctuates.  

I recommend looking into assignments through temporary agencies.  With each assignment, I can budget for my life’s necessities while investing into my artistry with the confidence of knowing what my monthly income will be.  Also, one of the best services offered at a temporary agency is professional résumé building. I am so proud of the professional résumé that I have to present while networking for new job opportunities.


DL:  What could Wake have done better to prepare students for life after graduation?

FF: I believe that financial literacy is a fundamental necessity for graduates.  I know that there are services offered at Wake; however, I believe that financial literacy should be a graduation requirement.  Budgeting for life’s expenses while paying student loans, auto loans, and creating a financial safety net with savings are critical in beginning our adult lives.  Money is essential in living and experiencing life--whether that is traveling, starting a family, or both! Also, understanding smart investments in the stock market and in real estate can set us up for a prosperous future leading us towards financial freedom and retirement.  


DL: What is your favorite part of living and working in Los Angeles?

FF: My favorite part of living and working in Los Angeles is living in a city full of creative minds.  You can see it and feel it everywhere you go. Los Angeles is not simply a city of dreams; it is a place where you can make your dreams come true.  


DL: What is your favorite part about your job?

FF: Creating Daily Dose Dance has given me the opportunity to partner with brilliant minds who are young entrepreneurs paving their way through their respective industries. Having the opportunity to not only invest in my dreams, but into their dreams has been one of the most fulfilling parts of the creative process.


DL: What and where is next for you?  

FF: I plan to expand my business Daily Dose Dance so that it reaches dance communities worldwide.


DL: Kernel of advice you'd like to impart to the readers.  

FF: Be proactive rather than reactive in life.  Do not wait for someone to hand you your dreams.  Take ownership and pride in making your dreams come true.

Spotlight Interview: Corvaya Jeffries

Corvaya Jeffries: Associate Producer, CNN


WFU Class of 2013

Major: Communication 

Minor: WGS


Corvaya Jeffries works in Atlanta as an Associate Producer for CNN. We recently talked with Corvaya about her career path, the impact of her Wake Forest education, and working at CNN.

DeacLink: Can you walk me through your career path from graduation to your current job?

Corvaya Jeffries: When I was a student at Wake, I served as an intern at several companies including a small radio station in Greensboro. One of my goals while interning (and eventually working) at this station was to be on air and I was surprised at how quickly I achieved that. I decided I needed a new goal. My extracurricular and intern experiences along with my dedication and persistence led to an opportunity in Los Angeles at a TV production company owned and run by a fellow Demon Deacon. Two weeks after graduation, with $600 and a suitcase, I made the move.

During my work in production, I never ignored my desire to write and create. I found opportunities to freelance and created digital spaces for blogging when I wasn’t working.  Eventually, I landed in the newsroom. In 2016, a position at a small but mighty newspaper in South Florida was created for me through a top media company. There, I reported, created and produced videos, improved workflows and helped build digital strategies executed by several teams. Two years later, I realized I have a deep interest in technology, innovation and how it relates to media and journalism. So, I got involved with the Online News Association, an organization that caters to innovation in newsrooms and supports creative thinkers and change-agents like myself.

Since, everything has changed. I now serve at CNN as an Associate Producer on a mobile programming team. My role is incredibly digitally focused. On a day-to-day basis, I make decisions that change the way users consume news. I am excited and proud to be moving ahead of what’s next.

DL: How much would you say that your studies and experiences at Wake have informed or driven your career path?

CJ: I have always been creative but without my Wake Forest experience, I would not be the professional I am today. Wake Forest helped me focus in on excellence; what it is and how to tap into it. Also, Wake Forest’s emphasis on service and Pro Humanitate emboldened my love for helping others and giving back. It prompted me to approach every new opportunity asking, “how can I be of service to this company or person?” and that has done wonders for my career thus far. Additionally, I’ve learned ‘change is constant.’ Everything about my Wake experience taught me that ‘Grit’ is the most important characteristic needed to be successful and keep up with that change.

DL: What could Wake have done better to prepare students for life after graduation?

CJ: I’d say the university could have done a better job at implementing financial literacy programs for students. During my time as an undergraduate, there was a need for more transparent dialogue about finances and what a lot of us are hit with post-graduation.

DL: How did you find and apply to the various positions that you have held?

CJ: I applied for jobs in many ways: by walking into an establishment and inquiring about a position, showing up to an event with my resume or reel, applying online and submitting documents into what felt like cyberspace...the list goes on.  But it is through honest and authentic networking that I’ve been able to serve in life-changing positions.

You must recognize the people, spaces and opportunities around you. Start from there. Know humility and be transparent. Share your goals and visions with selected people in your life – your professors and mentors. Listen when they speak. Stay true to yourself and be kind. Doors will open naturally.

DL: What is your favorite part about living and working in Atlanta?

CJ: Atlanta is an established yet growing mecca for media and technology. It is also diverse.  Atlanta is the first place I’ve worked where I see and meet several men and women of color from many different backgrounds in prestigious positions. I’m surrounded by some really important perspectives and I’m soaking it all up.

DL: What is your favorite part about working for CNN?

CJ: The challenges. I have been challenged in ways I’ve never been before and am learning so many new hard and soft skills because if it. I am also in a global team environment. I may be pitching stories to folks in Australia today and creating a product with someone in London tomorrow. It is fantastic.

DL: What is next for you?

CJ: I plan to create my next opportunity as opposed to looking for it. I am interested in technology, entrepreneurship and becoming an author. The future is bright, change is constant and limits do not exist. I am so excited.

DL: Do you have any advice that you would like to pass onto current students and future alumni?

CJ: Strive for excellence and do not lose who you are in the midst of doing so. If an opportunity in front of you does not align with your core values or your moral, say ‘No.’ That is okay. Also, what do you believe in? Know the answer to that question before saying goodbye to undergrad.


Caroline Nelson: Executive Director's Assistant and Researcher, The Estate of David Smith

New York City

WFU Class of 2013 

Major: Art History

Minor: Psychology


Caroline Nelson.jpg

Caroline Nelson graduated Wake Forest University with a major in Art History and minor in Psychology. After graduation she found herself interning at the Bruce Museum. She later pursued her Master's at the Courtauld  Institute of Art in London. Caroline is now based in New York City doing wonderful things at the Estate of David Smith. We recently spoke to Caroline about her love for the arts, her career path, and  her advice to young art history majors. 


Note: Since conducting the interview, the Estate of David Smith has seen a number of changes, including Caroline being promoted to Exhibition Manager, in addition to remaining a researcher for the Catalogue Raisonné.


DeacLink: What did you study at Wake? How has your career unfolded since?

Caroline Nelson: I was an Art History major. I was initially pre-med, but by the end of Sophomore year, it had become pretty clear to me that my heart wasn’t really in it. My whole family is very science oriented. Veering off this path was not without its challenges, but certainly worth it in the end. I distinctly remember emailing Morna O’Neill from my bed in Piccolo my second year, desperately trying to get into what would eventually be the first Art History class I took at Wake - except it had begun weeks before. After some discussion, she let me in the class, and her support has proved incredibly influential ever since. After doing an independent study with her my junior year on 18th and 19th-century art, which also tied in with an exhibition mounted at the Reynolda House, I decided to pursue an honors thesis on John Constable prints. Because Morna was on sabbatical, though, I ended up working with Jay Curley as my advisor. His own interests and modernist insights led to new sources in my research and pushed me to think in ways I hadn’t before.

Despite all of this, I really had no idea what I wanted to do once I graduated. I wasn’t ready to go directly on to grad school. Looking back, I think I got pretty lucky. I didn’t apply to very many jobs, didn’t have a very strong sense of direction, but ended up landing a 9-month residence internship at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT. It was a broad role, maybe a little more directed toward curatorial type stuff. It was paid so was more like a job than an internship. It was a great experience. Just being up north, I was able to go to New York on the weekends and get further immersed in art. I am from West Virginia and have always been attracted to the city, but that hasn’t been my background.

Once I was “in” the art world, I realized that I wanted, as well as needed, another degree. That fall, I applied to a number of different Master's programs and a few PhD programs. I eventually chose to attend the Courtauld because they had a class specifically on late 18th / early 19th century British Art. I had studied abroad in London and fallen in love with it. It wasn’t a difficult decision to go back. I was a one year program as opposed to two, which ended up being a love-hate thing in a way. It was incredibly difficult and demanding. The Courtauld is sort of like Wake in that it prioritizes interacting and discussion based classes over lecture, but also required a lot of independent study, especially since everything was being consolidated into a shorter time frame. But I have absolutely no regrets about it.

What I ideally wanted to do was stay in London and try to find a job relating to the early modern British art I had been immersed in for almost a year. But I wasn’t able to balance looking for jobs while I was still in school, so I waited until after I turned in my dissertation, which left me with very little time to find something before my visa expired. It was a difficult market to break into anyway, especially for an American. So I moved back home to West Virginia, and I tried to make the most of it. I was there for about six months, and I got a job working as a secretary for a state senator. This was not entirely in line with anything I had done up until that point, but a lot of the skills that I sharpened there are completely applicable to any job, and definitely my job now. There is also a small museum in Charleston called the Clay Center, and as far as art goes, that’s pretty much it. I emailed the curator, Arif Khan, and worked with him a bit in addition to my job at the capitol. Most of it was exhibition research and I wrote some wall text. I got a stipend which was nice. Arif was a very positive influence and the opportunity helped to keep me motivated to continue applying to art jobs.

DL: Would you mind telling me more about what you're doing at the Estate of David Smith?

CN: All of this time, I never thought I wanted to be in New York. But I realized that if I wasn’t going to be in London, and if I wanted to truly take a stab at the art world, it’s where I really needed to be. It’s where the jobs are. On the NYFA website, I found this position at the Estate of David Smith, which is half administrative (I am the Executive Director’s assistant) and half research-based.

Working with modern sculpture is a huge jump from 18th/19th century British painting. I have learned so much since I started, though, and I have been here a little over a year now. I do a lot of outreach. We are represented by the gallery Hauser and Wirth. We have a big exhibition opening next month, and that’s been taking up a lot of my time. The other part of my job is geared toward an updated catalogue raisonne on Smith’s sculpture, which is projected to be released in full in 2021 I think, but our first deadline is also next month.

DL: How much did your time at Wake inform your career path?

CN: I got an internship at the Weatherspoon in Greensboro the summer before my senior year. But I really think Morna and Jay were the biggest influences for me as mentors. They were always encouraging but at the same time very realistic about this field. The relationship I had and continue to have with them is why I wanted to go somewhere like Wake Forest. My friends at bigger schools never had these kinds of interactions with professors - especially beyond graduation. Both have written me recommendations and given me a wealth of advice. It’s something I am continuously thankful for.

DL: How have you found the different jobs you've had?

CN: I found my current job on NYFA. That seems to be the way to go. When I was looking, that was the best source. In terms of Wake, the career center helped me tweak my CV, but there wasn’t anything specific set up as far as helping students go about navigating the art world. There was really no way to know about all of the different niches and things you can do with an art history degree.

DL: How do you like living in New York? What advice do you have for students considering pursuing a career in the city?

CN: It was definitely an adjustment. And there are still times where I can’t believe I live here. It is a nonstop place. But you have so much right at your fingertips. It’s almost the opposite problem of a small town like home: it can be a little too much at times. Still, I feel like for someone in the arts in their 20s this is an amazing place. Networking is important and I’d even say essential for finding a job here. My advice to anyone thinking of moving here would be: It doesn't hurt to reach out. Most people were in your same position when they first moved here. Keep pushing yourself to meet and connect with new people. Most people are really receptive.

DL:  What do you think Wake arts could do to better prepare students for life after graduation?

CN: Maybe a new class or even a whole career center for the arts. Something that allows you to feel a little more supported. I think it was my junior or senior year, Jay organized an arts field trip to Richmond one weekend. Things like that get you excited. Wake can be a bubble, and students need to get out and see art in the real world. Students should be encouraged to look beyond the gates of campus. It might make more people feel like a career in the arts is actually doable. Art can be boring when you’re just looking at it in a book or on a projector. Seeing things in person can make a huge difference.

DL: What's the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on to current students and recent alums?

CN: Something I struggled with in my transition to art from the pre-med path I had assumed I would follow was acceptance, both inner and outer. A big part of me found it difficult to seriously consider an academic pursuit (let alone a future career) focused on a subject I not only genuinely enjoyed, but one that many others also seemed to believe to be for enjoyment only. While this is something I admit I still occasionally wrestle with, I think much of this doubt is based in mere stereotype. This is a field that can be both extremely fun and extremely rigorous. Not everyone will understand what exactly it is that you're doing, but some will occasionally give you the opportunity to show them. I really do believe that if you are invested in what you're doing, the rest will follow.




Spotlight Interview: Caroline Perkins

Caroline Perkins: Collector Relations Associate, Artsy

New York City

WFU Class of 2016

Major: Art History

Minor: Math

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Caroline Perkins came to Wake aiming for a degree in Business and Math... until a single Art History course changed her entire trajectory. Caroline recently spoke with us about her time at Wake, her current role at Artsy, and tips she's picked up along the way.

DeacLink: Tell me about your path since graduating from Wake Forest.

Caroline Perkins: I graduated in Spring 2016 and went straight to The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA)  for a paid internship  in the museum’s education department. I was there for four and a half months, at which point they offered me a full time position. While opportunity provided me strong network of creative peers, I decided that I couldn’t commit to a year in a town with a population of 14,000, working a job that wouldn’t allow me to become economically independent. After a period of existential questioning, I decided it was time to move to New York. I started with a part-time job at Cristin Tierney’s gallery in Chelsea. After about a month of interviewing, I accepted a full time position at Artsy (around November 2016). I juggled both gigs for about six months until I reached a point where the 75 hour work week was a little too much! I continued on with my full-time role at Artsy, and have been there ever since.

DL: Sounds like you really embraced the New York hustle mentality. Since joining Artsy, you’ve changed roles. Talk us through the progression.

CP: I began as a Collector Support Specialist; however, at Artsy, job titles don’t mean too much. It feels like I’ve held four different roles already, although my formal title has only changed once. As a Collector Support Specialist, I managed Artsy’s support inbox, resolving questions and issues from everyone including users, buyers, galleries, and artists. The messages ranged from really important ones like, ‘I’m a collector who received a damaged artwork’ to ‘I’m locked out of my account and need to update my password’.

Over time, I have been assigned projects more closely aligned with the art buying process for our gallery partners. I collaborate with our Engineering, Product, and Analytics teams to ensure that Artsy is the best place to learn about, buy, and sell art online. I specifically work to connect buyers with our 2,500+ gallery partners across 90+ countries to facilitate sales and to make art buying more accessible. More recently, we have been striving to create a seamless buying experience similar the models used by the majority of modern online marketplaces.  

DL: The world is certainly moving that way, with titans like Amazon leading the charge. Taking it back to undergrad, how much did your time at Wake inform or drive your career path?

CP: I loved my time at Wake, and particularly loved the Art History department. I arrived at Wake thinking I’d major in Math and Business, but quickly realized that I didn’t click with the professors. I took an Art History course freshman year with Dr. Barnes titled ‘Dante, Giotto, and the Plague.’ It was the only AH course I could get into as a first-year, and I thought it would be the most boring class ever. To my surprise, I not only loved the course, but did well and grew close to Dr. Barnes. I declared my major early and interned at Reynolda House that summer in the Education Department. This was my first experience of working in a museum, and it was hugely impactful. I loved the team at Reynolda House, I continued working with the museum throughout my time at Wake. I joined their student committee, interned in the Development Department, and assisted with their public programming. 

Every semester, I tried to take as many Art History classes as possible. The most valuable of all experiences was definitely the Arts Management Course. I came out of it with the confidence and connections to make a run at the art world after graduation. I don’t think I would’ve considered coming to NYC if I hadn’t acquired so much knowledge from the AMC, as I personally had zero connections to the city prior to moving. The AMC granted me the ability to reach out to Cristin’s gallery, which was hugely important as my first work experience in the city. 

