Spotlight Interview: Spurge Carter

Spurge Carter: Music Artist (DJ at Lot Radio + Bandmember, Barrie)

New York City

WFU Class of 2014

Major: Communications with Media focus

Triple Minor: Entrepreneurship, Film Studies, & Japanese Language and Culture

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Spurge Carter has always had music on the mind. Throughout undergrad, Spurge was constantly working at his craft- DJ’ing and hosting parties, working at Wake Radio, and utilizing the Kirby Grant to travel places like New York and LA for music-oriented work experience between semesters. We spoke to Spurge about the pursuit of his passions, from Winston-Salem all the way to NYC.

DeacLink: You were known around campus as an active DJ; did your career path begin in undergrad?

Spurge Carter: I’ve always been interested in music, and knew I wanted to work in that field. I came to Wake having already DJ’d quite a lot in high school. I continued to cultivate my abilities throughout undergrad, with the ultimate goal in mind of becoming a full-time musician making a living off of my work.

I was listening to a lot of music and immersing myself in DJ culture whilst studying at Wake. It was cool being in an environment where I could devote all my spare time- whether outside of class or in the ‘off-season’ between semesters- to growing in this regard.

Every summer I did something different, which built toward networking and gaining experience in the music industry. The summer after freshman year I interned at Atlantic Records in NYC. The following sophomore summer I went to LA with my friend Rohan, who at the time was running a small music blog with me. We interned at a digital media agency over there, and the opportunity itself was based off of the blog we had started. Junior year I studied abroad in London where I dove into active participation in the UK music scene. I was throwing parties and DJ’ing, networking and getting my foot in the door. I learned and grew a lot from my time in London. Much of this work experience I’ve mentioned was subsidized by the Kirby Grant, which I was introduced to through the Entrepreneurship Department at Wake. It was amazing to go up to New York or out to LA completing unpaid internships with the financial support of these grants.

DL: We love the Kirby Fund too! With regards to finding, applying to, and obtaining these work experience positions, how did you go about that? Were you using personal connections, leveraging the WFU network, or online search/cold call methods?

SC: So, the Atlantic Records opportunity came through a friend of my mom’s who had worked at the label. Although it wasn’t directly related to Wake, I still benefited from the support of the grant to be in the City working for free. For other opportunities I was using a lot of social resources. This is especially important in the music industry, as it’s a dense and populated environment. People are very supportive if you’re doing your own thing and working toward an ultimate goal. I definitely cold-emailed lots of places too, and after obtaining a work stint would springboard off of that for the next opportunity. The LA internship came off the back of the music blog I was running with my WFU classmate and friend, Rohan.

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

SC: Not a crazy amount in terms of musicality. I took a light music theory course in undergrad, but the most influential lessons I learned were in the Entrepreneurship program. It gave me lots of tools, which I constantly relied upon to chart a course and survive as I pursued my goals. A lot of people in music actually have great business acumen, so I’m at an advantage as an artist who can manage my own finances, visualize and create a product, and generally apply business skills to work and life. I’m also appreciative to have learned all of this in North Carolina, removed from the environment of NYC.

DL: Can you expand further on the Wake’s Entrepreneurship program? What do you pull from the experience in your current life?

SC: Honestly, it’s my entire mentality. Both my parents are entrepreneurs and business owners so I’m wired that way. But in my career since Wake, my first job was entry-level corporate which I stayed on for nine months. From there I decided to figure out the moves required on a non-traditional path toward a musician’s career. My overall scope and perspective, I have from Entrepreneurship.

One thing in particular I learned in the program, which I highly recommend, is how to look for funding. Especially as a creative of any type, there are innumerable resources to utilize in order to continue producing the work you want. However, you have to know where to locate and obtain them. Searching for and applying to grants is so important! Most of this search can be conducted online as well.

DL: What led to your current job at Lot Radio in Brooklyn?

SC: I’ll take it back a few steps from WFU and build up. So, I graduated and went home for 2-3 months knowing my end goal was to be a full-time musician. It’s important to have a goal in mind, even if the way there doesn’t seem exactly clear. I knew my artistic confidence wasn’t high enough yet to put my work out there, as I had been making lots of electronic music on my computer based on intuition and taste but didn’t have the core musical knowledge or instrumental skills yet.

I came to NYC to grow my social network, build more musical skills, and understand how the music industry actually works. Especially in the time we live in, streaming has completely altered the structure of the industry and how money is made. I wanted to understand everything from record deals, plays, downloads, and touring- where does the artist making a solid income?

I worked in reception/mailroom at CAA (one of the biggest creative agencies in the world), to start out. I quickly realized that a significant portion of income could be made from touring. I didn’t have aspirations to be a music agent so after a few months I decided to pivot with what I was doing.

I left CAA and started interning for Electric Lady Studios, Jimi Hendrix’s studio in the East Village. I stayed on for a month and a half but the treatment - no pay, 50+ hour weeks, and way superiors dealt with us- caused me to leave. I did make friends with some great people who were interning alongside me, most of which I’ve stayed connected to and are doing great things in the industry now. I learned that it’s not always about connecting with the people above you in those situations, but to solidify relationships with your peers. The Electric Lady name has opened doors for me though; even saying I worked there causes people to listen.

I left this stint seeking growth and proper pay. I understood that if you can barista at all, you can find work in a coffee shop anywhere in the world. I started doing that and met some awesome connections in the industry through this work. At the same time I was doing some work at SoundCloud rap focused studio called Black Wax Creative. It was a very loose environment with a revolving door policy of random artists coming through. Kind of an environment where lots of people hung out but didn’t always translate to work getting done. A perfect place for networking though. We did have lots of people come through who are now of the moment and pretty big- Lil Uzi Vert, Skepta, Khalid, and Playboi Carti all came through the studio.

I left for the next thing with a decent engineering foundation and the desire for more creative input. It’s not easy to transition from the admin or assistant side of things, into the person actually making the music. I learned you need to come with your creative ideas, not just hope a creative person will ask you in the background for your input. All along this time I was making music at home but not really telling anybody. I was taking piano lessons to gain further understanding of music and its structure, beyond my own natural intuition.

The next job I took on came through a Facebook status! I put up a post saying I was super broke and looking for work, to see if anyone out there might reply with leads. Sure enough a friend got in touch with what became my next gig. I can’t stress enough how important it is to put yourself out there like this, especially in a dense city like NYC- you never know who will have something for you.

My friend was managing Chromeo, and said Patrick aka PThugg (someone I grew up listening to) needed someone to water his plants and keep them alive while he was away on tour. It was wild being in someone’s apartment who I looked up to, watering their plants daily and walking around their place. When PThugg returned and saw I’d kept his beloved plants healthy, the timing worked out where he needed a new personal assistant. I stayed on as his PA which was such a fun job. I got to learn what it was like to be a professional, successful musician who lives off their music alone. Patrick was also a great mentor indirectly; he wasn’t always talking to me or telling me things but being so involved in his affairs taught me tons through osmosis. It also helped me apply the skills I already had from undergrad in real life situations.

Seeing how he ran his own finances, tour managing, also self taught on instruments was enough to make think the same could work for me. When Patrick moved to LA I helped with the process but ultimately returned to NYC knowing that’s where I preferred being.

The another job I got came through a connection made while working in a coffee shop. I started assistant engineering at XL Recordings, who deal with big artists like Jungle, FKA Twigs, Adele, and The XX. Being in the studio with these people and honing my engineering ability helped me understand the creative process more fully. I was grateful to finally be in a studio where I was learning important skills daily, and being integral to getting things done.