The ACC/IAC Grant process was also hugely impactful for me while at Wake. I’d encourage those who are still in undergrad to look into this program, as it is not well known. I wouldn’t have known about the grant if it weren’t for my Studio Art friend Kristi Chan who used the program to gain funding for a studio practice one summer. She encouraged me to propose my own project. At the time, I was still interested in pursuing a career in museum education. I submitted a proposal focused on learning the various in-gallery education practices employed at the Met, MoMA and Museum Hack (founded by fellow Wake alum Nick Gray). To my surprise, the committee quickly accepted my proposal. They direct-deposited funds within a month and turned me loose. It was my first time independently navigating New York City, which was a learning curve in itself. 

Lastly, Dr. Jay Curley’s Venice Biennale course was unbelievable and impactful for me as an undergrad. My mind was blown for the entire two weeks our class spent in Venice; I’d never before seen so much contemporary art. We were able to exercise our knowledge of theory and directly relate it to the artists’ practice, global politics, art production, the market and so forth. Living on the Grand Canal with friends for two weeks was also a dream! 

DL: How did you find and apply for the various positions you’ve held? Have you got any tips for those readers currently going through the application and interviewing process?

CP: When it came to MASS MoCA, I actually was surprised to have been accepted. Considering I knew nobody in the actual program, I applied ‘cold’ online through their site. I only knew of the opportunity because a fellow Wake alum (Laurel McLaughlin) recommended it as one of the only paid internships in the arts that she knew of. I applied to three total positions at MASS MoCA after looking over their site. 

Outside of Laurel’s recommendation, I was scouring NYFA’s Classifieds constantly. I would apply to any post I felt was interesting and relevant, paid or unpaid, telling myself (after a tough patch of accepting this fact) breaking into the art world was going to be tough. The MASS MoCA fellowship was actually the only position I got before graduating, out of the 16 roles I applied for. I felt very lucky to have a place to go after graduating, in lieu of heading home.

I did find my Artsy job through NYFA, despite not having connections there either. It felt like another lucky surprise to get an interview there. However, I did apply to Artspace at the same time as Artsy, which is their primary competitor. And I worked an albeit soft connection to Artspace (a Wake friend who’d previously interned for them) which did help get me in the running. So one tip, definitely use your connections even if they’re soft- and be shameless about it! 

Aside from perfecting the ‘light name-drop’, make sure to know about the company you’re interviewing with, and be sure to explain how you’ve come to know about them. It gets you on common ground faster, especially in my position where I had no connection to the person interviewing me. Find that 4th or 5th degree of connection and don’t be afraid to push that link.

Last tip, and for me it’s a big one—keep your cover letter short! I was lucky to have friends from the MASS MoCA fellowship cross-check my resume and revamp it to be more visually compelling and concise. When it came to the cover letter, which is always going to be hard to write, I learned that keeping it pithy is notable and impressive for the person who ends up reading piles of them daily. I’m going through reading applications now at Artsy for our intern cycle and can understand from a new perspective now, people appreciate a short and powerful cover letter.

DL: What could Wake have done to better prepare students for graduation?

CP: I think the Arts Management Course should not only be open to more students as an opportunity, but could even become a mandatory experience for all art majors (AH or Studio). I wish it hadn’t been so exclusive, because without that class, I truly believe I wouldn't have a clue about how to carve out a career in the arts.

I also wish there had been more crossover between the two majors in our department. I was so focused on Art History that I overlooked opportunities to collaborate with the people in our department making amazing work in the studios. Especially now I’m out of school, understanding an artist’s practice, why they make what they make and choose their materials and process is key to appreciating and working with the art objects themselves. I could’ve picked up so much more knowledge in the way of curating, installing/deinstalling, writing exhibition descriptions, and building ideas around theory and how it relates to what’s been made. Perhaps in the future the START and Hanes programs could facilitate a greater collaborative attitude or space between the Art History and Studio majors.

DL: What is the best part of working at Artsy- give us the lowdown on cool perks!

CP: Our offices are pretty cool! We work downtown on Canal Street, right near SoHo and Chinatown. Beyond location the actual office itself is beautiful, has a fully stocked kitchen, and really is a tech company through and through. The access we have to galleries, fairs, auction houses and other art world events is pretty great, thanks to Artsy’s partnerships. I was even able to travel to Miami this past Fall with access to all six major fairs.

The biggest perk of the working experience at Artsy for me, is chances for collaboration with a group of seriously talented and smart people. Because Artsy covers so many areas, I have learned about structures of art fairs, to auction house practices, even picked up engineering and website design skills along the way. I have learned new ways to approach and solve problems, working alongside analytically minded people and picking up on how they tackle issues that face a marketplace we all genuinely care about. Also being able to put my Math minor skills to use has felt great; I love being able to use both sides of my brain in the same workday. Artsy’s core value as listed on our website is actually ‘Art x Science’- I can build my business acumen and make different business decisions because I get the numbers which is powerful in the conversation.

DL: What and where is next for you?

CP: I’m very happy here at Artsy and don’t see myself leaving anytime soon. I don’t ever see myself leaving the Art World in the larger career sense, but we’ll see what happens. Long term I’d love to open my own gallery and support artists more directly on a smaller scale. A lot of what I’m doing at Artsy helps me understand the business side of things, along with being able to meet and learn from a range of badass female gallery owners making it happen with their spaces in the present. I also hope to do a graduate degree at some point, but I find it hard to find too many mentors in the art world. I hope to keep finding others in their late 20s working in this field, to foster a sense of community and fellowship which is very important for growth. For now I’m focused on that- meeting more people in my field, especially more artists!

DL: Have you got a final bit of advice for the readers today?

CP: Listen to more artists! Find people who speak a similar visual language to you and advocate for it. Be aware of what language people in the art world use, because people talk about art in so many different ways. There’s a lot of power in being able to articulate what resonates with you on a personal and political level through art-driven discussions.

Spotlight Interview: Andrew Gristina

Andrew Gristina: VP, Navigators Management

New York City

WFU Class of 1990

Major: Art History

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Andrew Gristina majored in Art History at Wake, then jumped midway through undergrad into George Mason to finish his degree with Economics tacked on. Andrew is now based in NYC underwriting for Navigators Management in art insurance. Andrew breaks down his path to NY and just what the art insurance field entails.

DeacLink: What did you study at Wake? How has your career unfolded since?

Andrew Gristina: I was an art history major, but I was also a mess at Wake. I was there for three-and-a-half years, and I did not graduate. But I did meet my wife there. When I was at Wake, I was studying art history, studio art, and history. I took a couple of years off and then went back to school and graduated from George Mason. 

When I graduated, I got an art history minor from George Mason and a major in economics. That is how I got into the art insurance field. What happened was that I was in DC, and before the age of Monster and everything, resumes used to go into pools, and you would be pooled by the skills you listed. I was put into the economics and fine art buckets. At the time, Huntington T. Block was really the only insurance agency in the country that did art insurance. I was recruited to them because of the art history background on my resume. 

When I left Wake, I knew I needed to go grow up. For a while, I was a ski bum and moved to Breckenridge. It was great, but I realized I needed to go back to school and get a career. I moved back East was working in this outdoor store and had a management path ahead of me. Then this job came up, and I spoke to my dad, who is an art collector. He put it pretty bluntly to me and asked why would I not want to labor over art.

DL: Would you mind explaining a bit the world of art insurance? It’s not the typical path for the art major. 

AG: I work for Navigators, which is an insurance carrier, which is the company that pays the claims. When you get a policy, we are the ones that pay the claim. Insurance is a complex financial product, so the way most people purchase insurance is through an agent or a broker. So it is their job to assess your need, and find the best offering for that specific need. So the broker represents the interest of the insured, and I, as the underwriter, represent the interest of the company. I work with galleries, and when a broker comes to me with a gallery, I will assess the characteristics of the risk - do they have any losses in the past, how experienced are they, where are they located, do they travel often to fairs, what mediums are their artists using - and then I assess the risk and create a limit that’s fair. 

DL: How small is the art insurance world?

AG: From my side, fine art insurance underwriters, there are 40-50 people with full time jobs. A lot of those are base level roles. Companies on the underwriting side are Chubb, AIG, Navigators, Travelers, Berkley Asset Protection, and Huntington Block. 

On the brokerage side, it’s about the same. It’s almost a one to one relationship with maybe a few more. The brokers that do it have a specialization. These companies are Willis Fine Art, DeWitt Stern, Huntington Block, and Arthur J. Gallagher. There are maybe 80 full time job. There are lots of people in insurance where this is part of what they do, but they work with high net worth clients, but the role is taking care of lots of different things. 

DL: For the readers that are interested in a similar career path, what advice would you give them for breaking into the field? 

AG: Number one is you have to be ready to start at the bottom. That can be frustrating but you have to be ready to preserve in the role. The second thing is that you have to be willing to live in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, LA or Washington DC. DC has the most jobs in the field. It is very difficult to do this role in a smaller market. 

As far as networking goes, it’s different now. There is a lot of networking that goes on on LinkedIn and Facebook, but you really need to make the person to person contacts and keep at it. When you get to the city where you are, see who those people are, and start working with them. At any given time, there may be one role open in the field. It is really helpful to be at the fingertips of someone when a position comes open, so keep in front of people. 
The job of underwriter is more insurance-based, and not as client-based. I work with brokers, and I have 20 I know and work with regularly. 

Brokers have lots of clients, and they go out and find new clients. It helps to have a big network of people to help you find clients. As far as networking goes, I teach in graduate education in art law and business at Christie’s. I teach my students that there are many areas from which you can build your network: galleries/dealers, museums, art fairs, art banking, fine arts claims management, art insurance, insurance appraisal firms, fine art storage, art services firms, attorneys, family offices, and government agencies. Through these groups, you need to have connections to know what’s going on. All of these are entry points into the art business. Some of these types of companies offer really interesting approaches to the art world.  For instance, look at family offices. These are management offices for high net worth individuals that take care of their personal business transactions. They make sure the tax is paid on the boat and insurance on the houses. I know some people that are with private collections. You are not advising them on what to buy, but you are the registrar. It is about managing the collection. 

In terms of me, I found an entry point. When people get into the fine arts insurance business, most people like it and stay, so to advance you have to move companies. If you are working under someone that’s only five years older than you, you will have to work for them for the rest of your career unless you move. 

DL: What do you think Wake arts could do to better prepare students for life after graduation?

AG: I’ve spoken with the management in visual arts kids and have kept in touch with Paige Laughlin. One of the things is that there are many entry points that expose you to a lot of the business. Art fairs always need interns. With an internship with an art fair, if you get it in the right spot, it will put you in touch with a huge number of galleries. You are going to be engaging on a daily basis with over a hundred galleries. It’s an effective way to build a network.I started working with Affordable Art Fair as a sponsor. They always had intelligent people working there and after a year and half, they would be gone. I wondered if there was someone wrong with the culture, but they explained to me that employees come in and meet all of these people, and eventually they transition out into a gallery job based on their connections. There are art services firms out there, and that is another way to meet a lot of people. You can meet people in the auction house, on the appraisal side, and in packing and shipping. 

One thing is when you are young, you have a lot of mobility. Some of it is about getting experience elsewhere and bringing that with you. I known people that have looked into programs and done an internship in Australia or something, and then you come back with a unique skill set. In the art world, it is good to do some international work before you transition to New York (London or Paris are great). As an intern, it’s easier to get a visa, so students should use that to their advantage and go abroad right after graduating. 

Transitioning to New York, you have to start at the bottom. Be prepared to be met with and overcome frustration and move forward. You have to be persistent if you are going to work in New York.

Spotlight Interview: Molly McDonald

Molly McDonald: Assistant to CEO, Gaynor Minden

New York City
WFU Class of 2014
 Double Major: Dance & English, Summa Cum Laude



Molly McDonald majored in Dance and English at Wake Forest. She has since gone on to NYC where she serves as Assistant to the CEO at legendary dancewear brand Gaynor Minden. We spoke with Molly to learn about her path to working with pointe's most prestigious supplier.


DeacLink: What did you study at Wake? How has your career unfolded since?

Molly McDonald: At Wake I majored in English and minored in Dance. After graduating from Wake Forest I moved to New York City to pursue my masters in Arts Administration at Columbia University. While in grad school, I interned with The George Balanchine Trust and the New York Choreographic Institute at New York City Ballet, and The Joyce Theater. I then simultaneously worked as the Managing Director of Cornfield Dance and the Administrative Associate of John Jasperse Projects. After doing a year of Christian mission work overseas, I returned to New York City and began working for Gaynor Minden.


DL: Would you mind telling us a bit more about Gaynor Minden and what you are doing there?

MM: Gaynor Minden is a global dancewear brand, primarily known for being the first brand to successfully modernize pointe shoes. While traditional pointe shoes are essentially made of paper and paste, Gaynor Minden offers pointe shoes with a modernized interior that is proven to offer these athletes better support and protection. Gaynor Minden pointe shoes are used at almost every major ballet company in the world, covering 85 countries at last count.

I am currently the Assistant to the CEO, which is a constantly expanding and shifting role. I manage Human Resources across the seven states and five countries where we have employees, I assist the CEO with budgeting, I research international markets to aid our expansion, and I utilize marketing analytics tools to report trends and shape our future marketing efforts. As Assistant to the CEO, I truly assist the CEO with whatever is needed. If a problem or idea arises that requires considerable background research, I am often the person to do the initial legwork to move the project forward.


DL: I would love to hear more about the program you completed at Columbia. What led you to enroll, and what’s the biggest benefit of the program?

MM: I decided to pursue my masters degree in Arts Administration because I wanted to gain some more business knowledge before launching my career. Having a masters degree in Arts Administration definitely opens more doors to higher level positions at dance companies, and I wanted to be equipped with some more tangible business skills beyond the skills I gained through a liberal arts education at Wake. I considered doing a MBA program, but I found that the Arts Administration degree offered the benefits of the MBA while keeping all of the projects and examples focused on the arts world. I specifically decided to go to Columbia because this program offered the opportunity to spend two years networking with the best dance companies in New York City.

My experience at Columbia was invaluable. Academically, it was amazing to be able to take classes with the Columbia MBA students and simultaneously work with professors in the Arts Administration program who were still working day jobs at some of New York’s top arts organizations. However, the largest benefit of the program was spending an intensive two years with the other students in my cohort. Each year, Columbia selects between 25 to 30 students for the Arts Administration program, carefully picking students to give each class a range of interests in the arts. It was an incredibly collaborative environment, as we were all learning the same general skills while pursuing our own unique niches in the arts world. Everyone was interning at arts organizations during the program, so class discussions included the added depth of what everyone was seeing and experiencing at New York’s top arts organizations. Rather than competing with one another for our dream jobs, we were able to share ideas from our roles at New York City Ballet, MoMA, The Metropolitan Opera, Christie’s, and many other organizations. My cohort still gets together almost monthly—this is a network that lasts far beyond graduation.


DL: How have you found the different jobs and internships you've had? Applications? Networking? A combination of both?

MM: Definitely a combination of both! I found my internships at Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and Dayton Performing Arts Alliance through family connections in my hometown. While at Wake, I interned with Winston-Salem Symphony, which was arranged as a part of an independent study with a professor. My internships at Boston Ballet and New York City Ballet came about through simply applying online, and then my boss at New York City Ballet helped me get my next internship with The Joyce Theater. One of my professors at Columbia referred me to the choreographer Ellen Cornfield who ended up hiring me as Cornfield Dance’s Managing Director during my last semester of grad school, and I found my job at John Jasperse Projects through a simple Dance/NYC posting.

My current job at Gaynor Minden came about through consistently staying in touch with the CEO. I met the CEO while I was still in grad school and stayed in touch for almost two years before he offered me a position.


DL: What advice do you you have for students interested in pursuing a career on the corporate side of the dance world?

MM: Go to every dance-related event you can, and constantly read about what is happening in the field. Working on the business side of the field does not mean that you are removed from the art—it means you need to understand what is happening artistically and find a way to engage audiences, donors, and/or customers in these artistic directions within the context of the field at large.

Go to performances and events for a wide range of dance styles and see how those companies/artists did with engaging you. Did they contact you before the event? Really read the marketing materials and analyze the design. How did you hear about the event, and how did you get tickets? Did they do something creative at the event? What type of venue was chosen for the event? What kind of language are they using to talk about the art? Did you keep thinking about the event days and weeks later? Why? Go to panels and discussions about both dance history and the future of the field. Watch documentaries about dancers, choreographers, and dance companies. Read previews and reviews. The more you can absorb as a dance enthusiast, the more you will understand what needs to happen from a business perspective to get the general public just as interested in the art as you are. Business knowledge can always be researched as needed for specific tasks, but an overall understanding of the dance field needs to be cultivated consistently over time. And any organization in the dance industry wants to hire people who can talk the artistic talk. Gaynor Minden only hires former dancers, and expects that all employees are passionate about ballet. Working for a non-profit dance company, you need to be able to understand where that dance company stands in the field and why the art being produced is significant. Basically, keep your passion for the art alive, but start bringing a critical eye to the strategic business decisions that companies and artists are making. Always be on the lookout for better ways to do things.


DL: What has it been like living in New York? What advice do you have for students considering pursuing a career in the city?

MM: New York City is the best. The opportunities to learn about the dance industry are endless, and extremely accessible. I truly think that if you are at all interested in pursuing a career in the city, you should just move here and give it a try. Even if the city is not for you, attending dance events and networking with people in the dance industry in New York will only be beneficial. Also, keep an open mind about how to start your career in the city. It is okay to not get a full-time job immediately—I have plenty of friends who piece together several part-time jobs and gain incredible experience. When I was working for both Ellen Cornfield and John Jasperse’s modern dance companies at the same time, I was able to get the experiences of two different roles simultaneously. I would do grant writing and studio space scheduling for John Jasperse in the mornings, and then I would spend my afternoons working on branding and website design with Ellen Cornfield. It was like being in marketing and development at the same time, allowing me to learn even more than I would have if I had held one position in one department.   


DL: What do you think Wake arts could do to better prepare students for life after graduation?

MM: I think Wake should offer an arts administration course for performing arts students. Even if students do not actually want to become arts administrators, a general understanding of how arts businesses are run is extremely beneficial. Choreographers, dance school owners, and freelance artists all need to understand basic marketing, fundraising, and finance. I think that a course that goes over the basics would give all graduates more confidence in their artistic endeavors after graduation.


DL: What's the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on to current students and recent alums?

MM: Walk humbly and seek to serve. Going into a career in the arts is all about building communities and supporting the artists that are pulling communities together through the presentation of ideas and beauty. Go in with a servant mindset-- how can you find ways to serve both artists and the communities they live and work in? How can you serve your co-workers who are also trying to support artists and communities? Accept every opportunity with gratitude, even if it seems mundane at first. There is always more to learn, and there are always more opportunities to better support the people around you.


Spotlight Interview: Phil Archer

Phil Archer: Program & Interpretation Director, Reynolda House

Winston-Salem, NC
WFU Class of 1995
Major: English
Minor: Philosophy

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Phil Archer speaks to us from Reynolda House, where he serves as Director of Program & Interpretation. Although he joined the museum immediately after graduation, Phil did break up his undergrad experience to live in Australia for a spell. We asked him to regale us with the story of his journey at and after Wake.


DeacLink: Tell us about your current role at Reynolda House, and what it entails.

Phil Archer: The title is the Betsy Main Babcock Director of Program and Interpretation. It’s a lot to say, and actually Tava Smiley while interviewing on her show said, ‘You Wake Forest people need to shorten your titles!’ My position is endowed with a gift from the Babcock family, hence the name.

I supervise the exhibitions that the museum presents, and the way we tell stories based on American art and the historic site. It’s a hybrid museum which tell both stories side by side to a diverse range of audiences. This can span from the general public to school groups, to our university audience and more. 

DL: How did you come to this position since leaving wake?

PA: I technically went straight into a job with Reynolda House upon graduating. Although I entered as part of the class of ‘95, my family moved to Melbourne, Australia midway through undergrad. I chose to take time off and make the most of that opportunity, coming back to graduate in 2003. 

I had a brief stopover working in the campus bookstore before the Reynolda House position, which is common among English majors. I had a former professor and mentor Edwin Wilson, who was on the board of the museum and also knew Nick Bragg (WFU ‘58). They knew a lot of what I did extracurricularly could translate and continue in a museum setting a Reynolda House, and that I wanted to keep learning and be productive. I started in a different role but soon got into public programming presenting poets, musical performances, and theater at Reynolda. 

I also did a graduate degree in management at Wake’s business school which was very useful for me. Another important mentor in this time was John Anderson, Calloway’s vice president for finance and administration. He said that although I wanted to do non profit, the managerial training would be largely beneficial. I completed that degree in 2006 and moved from public programs into the director of the division in 2016, so my current role is still very new to me.

DL: What changes have you seen take place since coming on board at Reynolda?

PA: The biggest project I worked on was our expansion, with the addition of Babcock Wing which opened in 2005. We didn’t have a head curator at the time and I was appointed by the board and John Anderson to be the owners’ rep for the museum on that project. For a few years I worked with the architects in New York and the contractors in Winston, liaising between staff, board members and builders. I had to ensure everyone’s dreams for the building and its various educational and program spaces came true. 

Since the expansion we’ve been bringing in exhibitions from large metropolitan scale institutions, like the recent Georgia O’Keeffe show. We had to get creative with our space constraints, and presented the 190 objects throughout the rooms of the historic house. It broke every crowd visitation record which was really positive. The size of exhibitions we can bring in or generate ourselves has changed which is really exciting.

Lastly, a big change that’s still happening has been uniting the garden, village and house in their storytelling. For the visitor from Ohio passing through on her way down to Myrtle Beach, we want the story to be a single piece as she goes throughout. There’s more unity around visitor experience now, and the interpretation of the history makes the village a place that isn’t just pretty, but somewhere you can still learn from while having lunch, for example.

DL: How did your time as a Wake undergrad shape or drive your career path?

PA: I was very active extracurricularly, so my time creating projects and events with classmates and mentors was very influential. A group of us students revived this 19th-century debate society under the leadership of Joy Goodwin, forming an interdisciplinary arts club. We had film screenings, festivals, readings, and created a journal for essays and creative writing. I also worked on Wake’s student magazine and helped with a humor mag called ‘Jambalaya’.  

I was also part of a group who started this house on Polo Road which was a pretty special place. We had cookouts, living room concerts, painted murals on the walls and built treehouses. Interestingly it wasn’t all arts majors- for some reason a lot of biology majors! It sort of balanced their lives between schoolwork and home life, and gave us this creative environment to live in together. We had a slightly bohemian existence but of course kept up with our homework, too.

DL: What is the creative and cultural scene like in Winston right now?

PA: The repurposing of the old factory buildings downtown is really exciting. Innovation Quarter and Wake’s downtown campus are adding a lot to the area. Seeing all of these reclaimed buildings and the park spaces in between, you get the feeling it’ll lead to more restaurants and galleries which are both blossoming scenes already. We lost some performance spaces downtown but with the incoming student presence and the professors on campus, this aspect will make a resurgence as well.

DL: What’s the best piece of advice you can think to pass on, or currently go by?

PA: There’s an Eleanor Roosevelt quote that goes, ‘The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams’. I think this applies to so many different things. We are all susceptible to the contagion of others’ enthusiasm… we all have our own dreams. So instead of trying to convince others to share theirs, just believe in your own and through that it might inspire others to follow suit. You have to make your fascination contagious to other people.

Spotlight Interview: Alexis Slater

Alexis Slater: Graduate Student

University of Texas at Austin: MA in Art History, Criticism and Conservation

Austin, TX
WFU Class of 2016
Double Major: Art History & History


Alexis Slater graduated from Wake Forest and went straight into a job at Polskin Arts in LA, doing PR for museums and cultural institutions. While in this role Alexis realized she wanted to be the one telling the stories instead of pitching them. She is now obtaining her MA in Art History at UT Austin, preparing to enter the curatorial field. We interviewed Alexis in Fall 2017 before her class trip to Germany to learn more about her story.

DeacLink: Tell us about what you’re doing at the moment.

Alexis Slater: I am currently getting my MA at UT Austin, with a focus on the Northern Renaissance working with Dr. Jeffrey Chipps Smith (whose work I had read in Dr. Bernadine Barnes’ Northern Renaissance course at WFU). I wanted to work with Dr. Smith because the questions he asked in his work are some of the questions I’m personally curious about. This idea of seeking out scholars that ask the “right” research questions was something that I learned from a conversation with Dr. Barnes my senior year at Wake and really impacted my search for the right grad program. 

In one of my favorite classes this semester, I’m studying Cologne and Nuremberg in the late medieval to early Renaissance period with Dr. Smith and Dr. Joan Holladay. We are going to visit both these cities next week. It’s really important to see these things we’re studying in person, in their original contexts—you certainly can learn more in person than from a slide.

I am also taking a class about Roman architecture during the Republic; we cover construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction which ties in with my interest in cultural heritage.

DL: Sounds like a great program. Could you elaborate further on the experience?

AS: As a whole grad school is challenging in a way I wasn’t necessarily expecting, but I’m very appreciative of the experience. I can already see myself improving as a thinker and a scholar. It requires a different level of thinking and a lot of figuring how things work on your feet. For example, being assigned readings in languages I don’t speak (which is pretty intimidating) forces me to figure that out. Assignments like this are great for expanding the mind and making me more flexible as a historian and person.

I’m also surprised at the amount of group projects there are in grad school. It’s been useful from a teamwork standpoint, and sometimes group members are fluent in the languages our assigned texts are written in. There is so much more to be learned from original texts than an English translation; the original Italian or French can get more points across about the work we’re studying.

DL: Take us through your journey to grad school since Wake. We understand you had worked a job before enrolling?

AS: Yes- I graduated from Wake Forest having completed a double major in Art History and History. My thesis in History was on Alexander the Great’s conquest in Persia, with an emphasis on cultural heritage. Specifically, I looked at his destruction of the palace at Persepolis. My art historical thesis focused on the influence of the female patron, Elisabeth Borluut, in the commissioning and creation of the Ghent Altarpiece. I was actually able to conduct research in Belgium for this through Wake’s Lynn Johnson Travel Award. In the spring before my senior year, I travelled to Ghent and Bruges where I was able to see the Ghent Altarpiece in the flesh. Seeing the original chapel setting of the Ghent Altarpiece was instrumental in helping figure out a new way to view this important (and frequently written about) work. I noticed that the keystone of the “Vijd chapel”, which was a coat of arms, was actually split between Vijd and Borluut heralrdy! This in-person discovery—something I hadn’t seen mentioned in my reading—totally changed how I thought about the entire altarpiece. 

I took a year after graduation to live in Los Angeles, where I was working for Polskin Arts and Communications Counselors. Polskin is a firm working specifically with museums and cultural institutions, with an impressively wide range of clients like MoMA, the Whitney, SFMoMA and The Broad.

My role here was mostly focused on an account for The Getty Initiative, which comprises more than eighty exhibitions and institutions outside of California all tied into the arching theme of Latino and South American art. I also worked on the reopening of Hollywood’s Ford Theatres, and worked on projects and events for the Natural History Museum and the Sotheby’s LA office. 

PR for museums and institutions was fun, and definitely a challenge outside my area of familiarity. I came in with basic knowledge from a previous marketing and communications internship, but the role at Polskin required me to foster relationships with local and national press, whether it’s getting them to cover an exhibition or attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony. I had to find common links between the scope of an exhibition and the interests of a publication. Through this you get to know exhibitions really well; I was able to attend previews and explore archives as part of my job which was really great.

I realized during this year, that I wanted to be the one telling stories instead of pitching them. I craved a more active role in art history- asking questions, doing the research, writing theses, and crafting the stories I wanted to tell. The questions you’re allowed to ask in art history can go deeper, and be, of course, more academic, than journalism allows. With this realization I decided to pursue grad school.

DL: The work experience you’ve had seems very beneficial. How did you find and apply to the Polskin position, and previous internships?

AS: Interestingly, the Polskin representatives had come to a USC (University of Southern California) class in February to field interest among students, because the women who run the LA office got their masters there. They were after a USC candidate, but my friend in the class that day texted me saying the role would suit me perfectly. I applied off her recommendation but was initially told that because of timing, it wouldn’t work out. Once I graduated from Wake and moved back to LA in May, I sent an email to Polskin asking if they were still looking for somebody; which they were. I interviewed shortly after and started days later. The circumstances certainly fell into place on this occasion.

Most of my other internships I simply applied for online; the Reynolda House internship was a fantastic opportunity, and Wake students should definitely look into their many internships within the program. They offer focuses like educational development or marketing and communications (I did education my sophomore year and marketing as a senior). Both of these experiences primed me incredibly well to go forward, and they’re such passionate people at Reynolda with a real interest in helping students.

I also did an internship at the National Portrait Gallery in DC, which I applied for through their online application portal. For the NPG I interviewed on the phone with the curatorial team of the Painting and Sculpture department, which included Chief Curator Brandon Brame Fortune and Curator Dorothy Moss.

Another slightly random but interesting internship was on I did in Berlin while studying abroad. I had attended an artist talk at the gallery, Kinderhook & Caracas during Berlin Art Week, and found the space really interesting. I sent them a cold email afterward stating my interest in the space and the projects going on there. They had me helping with an exhibition in my time there- a performance work by Norwegian artist Hanne Lippard.

DL: That’s great- reaching out and being assertive can really go a long way! What works best during interviews, from your range of experiences?

AS: It’s okay to take time with your answers. If you rush into your response, you might not say what you really wanted to. If a question catches you off-guard, take a moment to breathe and search your brain for the words you want to use. Avoid using ‘um’ and ‘uh’ as well!

DL: How do you like living and studying in Austin? What is the art scene like there?

AS: Austin is a very cool city, with lots of energy pulsing through the air. We have Austin Art Fair in October which always brings a buzz; the gallery scene is expanding quickly as well. There’s also a prevalence of live music- even at my local grocery store on the weekends. Austin is called the live music capital of the world, and they’re very dedicated to this distinction.

Austin is sprawling like LA, so you need a car here. The traffic can be pretty bad, which reminds me of home but is obviously more frustrating than comforting. It’s definitely a cool place to move.. I wish there were more Wake alums here! It’s a very lively place and everyone is excited to be here.

DL: What’s the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on, or currently go by?

AS: Be open! Don’t limit yourself or think you’re set in something. When changes come your way, accept and roll with them. If you keep your heart and mind open to new experiences, you’ll gravitate toward the things that interest you along the way naturally. Don’t ever allow yourself to feel stuck or stationary- change is always a good thing.

Spotlight: Julia Young

Julia Young: Studio Manager, Sterling Ruby

Los Angeles, CA
WFU Class of 2012
Major: Art History

Julia Young lives and works in LA, managing the daily ongoings of artist Sterling Ruby's studio. Since graduating from Wake in 2012, Julia's path has led her through multiple cities and experiences. Julia recently shared her story and great bits of advice with us.


DeacLink: I know that you were an Art History major at Wake. What led you to choose that major?

Julia Young: I’m a DC native, so growing up in the city where art was always at my fingertips was a huge part of my upbringing & my falling in love with art. The Smithsonian Institutions were just a metro stop away, so as kids, we often wandered down to the Mall just to take in all these cultural icons. I went to public high school in DC, where my AP Art History teacher Mrs. Huberman, first introduced me to the 101s of art’s history. I have a very clear memory of taking a field trip to the Phillips Collection, where she asked each of us to pick out a piece that we wanted to talk about. It was the first time I saw an El Greco painting so intimately; the piece is titled The Repentant St. Peter. I remember first putting into words how the light in the painting made me feel, and how the figure’s gaze was so remorseful and hopeful simultaneously. It was the first time I considered what might be beautiful in an artwork, and how an artist uses the medium to start a conversation. I’m sure you can remember the first time you had a visceral reaction to a piece?  

I fell in love with the important job the viewer has when taking in a piece - to describe those feelings one feels, to consider the artist’s actions, the sociopolitical realm in which the piece was made. Anyway, it was inevitable I would choose Art History as my major after that. 

At Wake, the Art History community was so small and intimate, I truly felt that every professor wanted you to do well and to use their expertise as much as possible. David Lubin and Harry Titus largely influenced me, and I consider these men to be true mentors and supporters of my interests and ambitions. I was also an athlete in school, but after a back injury in 2009, I left the field hockey team. While it was heartbreaking, the opportunity to study abroad in Rome arose, which only further fed my love for art. When one door closes, another opens. 