I left in 2016 after an internal change forced me back a step to unpaid intern. (Many of these overlap in the timeline, by the way. Five jobs at once is a regular occurrence in New York) I had heard of an internet radio station that functioned much like the pirate radio spots in the UK- independently run and uninfluenced by funding or commercials with what they played. I came to Lot Radio in Brooklyn seeking that type of setup, hungry to join a community where people were making moves for themselves and not working under people constantly. Lot Radio had very recently opened when I joined- they had an independent structure funding the operation through a converted shipping container that was part bar, part coffee shop. They host tons of parties, guest DJ spots, and broadcasts so I could form a network in one place as opposed to running all over NYC hitting every party and gathering possible. It was a perfect fit- I’ve been here for two years and still greatly enjoy the team and environment.

DL: Sounds ideal! Do you see yourself staying on for a long period of time?

SC: I like that Lot Radio is a locus of activity and growth in the music community. I can grow my skill set, network, and support myself through working here. I have also been able to move my personal music career by working here. It’s similar to the studio system of the 60s and 70s, where one big artist would be in a room working on something, and another big name would pop their head in to see what was going on. It’s a close quarters community where everyone is in the same place, working on their own thing but freely collaborating and networking at the same time. It’s ideal for a creative space.

I am now part of a band called Barrie, which came about through a connection I’ve made at Lot Radio. We formed the group around an extremely talented singer-songwriter from outside Boston, that a friend associated with the radio discovered on SoundCloud. He convinced her to move to the City, and from there sourced myself and the other members (Noah, Dom & Sabine) to complete the group. We have been getting great exposure and plays, signed to a small indie label here, and played last year’s SXSW. It’s exciting to be moving this part of my career forward; we release our new EP on October 12th and can’t wait for people to enjoy it.

I’m also hosting parties and DJ’ing, with my own interview/podcast series with artist friends called ‘Basslines and Banter’. Every interview is followed by a performance and the conversation gets posted to my podcast series under the same name. I’m also moving toward starting my own label with a small group of friends that I’ve worked with, which will also aid the transition toward full-time music and living solely off of that.

DL: How hard is it to start your own music label, and what does the process itself look like?

SC: That’s something I’m still figuring out. You can register an LLC, and a lot from there is to figure out how you’ll be distributing. I personally am focusing on tapes to start, as I want a physical object to hand to people in my community and it’s more cost-effective than pressing records. From a business standpoint, it’s about breaking down the components: you need a manufacturer, the product is of course the music, then you have to find a distributor, decide which platforms are most optimal, and so forth. I’m definitely using the collective knowledge of my community as a resource: asking questions of people I know that have gone through the steps founding their own labels.

DL: That sort of community is an invaluable resource!

SC: Yes! And to us on the inside, we’re just a small collection of homies hanging out and making music. Growing up in Baltimore I used to look at similar networks with global reaches and feel it was so out of reach. Now living in the city and being part of the community I can see it’s this everyday thing, and all of us are making moves and trying to capture and convey the very moment we exist in now. Although plenty of my peers are blowing up and experiencing varying levels of fame & success now, it’s important to remember everyone is on their own track and to enjoy documenting and sharing the exact unique place you’re in as an artist.

DL: It’s interesting you say that, especially in a time where influencers on Instagram or YouTube are blowing up seemingly overnight. It’s an incredible time to be in your field considering the doors that thousands or millions of followers can open.

SC: We’re starting to see people gaining notoriety for their unique and authentic story and product. In our globalized present, specificity in storytelling is more attractive than anything else. Although for me being present in NYC is important and helps, it’s not actually mandatory to live in a major city these days. You actually see a lot of watered down, homogeneous material being produced due to everyone trying to be everywhere at once, and all on the same trend. If you stick to the uniqueness of your own story and your situation - that’s what’s really important.

DL: Considering where you’re at now and what it took to get this far, do you have any hopes for future programming and development that Wake could offer students seeking to be in the music world like you?

SC: I came to Wake understanding that although I wanted to pursue a career in music, the university is not a music industry school. I actually think that’s fine- I benefited from a liberal arts education and doing what I’ve done on my own career-wise was incredibly valuable for my personal growth.