I spent much of my senior year in 2012 helping David build a curriculum focused on Italian Modernism. The independent research, self-learning and exploration I embarked on during that time became invaluable to me, and certainly reignited my interest in returning to Italy.

DL: Since graduating, how has your career unfolded? What’s been the biggest surprise?

JY: All of it has been a surprise! I feel I’ve taken the less traditional “art world” route, but every turn I’ve made has given me a new set of tools and insights I would have never known before. 

Before graduating from Wake, I was recommended by David Lubin to apply for the Peggy Guggenheim internship in Venice. When I was accepted into the program after graduation, I promptly packed up and moved to Venice. That experience fed my yearning for the story of  art. Peggy’s story is unique, and so is her villa that houses her impeccable collection. There, I came to understand the contemporary patron, and that these famous artists - the ones the canon and market have turned into untouchable icons - they too needed support, and were once not famous. Learning about Peggy and her support for the arts honestly encouraged me to explore how we support artists in our communities today.

Right after leaving the Guggenheim, I moved back to DC and began working for Transformer, which is a non-profit artist-run initiative that supports local emerging artists. At Transformer, it was cool to see how a small art space could garner so much cultural support and integrity in the art field, securing funding through numerous commissions and foundations, including The Andy Warhol Foundation since the gallery’s inception. The focus at this space was different: we didn’t curate the art, we curated the artists. It was pivotal point in my career where I began thinking about whose story am I was trying to tell. I began to understand the importance of developmental support for young artists, how to encourage post-collegiate growth, and how to treat their work as their profession. 

At Transformer, I was the Gallery Manager and Exhibition Coordinator for three-and-a-half years. While there, I met my fiance, who is a sound artist, and was based in DC. I brought him in to work with several sound artists for a project and exhibition. We soon began dating, and in 2015 we found ourselves looking to explore new horizons. We moved to LA that spring. 

LA is a very different art world than DC or NY. My initial job once settling in LA was with the Tappan Collective, an online gallery ambitiously introducing emerging artists to the commercial world.  Founded in 2012, it came about when Artsy was beginning to take off, and the idea of selling work online was becoming less taboo. Tappan rode that wave. I joined Tappan’s small team (at the time) as their first Artist Manager. My goal with Tappan was to bring developmental & professional support to these artists through the online platform, not just sales. With this in mind, I began their artist residency program, and created a developmental component to the company that truly supported the artists through feedback and professional support outside of sales. It was an artist-centric approach to whole online experience. 

Tappan is fantastic and continues to do well, but I left last spring in search of finding time to meditate on what my passions really are. I felt that my vision for an artist support system could not truly be created within a sales-centric platform.

And now, I’ve found myself nestled somewhere in the middle... In August I began working for an LA-based contemporary artist. At his studio, where I am one of nearly 25 other employees, I’m learning how he has built a true business around his production. I manage administrative work for the studio, and assist the studio director with managing deadlines with galleries, museums, and commissioned projects. I’m grateful to be a part of such a production, and I’m learning so much about the business necessities artists should consider for finding success. Studios that function at this scale are so impressive, and it certainly does not happen overnight!  

This position has given me some personal time back, which I’ve used to do grant writing for an LA-Bangkok based non-profit, make strides on my own artist consulting, and plan our wedding.

DL:  How much did your time at Wake inform your career path?

JY: Greatly - I had support from professors who encouraged me to explore all sorts of interests, and not try to fit my ideas into one box. 

DL: What has it been like working for an artist, and what’s are some of the big takeaways?
JY: There are a few. Despite the number of people working for him, he has a commitment to his practice. It should resonate with everyone in the field, you have to commit to it to see success. Coupled with his commitment to the studio, and the studio model itself, it’s amazing to see what can happen when you have your commitment to your work in check. I’m learning about the underbelly, the artist’s own system that needs to be in place in order to see success. These days I often think of how I can advise artists on organizing their own businesses. There are certains setups and standards that you need to put in place to be successful, I don’t think a lot of art schools are necessarily teaching these things. Your system may differ in size, but there needs to be a system. 

DL: How have you found the different jobs you've had? Applications? Networking? A combination of both?

JY: It’s been a combination of both. With the Guggenheim, I was recommended by Lubin. Transformer, I applied on my own and interviewed with them. I had heard of Tappan, but an artist friend introduced me to me to the founder. With my current position, I used the New York Foundation for the Arts, which is a great resource for job opportunities and grant resources. 

I’ve explored many facets of the art world, and I think that’s helped me. I am not tied to one idea of where I should be. I am still taking in information and considering the systems in place. If I’m still learning, it’s not time to leave yet. Experience only helps clarify your vision the longer you keep at it. I apply for things occasionally, just to see if there’s something else out there. Even if you are employed, I think it’s healthy to always have an idea of what else is out there. A diverse CV with lots of experience in the art world isn’t a bad one. There is certainly no one straight path in this field, and it’s continuing to diversify. 

DL: Often times as undergraduates, students are pushed into academia or into the curatorial track at a museum. What advice do you have for readers interested in taking their own route?

JY: It might sound silly, but go after what makes you feel excited. You spend four years as an undergrad, liking some things, not liking others, and then there is this moment where you can still choose your own adventure. People’s circumstances are different, but don't just settle for security right off the bat. You’re going to get there eventually. Find something that opens your mind and makes you excited, that perhaps makes you think about something in the art world a little differently. You need to keep your doors open.  

DL: Most students have their eyes set on moving to New York after graduation. How do you like living in Los Angeles? What advice do you have for students considering pursuing a career in the city? 

JY: LA is an incredibly eclectic, sprawling and beautiful place. I’ve lived here almost three years, and am honestly just beginning to feel like this is home. I don’t recommend coming here for a long weekend and determining after that short experience whether or not this is the city for you. You’ll be disappointed. LA reveals itself to you the longer you spend time getting to know it. When I got out here, I didn’t have a job lined up. I had given myself a little cushion to explore options and get settled before I jumped into a job. 

There are many levels and layers of the arts here, from museum institutions, to commercial galleries, performance spaces to artist-run galleries, arts activist initiatives to non-profits, artist studios and museum-gallery hybrids. It’s all here. It’s vague advice, but I would recommend to any student that immersing yourself in the place is the best first step. Get in the habit of checking job listing websites on the daily while planning what spaces, lectures, and openings you might attend that evening. Put yourself out there and ask questions.

DL: What do you think Wake arts could do to better prepare students for life after graduation?

JY: I think they should consider having a visiting artist/arts professional program, setting up a mentorship program to support current students. It would be so awesome to be an undergrad and have these types of resources.

DL: What's the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on to current students and recent alums?

JY: You build your own expectations for yourself. You are at the helm of your own ship - there is a lot of soul searching that happens after you finish school. You create your own rules and guidelines, and if you don't like them, change them.  I have kept that in mind with every opportunity that I encounter, and it has been really helpful for me and keeps me motivated. 

Spotlight Interview: Lizzie Axelson

Lizzie Axelson: Membership Operations & Marketing Manager, Hillwood Estate Museum & Gardens

Washington, DC

WFU Class of 2014

Major: English

Double Minor: Art History & Journalism

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Lizzie Axelson is based in DC running marketing and operations at Hillwood Estate Museum & Gardens. We spoke with Lizzie to learn how she transitioned after graduation from the Forest.


DeacLink: Tell us what you're up to in your career.

LA: After a little over two years at Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, I was recently promoted to I am the Membership Operations and Marketing Manager. On a day-to-day basis, I am developing marketing materials and plans to promote the museum and gardens to bring visitors in the door while leading our membership department. We had our highest visitation in 2017 and are really excited to expand on that this year, growing our membership base and deepening visitor engagement. On a given day I can be writing renewal and acknowledgement letters, drafting social media posts, organizing events, working on the website, crafting promotional emails, and more - no two days are the same. Hillwood has really dedicated members who love our hidden gem, and we are constantly working to expand that base and better their experience, through communications and events, such as receptions and exhibition previews. I work closely with many departments - particularly visitor services, interpretation, and curatorial - to best market Hillwood to the public and further connect with those who already really enjoy it.


DL: How have you found the different jobs and internships you've had? Applications? Networking? A combination of both?

LA: Strangely enough, most of the jobs and internships I have had resulted from just sending in applications, though I strongly encourage networking, especially for museum positions. Speaking with other alums or past internship supervisors about their experience and careers is really informative and helpful, though I will say that in the art world, no two paths are exactly alike. I have tried to take advantage of every opportunity, even if they were just internships or part-time jobs, because each job teaches you something and better prepares you for the next one. Really develop relationships with the people you are meeting and working with - even if you do not start with your ideal job or internship, hard work and strong connections make a huge difference. And if you aren’t quite sure where to start, find local Wake Forest grads - I’ve been fortunate enough to meet up with a group of art alums in DC, which has been really interesting and rewarding. 


DL: The non-curatorial route in museums seem to be a popular career option for art alums. How did you make the transition, and what is the hardest part about breaking into the museum field?

LA: Perhaps shockingly, my goal was never to go the curatorial or collections route post-grad. Marketing was where I wanted to be because I love the idea of encouraging people to visit museums and take advantage of their beauty and accessibility and the amazing resources they offer. I really enjoy sharing museums with the public and expanding the number of visitors. Perhaps the hardest thing about breaking into the museum world is that it can be pretty small, there’s not always a lot of movement - often people love their jobs and stay at institutions for a long time. A lot of it can be networking, and you can’t be above taking any job, even if it’s not perfect or glamorous. Starting early, especially in undergrad, through internships and informational interviews and networking is vital - that and being willing to take jobs in the field that may not be your exact interest. Once you have your foot in the door in the museum world, it’s a bit easier to move around. 


DL:  How do you like living in DC? What advice do you have for students considering pursuing a career in the city?

LA: I love DC. I was lucky enough to grow up here and knew that I wanted to come back after graduation, at least for a while. It’s a beautiful city with so much going on, both in the arts and in general, and I appreciate that it is a bit more mellow than New York. DC combines the best of a large, bustling city with the neighborhood feeling of smaller places. People tend to solely think of Smithsonian when thinking of the arts or museums in DC, so I encourage anyone interested to think outside of that more traditional box. There are a fair number of smaller museums in addition to art galleries and arts organizations. that are really great. 


DL: What do you think Wake arts could do to better prepare students for life after graduation?

LA: The art department at Wake is wonderful, and it is so unique that professors really take the time to know the students and develop relationships with them. However, it would  have been extremely helpful to have a bit more of a focus on the art world itself. One of my favorite classes was the Arts Management course since it fleshed out the art world from a business perspective and really provided an idea of how to transition a love and appreciation of the arts into a career.

Rather than graduating with just an amazing knowledge of art history, I had a solid foundation for the practicalities of art in the real world and how I could apply what I had learned. While that particular class is limited in size, it would have been quite helpful to have similar courses to deepen that understanding and really prepare students for life in the arts after graduation.


DL: What's the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on to current students and recent alums?

LA: Honestly, and it sounds so corny, but find and follow your passion. A career in the arts is not always easy - there’s not always a traditional path and it is not as financially lucrative as other fields - but if you love what you do and find your job rewarding, it makes it worth it. Talk to people and learn all the different aspects of the arts, in terms of the business and careers available - there are so many opportunities out there in the art world. Make the most out of your network - social, alumni, professional - anything helps and try to get any experience you have. All jobs provide a learning experience that can push you to the one you really want. Focus on your love of the arts and where you want to go, and that will push you pretty far. 

SPOTLIGHT: Jim Babcock

Jim Babcock: Adult Swim, VP Consumer Marketing

Atlanta, Georgia

WFU Class of 1991

Major: Politics

Minor: English

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Jim Babcock is the VP of Consumer Marketing at Adult Swim in Atlanta. You may have heard of shows like 'Rick and Morty' and 'Robot Chicken' - Jim oversees the marketing and branding surrounding these hits and more. We recently got his thoughts on the Wake undergrad experience and finding your way after leaving the Forest.


DeacLink: Tell us about what you do.

Jim Babcock: I am the VP of Consumer Marketing for Adult Swim, which is a TV network and part of Turner Broadcasting. I lead a team that handles all marketing and shows for our brand including social media, ads, promotions, and partnerships. We also do a lot smaller side projects, such as our direct consumer shop, web streaming shows, and podcast series. Anything that we can dream up that’ll stand out and get us attention, we do.

Additionally, I work on the ELEAGUE team, the eSports property that Turner helped start. We put on live eSports competitions, televise it, sell ads and do social media around these events to monetize them. As we move into a post-television world it’s something we want to experiment with; it’s sort of a startup within Turner.


DL: Very cool. Are you from Atlanta? How did you learn about Wake Forest?

JB: I grew up in Atlanta, so being here in the South you’re always familiar with Wake  Forest. I had a family friend who went there so that was my personal connection to the school. I went up to visit and fell in love.


DL: How much did your time at Wake influence or drive your career path?

JB: While the schoolwork was great, the most impactful experiences for me came from working on Wake Radio and the Old Gold and Black. I was always interested in media, conveying information and giving my opinion. These outlets were great for learning about that.

My chosen fields of study [Politics and English] were huge in terms of teaching me how to write and communicate. Having the ability to form, frame and articulate an argument was the most important thing I learned at Wake. Having a liberal arts education made me well rounded, and my extracurricular activities kept me curious and interested.

Saying that, I did have a rough patch at the very beginning in freshman year. I hadn’t been truly challenged in high school, so I arrived at Wake expecting to do the same sort of thing. I quickly realized you have to really do the work- show up to class, take notes, do the reading. After freshman year I developed discipline and learned that if you do what’s required of you, most likely you’ll be fine.


DL: Too true. What was your journey like coming out of graduation?

JB: When I graduated from Wake, the job market wasn’t great. I came home with little motivation despite my shiny degree. Eventually I got a free internship on a political campaign that combined my background in politics, PR and communication. It was my interests in media and politics rolled into one. Volunteering for nine months allowed me to get my foot in the door… which tends to happen when you work for free. I met a future mentor at this point who took me into another job in Atlanta as he transitioned to a new role after the campaign’s conclusion. I worked in the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce doing PR and communications helping to boost the city’s profile as it prepared to host the 1996 Olympics. I took journalists on tours of the city, wrote press releases and came up with marketing campaigns for Atlanta. I was able to meet a lot of people in the Atlanta community between volunteers, the Olympic organizers and corporate sponsors.

After this I worked for a couple PR firms in Atlanta for a few years, then happened upon a job with Cartoon Network doing PR. I joined Turner in ‘99 and have been here ever since- eighteen years now. Within Turner I’ve had jobs in public relations, trade marketing and, now, consumer marketing at Adult Swim. I’ve had some great mentors here who gave me the chance to try something new and find things I’m good at.


DL: Was there a particular thing you did to help you stand out across all these positions?

JB: You have to be scrappy and do the job you’re not getting paid for. If  you come in ready to impress people, to have good ideas and work hard, they’re more likely to take a chance on you. That’s what I tried to do and so far, so good, I guess!


DL: What project have you been most proud of thus far at Adult Swim?

JB: Launching the TV series ‘Rick and Morty’ was very fulfilling. We knew we had a great show, but we came up with a bunch of really fun and interesting ideas to get it in front of as many people as possible. We created a life-size UFO crash in the middle of NYC that turned into a viral phenomenon. We did some really innovative stuff on social media as well which got more people to try the show. It went from ‘here’s another dumb cartoon from Adult Swim’ to something being discussed in the New York Times, on Reddit, everywhere.


DL: The crash idea sounds epic. Whose idea was it?

JB: Like most things at AS, it was really collaborative. We had the marketing people, our creative team, all asking 'what will get MY attention?' The first scene of the first episode, Rick literally crashes the ship into the garage and Morty doesn’t know what’s going on. So we said, we gotta make a crash! In addition to the NYC crash, we also crashed into a billboard in LA.

The most interesting thing about things like this for me, are the nuts and bolts of executing the idea. Hiring the sculptor for it, working with an agency to get the right permits in each city, figuring out when and how you do it. We put up flyers around which read ‘Missing Spaceship’- aspects that added another layer. We try to avoid plastering our Adult Swim logo everywhere; the key is to have people walk past and not realize it’s an overt ad so they lean in and pay more attention. Resisting the temptation to over commercialize the experience keeps it curious and interesting. If you take a picture and send it to your friend, we have doubled or tripled the exposure in an instant.


DL: What show doesn’t get enough shine, or perhaps didn’t quite take off like you’d hoped?

JB: We get super weird with some shows.. There was one called ‘The Heart, She Holler’- a live action, gothic body-horror soap opera. It was created by the people behind 'Wonder Showzen' and starred Patton Oswalt. It was as bizarre as it was funny; like an art piece with bad puns.  I wanted that thing to become the new ‘Dynasty’... but it just didn’t. Somehow I sort of knew it wouldn’t fly, but it then remains your own special thing anyways.

There was another kids’ show called ‘Chowder’ which was super sweet and funny. It got lost amid a few transitions, which is too bad because it’s a really good show.


DL: Attention spans certainly are getting shorter-- is it hard to keep up with children and adult attention spans?

JB: Well, today’s five-year-old is 7 in two years and that’s a huge difference. Then they’re 9 in another couple years, and that’s a big difference. On top of that, today’s child has access to beyond what’s on TV at that exact moment. They can choose to watch ‘Hey Arnold’, Japanese anime or ‘Scooby Doo’-  at any time, anywhere and on any device. There’s even interactive shows whose story changes whenver you want. It’s hard to get kids’ attention. With adults we compete against video games, reruns of ‘Friends’ and Netflix. It’s tough to stand out and make people want to pay attention.


DL: What’s your trick to delivering constantly under the pressure of such a fast-paced environment?

JB: I always ask, ‘What’s the thing that’s going to get my attention? What’s weird, different, outrageous enough that when I’m driving down the street I’m going to stop and take a picture?’ If I haven’t seen it before, or nobody’s been courageous enough to try it, I go that direction.


DL: In that vein, what’s the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on to our readers?

JB: I see many young interns come and go in the office. You’d think some of them were being forced to dig ditches when actually they’re in one of the coolest offices around! I’m always hoping to see someone give that extra bit of effort to make me take notice. My advice is to show up early, work hard and always ask if there’s anything else you can do. Try working a little bit harder than anyone else and be genuine- it makes a big difference.

Spotlight Interview: Kristen Becker

Kristen Becker: Director of Museum Engagement, Marianne Boesky Gallery

New York City

WFU Class of 2000

Double Major: Anthropology & Archaeology

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Kristen Becker is a shining example of blazing your own career trail. Working for Marianne Boesky as Director of Museum Engagement, the New Jersey native explains her unique gallery role and the path she's taken to arrive there.


DeacLink: How did you end up in your current role? It looks like you’ve had some interesting positions in New York with a variety of organizations.

Kristen Becker: I had been working in the arts for 15 years before I developed my current role, which is called Director of Museum Engagement. My career had been going down a traditional path- I was a gallery assistant for 4 years, did some archive work, moved on to assistant director, and then became a director in 2009. I was doing sales and serving as an artist liaison and I really enjoyed working directly with artists. Over time though, I realized that my best day at work involved getting the work of gallery artists placed in museums and institutions around the world. While selling to a private collector felt great, there was something uniquely gratifying about knowing the piece in the museum would have its own legacy with the public and I wanted to focus on this as my next job.


DL: Director of Museum Engagement is quite the interesting title. Would you mind telling us about your role at Marianne Boesky Gallery. How have things changed since you came on board in 2014?

KB: I pitched the museum role idea to two different gallery owners who loved the concept but still wanted me to be a salesperson and work with artists. Unfortunately, I knew well that this partial structure meant I would be sidetracked by the day-to-day needs of artists and the larger goals of institutional placement would be secondary. When I approached Marianne Boesky with the job idea she understood its potential immediately. Before I started working for Marianne there was no one on her staff whose entire role focused on long-term strategy. There were some amazing salespeople and artist liaisons on the team, but no one dealt solely with museum relationships until I joined the team.

In the past three and a half years my job has gone through subtle changes and iterations because it is not a traditional gallery role. My boss and I have forged a great path together because she supports the unique perspective I give and we are figuring this role out together. We sit down together often to share ideas and brainstorm new opportunities, and if I am leaning too far in one direction she brings me back to where my efforts should be concentrated. Sometimes our overarching discussions can seem a bit abstract but I am lucky to work for a boss who thinks big and challenges me while still allowing me a lot of freedom to try something new. I look at big picture goals while fully respecting the needs of our roster of artists. I spend a small portion of my day connecting with collectors and artists but my main focus is on developing relationships with museum directors, curators, educators, etc to learn about their organization and see if a gallery artist would be a good addition to their collection. I find that many wonderful colleagues (particularly at smaller institutions) appreciate the proactive outreach because they may have a small travel budget or may not be as knowledgeable about the full range of artists we represent. My style is one of collegiality and building community and people seem to respond to that natural approach.

The job itself has changed a great deal in the past few years. Museums and galleries often position themselves as adversaries, when in reality they need each other to do the best work for the artists. The space between the non-profit and commercial worlds gets smaller every day, and I find that we are all starting to really appreciate the unique position we each occupy. My first 2 years in the role were spent explaining what a Director of Museum Engagement was, but now that the dialogue between us has been opened up I am spending more time in collaboration with my museum peers since we know we are all on the same team. While there are still very few galleries that employ someone with the same job title as mine, more and more people are beginning to see how necessary it is to actively cultivate these relationships.


DL: At Wake, you studied Anthropology and Archaeology. How much involvement did you have with the art program? And how did you make the transition to the art world?

KB: I pursued a minor in Art History while at Wake and art always played a role in my interest in archaeology. I wanted to know more about the reasons why utilitarian objects so often possessed some artistic element or flourish. There exists a fascinating human impetus toward self-expression and the creation of form alongside function. Arriving on campus in 1996, it was as a particularly interesting time in the anthropology community. While I had never set out towards an anthropology degree because of social anthropology, I am beyond grateful that this was part of the program for my major. I feel that an understanding of other cultures has helped me develop a level of empathy that I would not possess if my classes had been focused exclusively on archaeology and its practice. This empathy has certainly made me better at working with artists as well as curators, collectors, vendors, etc, but it has also shaped how I approach most relationships.

In my senior year I took an Art History course on Modern art and found myself connecting strongly to the material. I had always been a passionate student when the subject moved me, but this level of engagement surprised even me. By this point in the year I had already started looking at graduate schools, so I widened the search to include Museum Studies Master’s Degree programs that would allow to me to choose either archaeology or art history as a core departmental focus. I had worked at the Museum of Anthropology throughout undergrad and helped run the lab during a dig my junior year so at the very least I knew that I wanted to be around the objects themselves, I just wasn’t sure in which context.

I chose to attend George Washington University’s Museum Studies program. I felt that being around the Smithsonian museums and the National Mall would be the perfect environment to continue my studies, and DC’s consortium of schools meant I could take classes at George Mason, Georgetown, American, etc, which opened up a wide curriculum. That modern art course at Wake had a strong effect on me and I decided on art history as my focus. A fellow student in my exhibition design class was focused on contemporary art, and conversations with her about our classes made me realize that most contemporary art classes never seemed to get to the most recent artists and their work. We would always get stuck on an artist beloved by the professor, or time would run out somehow and the class “1945 to the present” would always somehow end in 1980. I pitched a commercial art gallery internship to my Museum Studies advisor who allowed this exception because I explained that this was the only way to take my art history in to the present. I interned for a year and a half for Laurie Adamson at David Adamson Gallery. She was an exceptional boss, and because our team was small I learned how to run a business from hanging the artwork to doing mailings to helping with client presentations. I had never heard of the gallery system before and this was a terrific crash course.


DL: How have you found the different jobs and internships you've had? Applications? Networking? A combination of both?

KB: After graduate school I still had a second internship to complete, and this time my advisor (understandably!) mandated that it be at a museum considering it was a Museum Studies program. I moved back to New Jersey and secured a role in New York City in the development office at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. This internship lasted for the summer but set many opportunities in motion. My colleague there knew that I was hoping to end up in the contemporary gallery world and she connected me to her then-boyfriend who owned a mid-century design shop in Chelsea. I worked for him and his business partner for 5 months while I sought out a gallery job. Not only did their aesthetic shape my understanding of design, but their willingness to provide me with a flexible work schedule meant I could do interviews and go see galleries without feeling guilty. Keep in mind, I was living at home with my parents at this time so I had a definite motivation to find something permanent!

This was 2002 and very few gallery owners were using email, so I walked through Chelsea door to door with a giant stack of letters in my purse. Each one was addressed to the individual gallery and its owner, and because it is a visual industry I created a little bit of branding material that included my business card. This business card listed my name, my contact information, and my degree. That was it! I still keep one of these business cards in my wallet as a reminder of those first days starting out and also my art world friends really get a kick out of seeing what is now a pretty dated record of my enthusiasm.

The director of Gorney Bravin + Lee responded positively to my moxie and was impressed that I was spending my Saturdays doing these personal resume deliveries (as opposed to just mailing them), so she spoke to one of the partners and I had an interview which then led to my first real gallery job in New York. I worked as a gallery assistant at GB+L for a little over two years, at which time the gallery closed. Because the closing was public, I started getting phone calls asking me what my next step would be. I had been a diligent gallery assistant and some people had taken notice, and this really helped me see myself as an asset. It really wasn’t until then that I realized how difficult it was for gallery owners to find competent, enthusiastic staff. Through these conversations and also through New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) postings, I landed a job at C+M Arts working for Robert Mnuchin doing archival research.

The jobs that followed came about through a combination of NYFA postings, professional connections, and word of mouth. In most cases the posting would be public but by the time I was 5 years in to my career in New York I usually knew someone connected to the hiring process and people will almost always prefer a recommendation over cold interviews. For someone early in their career, NYFA is still a fantastic resource.


DL:  The gallery space is an incredibly popular one for Wake alums. What advice do you have for readers interested in breaking into the field?

KB: Don’t give up! Know your limits! I worked at one gallery for such a short amount of time that it is not on my resume because I only stayed for two weeks. I responded to a New York Times job ad, this posting was one of the few that was actually for a gallery and I was beyond excited (most of the listings that included the word “art” were for dentist offices, as in “state of the art equipment”). The material was Latin American modern but I figured I was a quick study and I felt confident that I could do a great job once hired. The owner and I connected immediately, she was in her 70s and ran a bespoke space in a beautiful brownstone. It was a quiet but beautiful environment and I was eager to learn from her.

The day I arrived to start the job, I saw another woman in front of the gallery door. Turns out, the owner had hired both of us and thought perhaps she could use us in slightly different capacities…but in the end it felt more like a trial run. The owner fired the other woman on the second day, and each day I stayed I realized that her temperament was becoming progressively volatile. At the end of a typical work day we would chat about what had happened and what we would do the following day. One day I told her that someone asked us to authenticate a painting and was emailing us with images. She did not want to deal with this person and I assured her I would politely thank them for reaching out but that we were not able to assist. As our meeting progressed she grew increasingly agitated and kept coming back to the discussion about the email. I told her again I would handle it on her behalf and she responded by saying that she did not want the email at all, and she walked to my desk and turned off my computer…thinking that by turning off the machine we would not receive the message. This generational clash was minor but indicative of a larger issue I had already seen many times over in the few days I’d worked there. The next morning, we sat down and she said my job was now under supervision until she could trust me again. I responded by saying that perhaps this was a problem without a solution and that this should be my last day. We parted on decent terms and I left the gallery (in the middle of the day) totally devastated and walked to a pay phone to call my mom and tell her I was taking the bus home and I couldn’t hack it in a New York gallery.

I tell this story because it is such a short blip in my career but it is maybe the most important one. I wanted the job to work. I wanted my boss to see that I was smart and a hard worker. It just wasn’t the right fit. I could have easily taken that experience and let it dictate a decision to take a break or even leave the art world, and to be honest I’m not entirely sure what it was that allowed me to pick myself back up. I really hadn’t failed at anything important before and this was new and frightening territory. The support of my family, the time I spent working for a gallery in DC, the realization that I wanted to be in Chelsea where there was foot traffic and living artists---these facts all contributed to my ability to leave a toxic environment. After I got my job at GB+L I told the director there about my brief tenure uptown. She told me that every month the same New York Times posting is listed because the owner can never keep anyone in that job. I know 4 people who tried to work for that uptown gallery owner, and all stayed for less than a month. However, at the time I had no idea that she had a reputation for being so difficult. I thought I was the problem, and I am so glad I stuck with it. I’m so happy that I saw a problematic relationship and was able to leave before tying my self-worth to someone who needed constant drama.


DL: How do you like living in New York? What advice do you have for students trying to make a career in the city?

KB: I have lived here for 16 years and love New York! It is a wonderful place but it can be incredibly overwhelming because the options are limitless. There have been times in my life when I have briefly considered moving elsewhere, but London and Los Angeles don’t give me the same energy. Unfortunately, only a few cities have the level of gallery density that come close to NYC, and this pace has honestly always suited me well. I also grew up in New Jersey so this city has been “the City” for my entire life.

My advice: live with roommates, find friends who understand what it’s like to live here with little money. There are tons of things to do that don’t cost much but I know I was lucky because my friends were mostly poor too so I never really felt like I was missing out. Create your own community whether through other alumni, peers at your job, organizations or groups, etc. When I first started out I developed amazing relationships through the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA), and now I am on the steering committee for the Professional Organization for Women in the Arts (POWarts) which tries to develop programming and tools for art professionals at different career stages. New York is feasible and wonderful if you find your own strategies to work with it not against it. I often compare it to a wave, some days you’re riding with the wave and sometimes you are fighting it but honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way.


DL: What do you think Wake arts could do to better prepare students for life after graduation?

KB: My path after college was not necessarily the one I had planned. I thought I would maybe end up with a PhD in Archaeology, so I am sure there are many resources the art department provides that didn’t happen to reach me. I think Wake’s reputation as a business school usually precedes all others, and when I graduated tales of the school’s academic rigor were still spreading to the Northeast. I was there during the era of Tim Duncan so our sports record was really the most popular topic. I conditioned myself to always say “Wake Forest, in North Carolina” and for the last 10 years or so that mention of the state has been really unnecessary. Our school is small but is well known and I am so proud of that association. The Student Union Art Acquisition Trip has certainly done wonders for the school’s reputation amongst gallerists. I have lots of friends and colleagues who have met with this group over the years, and they love telling me how focused and knowledgeable the students are as they assess their acquisition options. I think that one thing that might be beneficial to students would be to have past alumni working in the arts come to campus to talk about their career arc. The more you know about your job options and what exists out there the better prepared you are to find something that suits you and your skill set and interests. This network exists but the ties can certainly be stronger.


DL: What's the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on to current students and recent alums?

KB: I spend a lot of time discussing the same two topics with recent graduates, and I talk about them at the same time because they seem opposite but are actually inextricably linked. The first conversation is about knowing your worth, advocating for what you deserve, and not staying in an environment that makes you uncomfortable. The second conversation is about working hard, accepting that no one owes you anything, realizing that your work should speak for itself, and expecting that being at a front desk reception position for over two years is totally normal. It is no one’s job to promote you for doing what you were hired to do, and if you know in advance that the art world is not lucrative in those first years you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration. The art world is a series of small businesses and each gallery owner follows his/her own rules for success. When you are applying for a gallery job you should of course look at the role and the gallery program, but also look at the corporate culture. I once turned down a job offer at one of the most famous galleries partly because I saw that all the women who worked there wore very high-end clothes I could never afford. I knew that I would do a great job in the role but I also knew that I wanted to be myself and feel proud of my background and what I had worked toward up to that point. I didn’t want to be embarrassed of my clothes or my lifestyle, and I got the sense that I would feel judged every time I walked in to work. There were other reasons I didn’t accept the job, but this realization definitely set the tone for the types of environments I’ve chosen to work in over the past 10 years. Ask yourself these questions when considering a gallery- Will you be comfortable with their level of professionalism? Are there peers at the gallery or will you be the only person your age and level of experience? Are there opportunities for mentorship if you stay there for more than a few years? Of course, when you are applying sometimes you Just. Need. A. Job. But if it’s possible to look a little longer term try and do that too, it will help you assess your next steps while still keeping your expectations realistic. And don’t hesitate to reach out to people with more experience, they are usually happy to tell you how they made their way.

Spotlight Interview: Zanny Dow & Brooke Einbender of Higher Art Galleries

Zanny Dow & Brooke Einbender: Co-Founders, Higher Art Galleries

New York City

WFU Class of 2017

Zanny: Studio Art Major, Entrepreneurship Minor

Brooke: Studio Art Major, Spanish & Entrepreneurship Minor


Zanny Dow and Brooke Einbender are an ambitious pair whose bond was forged in the Scales painting studio. Together they've co-founded Higher Art Galleries, an online platform making the sale of student art more accessible. We spoke with the duo about their time at Wake and what's coming up next.


DeacLink: What did you both study at Wake? How did you choose your majors?

Brooke Einbender

I was awarded the presidential scholarship for visual arts at Wake Forest. As a freshman on campus,  the scholarship gave me the confidence to pursue art seriously from the very start. I thought I only wanted to minor in art, but I soon realized that was not enough. My minor blossomed into a major, the art department faculty felt like family to me, and the painting studio was my home away from home on campus. I am so glad that I made the “brave” decision to study Studio Art with a concentration in oil painting.

In my four years, I was fortunate enough to participate in several uniquely Wake Forest art opportunities. I took a semester long class focusing on contemporary art and ended the course at the Venice Biennale, while staying at Wake Forest’s Casa Artom. Additionally, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in the Student Union Art Acquisition Committee. This experience in particular actually led to my current job working for a private art advisor/consultant.


Zanny Dow

My immersion into the Art Department wasn’t as immediate as Brooke’s. I came to Wake Forest as a Presidential Scholar for Music with a concentration in Harp studies. I had  every intention of  majoring in Chemistry and following the Pre-Medicine track. Art was barely on my radar and the thought of studying it seemed absurd; I hadn’t taken an art class since middle school and had no idea what I would do with a degree in art anyway. Amidst the stress of organic chemistry, I signed up for a digital art class with the idea that it would be a creative outlet for my overworked mind. This class forced me to think in ways I had never before. In doing so, I realized the value of creative thinking and it completely altered the trajectory of my Wake Forest education.

It wasn’t until second semester of my sophomore year that I had the guts to let go of my childhood dream of becoming a doctor to pursue the arts-- this was one of the most terrifying, yet rewarding things I have done. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a completely random decision, I have always loved drawing, painting and crafting, I just never saw it as a potential career.  After taking that class, amongst others, it no longer mattered to me if there was a distinct path. What mattered was that I was happy.


ZD & BE:  We both majored in Studio Art with concentrations in Oil Painting and minored in Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise. With all of our friends pulling all-nighters in the library, we would be in the painting studio until 3am, mixing paint, building canvases, and blasting good tunes. This is the type of education we chose!

As for entrepreneurship,  both of us always had creative side-hustles growing up. Our decisions to apply to the Entrepreneurship minor was the best decision either of us made while in school. Wake Forest’s Entrepreneurship program is absolutely amazing and we are so excited to see how it develops in the coming years! As seniors, we took full advantage of the unique opportunities and incredible resources the entrepreneurship department had to offer. Brooke applied to the first-ever Deacon Springboard program which provides seed money, access to mentors, and creates a community of passionate student entrepreneurs. She pitched the idea of a student art rental business and was selected to participate in Deacon Springboard’s culminating event DeacTank, a shark tank style event. Zanny joined up just in time to participate in the program. After spending just a few short weeks developing our idea, we pitched “Art Rentals for Students by Students” to the first-ever panel for Wake Startup Lab. We were selected, along with several other teams, to participate in the accelerator program in which “Art Rentals for Students by Students” evolved into the company that we have today called Higher Art Galleries. This class was the most rewarding and life altering class we ever took at Wake Forest and we would not be where we are now without the support of our mentors, Dan Cohen, Greg Pool, the other teams in Startup Lab, among others.


DL: How did you two meet?

ZD: Wake Forest is small and Brooke was just one of those people that everyone knew or knew of-- she had the reputation for being friendly, outgoing and always covered in paint. Before meeting Brooke my Senior year, I knew who she was. The art department raved about her and my classmates were excited for her to join Advanced Painting. Brooke and I quickly bonded over our mutual love of painting and entrepreneurship. Completely coincidentally, we had the majority of our shared Major/ Minor classes together. After many late nights together in the studio, blasting music, suffering through painters' block and talking about our Entrepreneurship projects, Brooke asked me if I would be interested in starting a business with her. I jumped at the opportunity and we have been friends/ business partners since.


DL: What inspired you to start Higher Art Galleries?

BE: Sophomore  year I was looking for an internship, and through a friend of my sister’s, I interned at Turning Art, which is an online platform that creates prints of artists works, installs these works, and creates subscriptions with businesses. You can buy originals, but they are mainly a printing source to decorate offices. While there, I was able to see different types of art and the printing processes. I didn't think anything of the internship, but it was a good first experience. Shortly after, I realized that I didn't really know on campus what other artists were creating. The artistic process is very private, intimate. Studios are key card access only. There is not a dialogue going throughout different classes. Even non-art majors are doing really cool things in their spare time, and there was not a way to celebrate or view what people were doing on a singular platform. Zanny and I took entrepreneurship minor classes and we had this professor, Dan Cohen, who really just changed our lives. He just gave us so much knowledge about startups and how to create them. His course was a crash course in entrepreneurship and how to work your way up and build your own business. Each student had to create a business idea, pitch to the class, and then class votes. I pitched my art rental idea, but I didn’t win. But afterwards, Cohen pulled me aside and told me to try and pitch to Deacon Springboard. I was so nervous.  I walked into the OPCD and gave my one minute elevator pitch, and I got into Deacon Springboard. This all began from the need for something to celebrate art on campus, what others are doing, read about their work and their artist statement, and put a student face to artwork.

ZD: Next Brooke and I merged together. We had painting and entrepreneurship classes together, but we were in different sections. We would talk about a lot senior year. Brooke was saying to me, “I have this idea…” It originally started as art rentals for students by students, but it was very similar to  the Turning Art method of prints. One day she asked me to join, and we wound up developing our business model before pitching again to another panel, Wake startup lab. Dan Cohen had just started it with another professor.

Wake Startup Lab is a new big thing, and there were a bunch of teams pitching. We figured just do it. What did we have to lose? Our pitch was so messy and cobbled together at the last minute. It was pretty awful in hindsight, but we wound up getting a slot. It is the best experience I’ve had at Wake. Made Wake what it was.

BE: The 1-on-1 attention was amazing. They invest in your ideas and your talent. They also provided us with funding and access to mentors. They brought in guest speakers every week with such an incredibly, well-seasoned experience set in business. They also brought in lawyers. The program made an educational experience real life. It didn't feel like a class. We created something real that turned into what it is today. The program was a great stepping stone. Dan came from Cornell and created the program there, and he has been super successful in bringing it to Wake. He’s part of the revamping of the entrepreneurship department.

They even paired us with a law school student that acted as our lawyer. The free legal advice was great. She helped us create contracts with artist and establish an LLC. Any questions she had were run by the head of the law school. We also had two mentors who acted as advisers that were parents of students. One worked in nonprofits and one was the CEO of a marketing company. That connection showed us that Wake was not only willing to help students, but parents connected to Wake are really willing to give back through mentorship, advice, and coming to speak. It’s such a great community. I’m not sure other schools are like this.


DL: I was also an entrepreneurship minor (it was just beginning to take off when I was an undergrad). From the outside looking in, it seems to be an increasingly popular minor for students that put the “art” in liberal arts. What do you think is the catalyst for this?

BE: There is a big difference between the business major and the entrepreneurship minor. I thought I wanted to enroll in business school. I didn't get in, so I decided to minor in entrepreneurship, and I am so happy I did that instead. Entrepreneurship encapsulates all kinds of people and bring them together under one roof. There is a lot of merging of different ideas from different backgrounds. It gives you enough business and real life knowledge and a foundation that will allow you to align passion with major, which for us is art and business.

ZD: The entrepreneurship minor is one of the most practical minors at Wake.  They are teaching you actual usable skills to move forward with a business. Often I felt that you were learning information  in classes that was important but not practical. Entrepreneurship is hands on and practical. You can actually use things like a cash flow spreadsheet. The minor and the department give students with different majors a way to move forward with their careers. It adds practicality to their major. It’s amazing.


DL: How many artists are you representing right now, and how have you been adding new artists to your stable?

BE: We have 15 artists. It’s hard because right now we are not on campus. We have 2-3 interns and they act as our student liaisons. They also create content around Wake and Winston-Salem art events. They help us access new artists. For Zanny and I, the larger plan is to expand to other universities. We want to become the destination to see student art and emerging talent nationwide. We just sent an email to five North Carolina Universities' Art Department heads. We are scheduling info interviews to pick their brains about student and art department needs. We want feedback on Higher Art Galleries to see what else people need with this platform. We are still in the building process. Other school’s departments have much better access to students than us to see how we can bring on more artists.

ZD: We are hoping that they say, 'We support this'. We know Wake and all its facets, and have gotten great feedback from them, but part of that could be biased since we know everyone. There are a few people that are a few degrees of separation that are involved, but most are friends. Right now we are at a point where we need to test to see if this is the case with people that don’t know us. That’s where we're at right now.

We had an exciting conversation with the new head of art department at Wake, Dr. Bernadine Barnes. She reached out to one of our interns to learn more about Higher Art Galleries and loved the idea.

At Higher Art Galleries, we are commissioning our artists to create Wake Forest-inspired artwork. This serves as a visual way to show where the artist is coming from and their art education. We hope wake Forest inspired commissions will help parents, alumni, students and faculty realize the talent on campus. If the viewer doesn’t understand abstract or conceptual art, this is a piece that helps them understand the talent that exists. We hope to expand to other universities and to have students create work about their university

Our next two places to expand to are North Carolina, near Wake and with similar demographic, and then we are also planning at looking into some New York universities. We just launched on November 15th [2017] so we're still super fresh, in the testing stage. We will iterate as time goes on.  


DL: I know this is a national project, but what do you think will be the long term impact on the Wake Arts community?

ZD: Our ultimate goal is to create and foster an art community on campus, one that is bringing the arts outside of the studio. We want to create a place for people to explore the arts and what is happening on campus.

BE: These interns that reached out to us understood that there's a lack of a visible, vocal art scene on campus compared to something like WFU style. There is a community for that and a network, system, building blog, Instagram, and events. Our interns are really bringing to light what is going on on campus art wise and broadly in Winston. They’ve written about some of the sculptures on campus - explaining what, who, and why. They’ve been featuring students having shows at START gallery, the buying trip exhibition, people’s final projects in public art class. They are bringing to light what is going on in the arts, and that will impact department as a whole. The department’s website is not up and coming. I was talking to Zanny, and she didnt feel at home until the end of her time in the department… 

ZD: Brooke and I had very different experiences. Brooke was a Presidential Scholar so she went right in, but for me it wasn't so immediate. It wasn’t on my radar at all. It was also hard to get into classes. I couldn't get in until I was a sophomore. Junior year got involved in painting and it clicked then. Once you are in, it’s gold, but it’s not so immediate. It would be helped if there was a way to talk about art and involve people at Wake that aren't art majors. People that just enjoy it, but don't study it. Neither of our interns are studio art majors or minors, but they are interested in the arts. That’s exciting for us, and it validated our idea by showing there was a broad interest.

DL: Are you focusing on the blog full time? Or are you working in NYC as well? If so, what are your day jobs? And how did you land those roles?

ZD & BE: No, we actually have two amazing WFU interns that reached out to us wanting to get involved in supporting Higher Art’s missions; they run our blog! Our interns, Maggie and Abby, are sophomores who produce art related content specific to Wake Forest and Winston-Salem. Now that we are in  New York, Abby and Maggie are our connection to Wake and keep us up to date with the WFU art community.  While they focus on creating content, we spend early mornings, late evenings and weekends continually developing our business model and online platform. One thing that we have learned from working in the Entrepreneurship department at Wake is that startups are an ever-evolving process. As for our “day jobs,” Zanny co-manages a wine bar in Union Square and Brooke is an assistant to a private art advisor and art dealer. Although this is what pays the rent at the moment, we are counting down the days to focusing our full energy on Higher Art Galleries.


DL: What do you think Wake arts could do to better prepare students for life after graduation?

ZD & BE: The thing is, pursuing a career in the arts is often not as straightforward as other career paths like business or science. As a result, it is challenging to have a set protocol to prepare students for entering the “art world” post graduation. The art department does a good job bringing alumni and guests to campus to speak about their art related careers, which is one step to alleviating the negative stigma associated with studying and pursuing a profession in art. That being said, there is still a lot more that Wake Forest OPCD and Art Department could be doing to support their art students. One thing that we LOVE about DeacLink is that it creates a singular platform to learn about the Wake Forest Art Alumni network. This is a resource that would be invaluable to Wake Art students and something that OPCD could use as a tool to further help support the students looking for careers in the arts. Additionally, we would have loved to have a course available to teach us how to pursue a career in the arts. It would have been helpful to learn how to apply for art grants, research for grad schools, build an art website, photograph your artwork etc.. The “art world” is such a broad term that encompasses infinite job opportunities. Art Students need help demystifying the art world by learning about the different types of art jobs.

DL: The commercial sales/gallery route is a popular career option for art alums. What advice do you have for readers interested in breaking into the field?

ZD & BE: Our advice for recent art grads who are interested in commercial sales/ galleries is to do informational interviews. Reach out to older alumni, recent grads, and family friends who work in similar fields that interest you and then pick their brain. This is also a great way to create a professional relationship with people who can potentially help you get a job in the future. Contact these people early on so that you can reach out to them once again when you are job hunting. Especially in the art world, it helps to have a contact who can help you get a foot in the door.


DL: How do you like living in NYC? What advice do you have for students considering pursuing a career in the city?

BE: I was not planning to come to New York. It wasn’t for me. Zanny is from Garrison NY, and loves New York so much. She said I had to move. I said it was “too high key, there was no nature,” but she said I had to come, so I took the leap. For the sake of Higher Art, it will be better for us to be in the same vicinity. I love it. It’s so expensive. I am living with my grandma, so I am not paying rent which is a blessing. There is so much going on, so much culture, so many art events. It is so inspiring and energizing. We went to this WeWork event. We had applied for this grant as they were giving away $20M to fund ideas around the world. We didn’t get the money but went to the award ceremony, and it was awesome. There were thousands of young people, who were all passionate about ideas. We sat through the awards ceremony. It was at a warehouse with a DJ, open bar, free food.

ZD: The WeWork event was a really cool experience. I don't think you get that in other places. So exciting to go there with thousands of other people our age. It was cool to have the community for a moment.

As Brooke said, I am NY’s number one fan at Wake. When we were figuring out our plan, I talked her into coming to New York. I grew up outside the city and went to school right outside the city. Living here has been so amazing. It’s just so much culture, and there’s always something to do. It’s a lot fun and really inspiring. Everyone is working really hard, there’s somewhere they’re going, something they’re going to do. The energy is inspiration to keep working harder. It is hard to be motivated to do double work, but we are passionate, so it doesn't feel like work often, but it’s time consuming. It’s good to be in a place that inspires us. In terms of advice, save money before you come.

BE: A lot of friends of ours came here not knowing their exact route since they knew they wanted to be here. I wasn’t going to move here unless I had a job in hand. When I came, I did. I think that informational interviews and doing a lot of backend work before actually coming here was crucial. You need to set up appointments to meet with people fact to face.  That is really important for getting your foot in the door anywhere in New York. Here,  sending resumes and waiting passively doesn’t work. You have to take action. Zanny went through a job recruiter.

ZD: I think taking action is so important. People are worried about badgering future employers, but in New York, that’s the way. Send follow up emails, call them. In NY, it’s one of those places where every man is for themselves. When it comes to jobs, it’s a matter of getting your foot in the door. You need to decide what you want to do and go for it. You can’t be passive in this city.


DL: What's the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on to current students and recent alums?

ZD & BE: Take risks, listen to your gut, and do things that align with your passion. Wake Forest is generally a risk averse community in which people tend to follow careers with concrete futures. This is all well and good but for those of us who weren’t placed on this earth to be Doctors or Accountants, it can be overwhelming. The things that excite you are connected to your purpose, so have the courage to follow them. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the things you are drawn to just because the don’t follow a set path. It’s not necessarily your job to know where you are going, it’s your job to take action on the things that pique your curiosity and the rest will follow!


Spotlight Interview: Claire Altizer

Claire Altizer: Registrar & Exhibitions Manager, Dedalus Foundation

New York City

WFU Class of 2009

Major: Studio Art

Minor: Art History


Claire Altizer is a North Carolina native currently based in NYC at the Dedalus Foundation. Claire shares her journey with us, from a Scales studio major to helping lead Motherwell's legacy institution.

DeacLink: What did you study at Wake? How has your career unfolded since?

Claire Altizer: I was originally a Studio Art major but after taking the required Art History course I realized I was more interested in talking and thinking about art rather than creating it. So, after Wake, I moved to New York to get my Masters in Museum Studies at NYU. The summer after I finished grad school I landed a job as the Office Manager / Assistant Registrar at the Dedalus Foundation, and I’ve been lucky that the Foundation has allowed me to grow and expand my position over the past 6 years, and I’m now the Registrar and Exhibitions Manager there. I also do freelance registration for artists on the side.


DL: Tell me a bit more about Grad school at NYU. What’s the Museum Studies concentration like? How does school overall compare to Wake?

CA: I’ve always thought the Museum Studies degree was more hands-on than say, an Art History degree. I really debated whether or not it made sense to pursue art history, but I saw myself more on the admin side of things rather than going down the curatorial route. What I really like about the NYU program is that it allows you to focus in what you’re interested in and it’s really interdisciplinary. I was interested in collections management and art institutions, so I took art history classes at the IFA and hands-on courses like exhibition management and conservation.

That said, I graduated from Wake right at the beginning of the recession and was having a hard time finding any job opportunities and decided that grad school made the most sense. Although I don’t regret it, it was VERY expensive, and I always remind people to weigh their options before getting a Museum Studies degree since you’re presumably going into the non-profit world which doesn’t always pay well.

Wake has such a vigorous academic focus, that it really made grad school a breeze! To complete the Museum Studies degree in the suggested 2-year time frame, I only had to take 2 or 3 classes a semester so the work load seemed way less intense than a full course load in undergrad. Also with Wake’s liberal arts degree under my belt, I felt fully prepared for writing my Masters thesis.


DL: The Dedalus Foundation is a fascinating entity. Would you explain its purpose and origins to the readers? What is your role there?

CA: The Dedalus Foundation was founded in 1981 by the Abstract Expressionist painter Robert Motherwell with the mission to further the public understanding of Modernism in the arts, while also supporting Motherwell’s artistic legacy. We fulfill these objectives through grants, public programming, research initiatives, and the publication of catalogues raisonné of Motherwell’s works. As Registrar and Exhibitions Manager, I care for the Foundation’s substantial collection of Motherwell artworks and also curate and execute exhibitions drawing from our inventory. Working at a small Foundation has been a great opportunity to work on different projects and not get pigeonholed into one role.


DL: How much did your time at Wake inform your career path vs graduate school at NYU?

CA: I was lucky enough to participate in the Art Buying trip which was my first real entry into the art world. The trip was an amazing experience and kind of a crash course in the inner workings of the art market. During and after that trip I realized I wouldn’t want to work on the gallery side, but I loved doing the studio visits and meeting artists. Overall the whole experience made me consider the behind-the-scenes jobs that keep the art world running. It also pushed my interest in going the non-profit route, whereas before I really saw myself working in a commercial gallery.

I also feel grateful that my work-study was at the Hanes Art Gallery under Paul Bright who showed me that curating an exhibition is only a part of running a gallery and that there are a lot of other important skills that are needed to execute a successful exhibition.


DL:  How have you found the different jobs and internships you've had? Applications? Networking? A combination of both?

CA: NYU has a great network in New York, so it definitely doesn’t hurt being on their job mailing list. I’ve mostly found my internships and jobs on the New York Foundation for the Arts website. It’s a really great resource since most art-related jobs in New York will post there. The downside is that the jobs end up being very competitive since so many people are using the site. I’ve never been great at networking, but Dedalus has introduced me to so many people, and it was those connections that got me my freelance jobs with artists.


DL: Often times as undergraduates, students are pushed into academia or into the curatorial track at a museum. What advice do you have for readers interested in taking a different route?

CA: I think it’s so unfortunate that people don’t talk about the admin side of the art world because there are so many jobs out there that people don’t hear about and don’t know what steps to take to get there. The jobs are also less competitive than say a curatorial position at a museum, because there are more admin roles that need to be filled. The nice thing about having a Museum Studies degree is that you can come out of it and be qualified for a variety of different jobs: collections management, registration, development, research, event planning, etc. I also would suggest to people thinking about academia or curation to consider an MS in Library Science. In the art foundation world Archivists are really important for research and their roles have a lot of overlap with curators. Mainly I think you end up with more marketable skills not doing an art history-focused career path. It’s been great doing registration and exhibitions management because I still have opportunities to curate and do research, but I’ve also never had a problem finding a job since I’m not singularly focused in one area.


DL: How do you like living in New York? What advice do you have for students considering pursuing a career in the city?

CA: I’m from Davidson, North Carolina, a really small southern town and I was terrified to move to New York, and even asked my grad advisor if there was a way I could finish early so I didn’t have to stay here for 2 years. Now, 8 years later, it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else. I didn’t realize that New Yorkers never go to Times Square or regularly walk down Canal street just for fun. I’m living and working in Brooklyn and it’s got such a great laid-back vibe, but I still always feel like I’m in a cultural center.

I always feel like I had an easy start since I moved here for grad school so I had an automatic friend group and life schedule in place. If you’re not coming for grad school and you don’t know anyone, I’m not going to lie, it can be pretty tough making it here. I think it’s way easier finding jobs if you live in the city, so it might be worthwhile to move here first. New York can definitely be intimidating, but one of the many reasons I love it is that it’s so easy to make random connections with people and no matter how weird your interests are, there’s already some group of people who share that same weird interest too.


DL: What do you think Wake arts could do to better prepare students for life after graduation?

CA: I think you’re right that art history undergraduates tend to feel pushed into academia or curation. I think it’d be great to be better informed about all the other jobs that are out there in the arts like administrative positions in museums, the arts foundation world that I fell into, archives, conservation, and I could name so many more that I didn’t really know about before leaving Wake. If you’re not doing any of the arts administration classes, it can be easy to get swamped in art history and feel like your only career prospects are being a professor or a curator.


DL: What's the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on to current students and recent alums?

CA: I think there’s a strong feeling for art history students that the next step is grad school, but I would suggest taking some time and working in the art world a bit before deciding what kind of grad program you might want to go into so you don’t have any regrets.

Spotlight Interview: Mike Baireuther

Mike Baireuther: Supervising Producer, Discovery Communications

Washington, DC

WFU Class of 2008

Major: History

Double Minor: Entrepreneurship & Journalism


Mike Baireuther came into his own as a Lilting Banshee during undergrad at the Forest. He recently shared on his path since Wake, from Turner's T3 program in Atlanta to his current role in DC at Discovery.


DeacLink: Tell us about your current job and what it entails.

Mike Baireuther: I work at Discovery Communications, which owns Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, and the Science Channel. We’re about to acquire Scripps which includes HGTV and the Cooking Channel. I’m a supervising producer in the branded entertainment team, which means I make commercials for the companies that sponsors the network’s shows. For instance, when Volkswagen sponsors Shark Week, I make commercials for that.


DL: That’s a pretty cool job. How did you arrive here since Wake?

MB: Definitely with a little luck. I applied for the T3 program at Turner which is based in Atlanta. They’ve got Cartoon Network, CNN, TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies. They had a bunch of positions available when I applied, so I went for about 20-30. I had to do a project for each one; I was desperate because the economy collapsed as I graduated.

I started at Cartoon Network and spent a year there. At the end they let all 25 of us T3’s go. They laid off 20 full time employees, too. I transitioned to an unpaid internship from this, doing marketing and strategy but desperate to do more creative work.

I ingratiated myself (whether they wanted me to or not) with the promotions team and spent six months with them. When a job opened at TNT, I got my foot in the door there through a recommendation. I spent three years at TNT’s with their on-air promotions team, making commercials for shows like Law & Order. I was doing a web show for their online outlet too, making jokes about internet videos. I also pitched in with a kid’s show on Cartoon Network which broke down the Thursday night NBA game for kids in video game format.

After these years my wife got a job in Philadelphia and the closest I could move was DC. I got referred to a job at Discovery as a copywriter. With my background in TV I was eager to go into video production. They brought me into a supervising producer role after about two years of copywriting.


DL: What’s been your favorite project so far?

MB: There’s been quite a few standouts! The first big job I concepted and brought to fruition for Discovery was a shoot with Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry in Atlanta. I got to meet and work with Oprah which was pretty special. Working on those spots was really validating and enjoyable.

My two big yearly projects are Shark Week and Puppy Bowl. I’ve gotten to visit some interesting places and meet smart, passionate people who really care about the science involved with Shark Week. Puppy Bowl allowed me to meet lots of people in animal welfare, who dedicate their lives to helping stray animals. It’s one thing to shoot with celebrities, but another to work with people changing the world in their own way. That’s always inspiring.

As someone who majored in history and focused on East Asian history, my job shockingly led to fulfilling a lifelong dream shooting a VR experience in Japan. I never thought I’d get an amazing opportunity like that through work. The final product was really strong as a 360 video as well, so I was proud of that.

Pretty soon I’ll be travelling to Asia again as part of a program set up through Eurosport, a sport network in Europe which Discovery owns. Eurosport have acquired rights to the Olympics for the next decade, so they’ve begun a program where us non-Eurosport employees can help out with the grunt work at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February. It’s a great opportunity to pitch in with the event and learn about what we’ll be representing. I’ll be behind the scenes documenting how the crews document the games.


DL: How did your undergrad experience at Wake inform or drive your career decisions?

MB: I often joke with people that I graduated from the Lilting Banshees, not Wake Forest. Being part of the troupe fundamentally changed my life. I hadn’t been involved in anything theater or creative before college… I actually auditioned because someone on my hall was planning to. He chickened out but I still went; I threw myself into the troupe once I realized I was actually good at it.

I was passionate about what I studied as well. History strengthened my writing and forced me to organize my thoughts better. Journalism added to this as well. The journalism program at Wake isn’t as renowned as others in the country, but the professors were dedicated to being hard on the students’ writing. With my current job I get to write some fun creative stuff, but the bulk of it is institutional writing aimed at explaining what we could do for a client.

So yeah, Banshees definitely changed my trajectory in terms of who I thought I was and what I wanted to do professionally. Ultimately, my extracurriculars were more influential for me getting started in my career as well. I tapped into the Banshee network asking former troupe members about their experiences, getting advice and so forth.


DL: Did you tap into resources on campus like OPCD as well?

MB: I did and I didn’t. That’s to say, so much of the career center is oriented towards the Calloway School and people looking for entrance to med and law school. Which is absolutely great, but it’s much harder for a school like Wake that doesn’t have a stronger creative arts presence to connect you with those fields. I did however do a test interview with OPCD once, which was great because I discovered my weak points while interviewing. I had this tick where I kept insisting about eight times that I was a hard worker… I was explaining myself a lot. The OPCD did get me an interview with an environmental non profit in Raleigh. It was nice and mission oriented but I of course ended up running away to Atlanta.

Once out in my field, I found that having a few fellow Wake alums in my immediate area was really beneficial. When the sky was calling at Cartoon Network, someone in my adjacent department who was also a WFU grad became my friend. He was incredible as a mentor and encouraged me to press on with my work despite all of the layoffs that were happening.

On a similar note, I reached out to another Atlanta based Wake alum called Dave Willis, on more of a dream-come-true level. I was desperate to work on projects like what he’d created in Aqua Teen Hunger Force, so I sent a rather pathetic email saying I was from Wake too and on my way out with the T3’s but looking to pick his brain. He was a lovely guy and incredibly generous with his time, and let me hang out with him for a week. He let me join him in the studio for a voice recording session, which was pretty cool. It didn’t materialize into a job or anything, but it was encouraging to have someone on his level that was willing to sit down, talk and take an interest in me. Both of these relationships were really influential for me, and we keep in touch to this day.


DL: What does it take to stand out in your line of work, to get your foot in the door?

MB: There’s a lot of chance and luck involved. In general that’s with any job, really. But one thing I’ve benefited from a lot is doing extra side projects. The Olympics thing is a good example, because it was an open application process that anyone could submit for. Even my job at Discovery came from doing the web show for TBS, because a colleague ended up referring me to this position here. The basketball kid’s show allowed me to distinguish myself creatively, and all it took was staying up late once a week to watch the game and explain it to young audiences.

Balancing multiple projects at once can be tiring, but especially while you’re young try to do things outside the confines of an expected path. Going above and beyond pays a lot of dividends in the long run. You learn how to be more bootstrappy and figure things out on your own from these pursuits.


DL: What is it like living and working in DC?

MB: I’m not from here, but I love this town. It’s pretty expensive which is a bummer. But it’s a mecca for nerds, and there’s a lot of smart people who are very passionate about what they do. The city is small but has tons of arts and culture, as the nation’s capital of course. There’s lots of Wake people here as well which a bonus.


DL: What is your mantra, or best piece of advice you can think to pass on?

MB: Work hard, be nice, and keep in touch. If you can do those things consistently, you’re probably gonna be okay. I think a lot of people like to say that entertainment or creative work is about who you know, but it’s also about who you trust. When you find people you enjoy working with, in whatever capacity, it’s good to keep in touch with them and remind them of that. That sort of stuff really does come around.


Spotlight Interview: Ryan Coons

Ryan Coons: Associate Creative Director, Struck

Portland, Oregon

WFU Class of 2008

Major: Economics


Ryan Coons is a former Lilting Banshee and currently creative director at Struck in Portland. He recently ran us through his journey from aimless job fair wanderer to ad agency creative lead. And yes, we agree his child is adorable. 

DeacLink: Tells us about your current job and what it entails.

Ryan Coons: I am the associate creative director for an ad agency in Portland called Struck. I oversee the creative output for a few of our clients, from design to copywriting and advertising. I shepherd anything art and copy through the process going from idea to execution.

I completed a certificate program at the Portfolio Center in Atlanta, where I started as a designer. Of the seven people in my class I was an okay designer, but everyone was coming to me asking for writing on their pieces. I spent a few months fighting this but I realized I was a way better writer than designer. I made the switch midway through the school and wrote ever since.

Before this I had worked for agencies in Atlanta with clients like Baskin Robbins and Delta Airlines. Here at Struck I oversee output for smaller brands like Uinta Brewing, a Salt Lake City brewery and TriMet (Portland’s public transportation system).


DL: Did you spend your years at Wake preparing for a career in advertising?

RC: I was actually an Econ major… I didn’t go through the Scales art program. I graduated at the height of the recession with a gentleman’s 2.5 GPA and knew I wasn’t going to find a whole lot of work in that market. My path to a more creative industry is actually an interesting story.

Graduation was just two months away and I had no clue what I wanted to do. I went to this job fair and was wandering the aisles aimlessly when I spotted a Gary Baseman illustration (known for the Cranium board games) on this bank’s stand backdrop. I tried to talk to the guy manning the booth about the artwork but he had no idea what I was saying. His only response was, ‘So…. do you wanna work at this bank?’

Across from him was a booth for the Portfolio Center in Atlanta. She got my attention over knowing about Baseman’s work and told me all about their design program. I knew then and there it was meant for me. In a single day I went from not knowing what I wanted to do, to knowing exactly what I wanted to do.


DL: Did your time at the Portfolio Center set you up for your first job in advertising?

RC: Yes, exactly. I got my first position about three months before I was supposed to graduate. Because of this I technically didn’t finish the course! My reasoning was, the whole point of this school is to get me a job… I have a job… I’m outta here.


DL: What’s the hardest part about breaking into your industry?

RC: Breaking into advertising isn’t nearly as difficult as having a long happy career in it. There’s lots of internship opportunities in this field, although the majority aren’t paid. If you can get that one person to take interest in you, then bother them ‘til they throw a piece of work your way; now you’ve got your foot in the door.

We take new people fresh out of school, and look for potential and passion. We don’t care about your GPA; if you can approach a client’s problem in a unique way, we’ll teach you the rest of the skills required. Design and Photoshop can be taught but a passion for creatively solving problems is what gets you into advertising.

That said, keeping a job in advertising is tough because people actively avoid what we do. They install ad blockers, unsubscribe from everything, and press skip buttons to hurry up and watch a video of someone falling over. My mindset now is if I can get one campaign per year that I’m really proud of, it’s been a really great year.


DL: Which campaign have you been most proud of so far?

RC: Well, one of my very first client jobs in Atlanta was naming ice cream flavors for Baskin Robbins. Contrary to belief, I did not get to taste the ice cream in some Willy Wonka factory. I had to use their ingredient lists because it was so far out from production. It was still cool, but also easy to explain to relatives. My grandparents would order flavors once a month at the ice cream shop saying, ‘My grandson named this!’ to the teenager working the counter… who clearly didn’t care.

Recently however, we launched a new campaign for Snowbird ski resort which has a reputation for being a little rough around the edges. The campaign takes one-star reviews from Yelp and TripAdvisor and turns them into ads. We take negative reviews like- the snow is too deep, the courses are too difficult, there’s nothing to do unless you wanna ski all day- and flip them into advertising for the resort. It’s taking this very real thing of people complaining about these awesome aspects, and showing if you want a proper ski trip, then this is where you want to be. It really hit, and that felt awesome.


DL: How did your time at Wake prepare you for life after graduation?

RC: The thing that prepared me most was being part of the Lilting Banshees comedy troupe. That was where I really started to write and be funny. I made those yellow posters that are all over campus, which is a good exercise for writing print ads. Between posters and writing sketches, I learned how to be funny. Also, performing these jokes in front of an audience prepared me for pitching ideas to clients in an agency. Doing that with a dash of humor is so crucial.

Also with pitches, more often than not your ideas don’t go over super well. You’re always trying to push a client just a little bit toward uncomfortable. If you only present the same expected ideas they’ll never break out from amongst their competitors. I’ll do the song and dance some presentation, and the client takes a moment to pause before delivering the most flat rejection possible. You have to laugh it off even though the idea you shared was personal. Ultimately the ideas we come up with are born out of our own experiences that speak to a larger truth about how people interact with each other. To have that rejected so soundly can definitely hit at you… but just like with a joke falling flat onstage- you can’t be too precious.


DL: Do you have any advice for readers considering moving to Portland?

RC: I’m from Boston, but my wife is from Portland. The first time I came to visit I realized we had to move out here, no matter how long it took. Portland is a really interesting place not just for advertising but design and creatively driven pursuits. It’s very different from New York, LA and Atlanta, where Atlanta really tries hard to compete with those two cities. The hustle in Portland isn’t as exhausting. Everyone finds their niche here; there’s lots of small agencies doing amazing work for a select group of clients rather than chasing the big global brands like in other cities. If you have a specialty and a passion, you can find a way to make it work for you. Whether you go freelance or find a place to work, there’s plenty of options.


DL: Do you have a mantra you go by, or kernel of advice you’d like to impart?

RC: I have a number of post-it notes on my monitor that I repeat to myself constantly, the oldest of which says, ‘Be mindful of the work you leave for others’. I think when you work in a big team it’s easy to let someone else handle the dirty or boring stuff. This is an industry where there’s grunt work, like cranking out tiny web banners for hours on end waiting for that awesome campaign to come along. If you can live with that gladly, take it on and be helpful to other people, you’re more likely to be handed the bigger opportunities as they come.

Another post-it says: No one wants to work with a tortured artist. That’s not a viable career life option anymore! I truly believe you make your best work when you’re happy, healthy, and take care of yourself. I’d so much rather work with somebody that has some talent but a bigger desire to be better, than someone who is just pure raw talent but difficult to work with and precious about their ideas. Be a good person to the people that you’re working with.

One last post-it- right now is an amazing time to make a living off your creativity. You can work full time for a company or brand, bounce around doing freelance, or use platforms like Kickstarter and Patreon to build a following around you and your work. There’s never been a more fruitful time to be a creative-minded person, which I wish was the case when I graduated.

Spotlight Interview: Betsy Rives

Betsy Rives: Strategist, Google

San Francisco, California

WFU Class of 2008

Major: Studio Art

Double Minor: Art History & Women and Gender Studies

b rives.jpg

Betsy Rives launched into an MFA program only a year after graduating from Wake. After time in DC and New York, Betsy took the advice of a mentor from Scales' art faculty and moved to Los Angeles. Now a Strategist at Google's San Fran HQ, Betsy catches us up on her current role and the path which led her there.

DeacLink: Working at Google is a dream for many- what's your role in the San Fran office, and what sort of duties does it entail?

Betsy Rives: I am a Strategist at Google within the Real Estate and Workplace Services team, the group that helps design Google’s built environment. Our organization touches everything from desk spaces to transportation and from the food program to local ecology. I am one of 6 Strategists, and we act as internal consultants for the org. We help to solve a wide variety of problems by designing research methodologies, organizational structures, internal technology platforms, and systems guidance. My day to day includes meetings with lots of different people throughout Google in order to carefully understand user needs and identifying areas for growth.

DL: We understand you got an MBA from Yale. How was that? Did you enter hoping to achieve a particular goal?

BR: I actually have two graduate school experiences. I received my MFA in Interrelated Media from MassArt in 2011, and I finished my MBA in Design and Innovation from Yale in 2017 (last May). These were two very different programs, and I entered each for different reasons and with different mindsets.
I entered the MFA program only 1 year after graduating (which was too soon, Professors David Faber and Page Laughlin warned me as such). I started my MFA in the painting program and had the goal to simply make work and make connections. I did just that. I had a wonderful and intense experience, as David said, MFAs are like making 10 years of growth in only 2. The program was mentally challenging and played a huge role in how I think about problem solving, materials, and critical dialog.
After my MFA, I took advice from Page, and moved to Los Angeles. In LA I was fortunately to
land an incredible role at LACMA (the LA County Museum of Art). At LACMA I worked in
Membership and then Education. I worked closely with artists and the public, and I started
developing a new skillset .. data analysis. I was able to use basic data interpretation to increase
the number of students the museum could serve, improve our educational programs, and assist
artists with the challenging process of budget creation. I didn’t know best practices around this type of work, so I decided to go back to school for my MBA. I did not have the slightest idea of what to expect in business school. Yale was a big culture shift for me. I quickly learned that there is a huge world of business leaders that highly value creative thinkers. My art background allowed me to quickly stand out within my cohort. I led the Design and Innovation group at Yale, which allowed me to leverage all of my Wake Forest skills in a new setting.

DL: Did you feel prepared for life after undergrad as you exited WFU?

BR: I graduated from Wake in 2008, at the height of the financial crisis. Page, David, Jen, all of the wonderful crew at Wake, cautioned me against going straight to grad school for my MFA
(rightfully so), but I was a bit lost. I moved to DC because my sister lived there, and I soon found administrative work. I worked at George Washington University as a receptionist until I found a job as a Director of a gallery in Georgetown. I only worked at the gallery for a few months before the owner announced we would be closing due to the economy. I then found another role as an event planner in the legal field. All of the stress of job hunting and job hopping in the first 9 months after school motivated me to apply for grad school, despite not being fully ready.
I don’t know if anyone or anything could have fully prepared me for life after undergrad
(though all of the rock-star professors at WFU tried). However, the greatest gift I have received
from all of the art faculty at Wake was the confidence to take chances and embrace the
unpreparedness. I have had a lot of not-so- glamorous jobs since graduation (from scooping ice cream to crowd-control), but the terrific experience I had at Wake instilled a resilience in me and the assurance that everything will work out.

DL: Throughout your journey, you've picked up tremendous amounts of experience; what advice sticks out to you the most?

BR:  The faculty in the art department provided some of the most stabilizing advice for my career. For example, I remember talking to Jen about how your 30s are so much better than your 20s. It seems silly to say, but I clung to that conversation as a promise that things would get better if I pushed myself throughout the uncertainty my 20s. Likewise, when I was finishing my MFA, I ran into David and Page in New York. Page suggested I move to LA because I was completely lost, and she responded to my skepticism by confidently saying that I could make it work. I followed Page’s advice, and I frequently told myself throughout that tough transition to Los Angeles that I only needed one person to believe in me and I had Page. In fact, I knew I had all of the WFU community supporting me through the wisdom and personal support I received throughout my time at Wake.

Spotlight Interview: Meaghan Steele

Meaghan Steele: Associate Business Manager, Sotheby's

New York City

WFU Class of 2011

Double Major: Art History (Honors) & Spanish

meagahan steele.jpg

Meaghan Steele studied abroad, mastered the Spanish language, and dove headfirst into art history during her Wake undergrad years. Upon graduation, Steele worked internships in museums and galleries before landing in the auction house realm. Speaking to us now as a Sotheby's associate business manager, Meaghan discusses her path and lessons learned along the way.


DeacLink: What did you study at Wake? How has your career unfolded since?

Meaghan Steele: I was an Art History and Spanish double major. I went abroad and studied at the Wake Salamanca program in Spain my junior year. In one of my classes there, I learned about an oft-forgotten Valencian artist, Josep Renau, who I ended up writing my senior thesis about. My thesis showed me just how interconnected my majors were. And, since graduation, I’ve continuously seen how helpful it is to have a second language; especially if I had decided to go the academic route, I definitely would have needed that second language for research.

At Wake, I figured out pretty quickly that I wanted to study Art History because I took AP art history my senior year of high school and missed taking a course solely devoted to the arts my freshman fall. I knew I should start getting experience in the industry as soon as possible, so the summer before my sophomore year of college, I interned with a local museum on Long Island (the Heckscher Museum of Art). I interned for them again the following summer and the summer before my senior year, I interned with a larger museum, still on Long Island (the Nassau County Museum of Art). During my senior year, I had this belief that the only logical career path was working for a museum, and I was already thinking that I would need to get my Masters; however, during my senior spring, I took the arts management course, and that’s when I met Cristin [Tierney]. A whole new world of opportunities opened up for me after that course as I learned about all of the different facets of the art world and the jobs in the art market beyond the museum space, which ended up being instrumental in how my career has since unfolded.

After graduation, I moved back home to Long Island. I interned for Cristin and then moved to part-time that fall, while still applying for jobs. Ultimately, she offered me a full-time job as the gallery’s Administrator and Registrar starting in January 2012 and I worked for Cristin until March 2014, when I moved to Sotheby's where I currently am.

I initially joined the Floater program at Sotheby’s and floated in Client Services for a few months before moving to a specialist department in early summer 2014: the Watches department. Now, I had no experience with watches or a really an interest in them, but it was a specialist department and any opportunity like that for a Floater was a good one. And, it ended up being really perfect timing because while I was floating in the Watches department, Sotheby’s announced that we would be selling the most important watch in the world - The Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplication - for sale in November 2014. In July 2014 the Watches’ Division Director asked me to be the go-to person for all things related to the sale of the Supercomplication, so I more or less became a project coordinator for the sale of this incredible piece.

Now, at the same time that we were preparing for the sale of the Supercomplication, a man named Daryl Wickstrom was moving back to New York from Hong Kong to assume the role of International Managing Director of the Global Jewelry and Watches Division. So, by working on the sale of the Supercomplication, not only did I gain incredible experience working with the international team, but I also started to work with Daryl; when he moved back to New York that fall and was looking for an Assistant, everything fell into place. So, I transitioned into a full-time permanent job at Sotheby’s as Daryl’s Assistant after Thanksgiving 2014, and held that position until May 2015.

In May 2015, I transitioned to a new job: the Administrator for our Business Manager Group. Along the way, while working on the sale of the Supercomplication (and later the Lesedi La Rona 1,100 carat rough diamond) and working for someone whose job was focused on global strategy and the business, I realized that I did not want to go back to school whatsoever and did not really have the same interest in research and writing that I had when I was in college or after I graduated. Rather, I was so much more interested in the business side of auction (and the arts) so becoming the Administrator for the BM group was a natural next step. As the Administrator I got to know all of our Business Managers and the Finance team, and started understanding how P&Ls work with the ultimate goal of becoming a Business Manager myself. And then this past summer I was promoted to Associate Business Manager.


DL: Would you mind telling me more about what you're doing at Sotheby’s? How that transition from the gallery to auction house world?

MS: As a(n Associate) Business Manager, I partner with our departments and serve as the link between not only the specific department with which I am working and Finance, but also that department and the rest of the company. My departments include the Asian Art Division (Chinese Works of Art, Chinese Paintings, and Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art), Human Resources, including our worldwide Learning & Development budget, Legal, Post-Sale Services, Shipping, Catalogue Production and Photography, and our Corporate departments. For all of these departments and the people who work in them, I act as a sounding board for ideas and work with everyone to troubleshoot problems and find solutions, provide historical data, navigate corporate governance, track budgets and costs, and help plan and strategize for long-term growth and success of the departments and the company. I also help our selling departments conduct auctions and organize private sales.


DL: How much did your time at Wake inform your career path?

MS: I would not be where I am without the Arts Management course. While I was a student, it was really the only opportunity for me to network and seek guidance for a life in the arts after Wake.


DL: How have you found the different jobs you've had?

MS: My job with Cristin came from meeting her during the Arts Management course. When I was ready to move away from the gallery, I used NYFA (New York Foundation for the Arts) and combed through their art world job posts board. NYFA is your best way to see what is available in New York and other places in the country. Jobs are often available on there before Glassdoor, Linkedin, and other big job search sites, which still do not really cater well to all of the arts whereas NYFA does. It’s how I found out that Sotheby's was hiring for the Floater program and applied.


DL: Auction Houses, and Sotheby’s in particular, seem to be a popular career option for art alums. How did you make the transition, and what is the hardest part about breaking into this field?

MS: In terms of transitioning from a gallery to an auction house, the biggest shock was going from a staff of 3-4 people, where you rolled up yourselves and fixed everything yourselves, to now over 500 people in our building and people that have jobs to help you fix your problems. At the gallery, we had to be on the phone with say Verizon if we had any issues. The resources at Sotheby’s were a shock. I knew it going in, but it was a different animal. The other thing that was amazing to see was just how much crossover there is between a small-staffed gallery and an auction house. I think a lot of people are surprised I have worked here only three and a half years, and they think I have been here longer, and I credit that to working with Cristin in a contemporary gallery and the arts market class.  

The hardest part about getting an auction house job is having the right experiences, and it's about how you present yourself on paper. There is a huge pool of applicants for every role. You have to be attentive to detail and show that you are knowledgeable and not afraid to take on a challenge. There are a limited number of jobs available, and you have do what you can to stand out from the crowd.


DL: How do you like living in New York? What advice do you have for students considering pursuing a career in the city?

MS: The arts is one of the more difficult industries to break into. There are so few jobs for so many people. It is a “who you know” type of world. It’s huge if you know someone that can get you in the door for an interview or make sure your resume is read. Once you are in the industry, it is much easier to find your next opportunity.

I am very fortunate in that I am from Long Island. To work in the arts, there is no better place to start your career than New York since it is the hub. For me, I was able to live at home for a year and I wouldn’t have made it here otherwise. New York can be a challenging place to live; however it’s home for me. Being in New York, there is always something to do or to see, or a new person to meet. It is certainly never boring.


DL: What do you think Wake arts could do to better prepare students for life after graduation?

MS: The arts market trip itself is not necessary but I think it’s extremely advantageous. Even without it, the school should still have the class. I think that’s my biggest piece of advice for the University.

The OPCD should also know the nuances of cover letters and resumes for art people. They were not very helpful when I was a student since they focused on writing resumes for business jobs. I didn't get what I needed to succeed in the industry from the OPCD but I am hopeful that the feedback and change in administration since I graduated has helped more recent students. Nevertheless, I feel fortunate every day to have been able to attend Wake Forest; to have been an Art History student and to have made the lasting connections I have with my peers, fellow alums, and my professors. The Wake Art community is very tight knit and we all support one another. I would not be where I am today without Wake Art and the incredible people who work in Scales.