I will say that it’d be great to have a clear and accessible list of alumni working in the same field as me. I think that what you’re working to build, [with DeacLink] for instance, would be greatly beneficial for us all. Having that transparent list could help us all connect more work, and even discuss the ways in which we have all arrived at our respective jobs. We as creatives all know what crazy things you end up doing to fund your endeavors- I’ve written essays for college kids, and even yesterday spent a few hours posting missing dog flyers. In college, I would have loved to be able to learn and trade stories like this with others who have chosen a less conventional path like me. I think it’s important.

DL: Finally, what advice do you want to leave with us today?

SC: Trust yourself. You will jump around from place to place, working multiple jobs and doing so much to gather experience and money to fund yourself. Keep your end goal at the forefront and trust yourself along the process.

You also have to understand the process and its timescale is entirely relative. It can feel like everyone around you is rising up and you’re going slower or not achieving as much, but remember that everyone’s own trajectory is individual and can’t be compared. I look at myself nearly five years out since Wake and am happy with where I’m at, especially with the sense of forward motion I keep about myself.

Lastly, present yourself as worthy of paid work. People will always take free labor. You have to be confident enough to state what your time and effort is worth, and ultimately you determine where that bar is going to be set.

Spurge and Barrie’s new EP dropped 12th October 2018- CLICK HERE to check it out!

Subscribe and watch ‘Basslines and Banter’ on YouTube featuring Spurge and numerous great musician guests.

Follow Spurge on Instagram - @sspurgee

Spotlight Interview: Elizabeth Patterson

Elizabeth Patterson: Associate Producer, Jack Morton Worldwide

New York City

WFU Class of 2014

Double Major: Communications with Media Studies focus & Theatre

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Elizabeth Patterson is an Associate Producer for Jack Morton Worldwide in NYC. She graduated with a double major in Theatre and Communications. Her main message? Network! Read on to her about Elizabeth’s path since Wake.

DeacLink: What did you study while you were at Wake?

Elizabeth Patterson: I was a theater and communications double major, with a media studies concentration.

DL: Since you’ve graduated, how has your career unfolded? Can you walk me through your path from graduation day to your current job?

EP: My career path started when I was at Wake. I loved theatre, but didn’t want to pursue performing professionally, so I explored the operational side of art organizations. A few Wake alumni recommended Berkshire Theatre Group, as they had interned there and made key connections in the industry. I ended up at BTG for two summers - first in the box office, and then as the Development Assistant. In development, I connected with high-level donors and helped with fundraising campaigns, but my bigger role was assisting with their annual summer gala.

While in the Berkshires, I made contact with a family friend, who learned more about my role in events at BTG. As a theatre major herself, she introduced me to a new way to merge my goals and passion through experiential marketing at Jack Morton Worldwide.

I started at Jack Morton Worldwide as a freelance Production Assistant, going onsite to my first event between exams and graduation. Moving up to NYC for a temporary job, I was introduced to my team as the freelancer that was here indefinitely. I have never turned back. This industry operates with a lot of freelancers, so I was a permanent freelancer for three years until joining the Jack Morton staff full time last year. This has given my an opportunity to develop my skills, working up to an Associate Producer on the production team.

My job is essentially corporate theater - I produce shows. It can be anything from a local, internal board meeting, to top-tier talent performing an original show in an exotic location. It wasn’t my original industry, but when I look back there was a clear path here. It perfectly applies to both of my college majors, and has given me a way to tap into both my creative and business interests.

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

EP: Networking! As mentioned, I found BTG through Wake alumni, and I ended up finding my current role through a family friend. An in-person conversation is always best, but any form of connection is beneficial. Most people remember what it will like as a college student or recent graduate looking for job opportunities - it can be intimidating so Alumni want to help.

DL: This route is an interesting option for art alums considering we don’t have a formal arts administration program. What advice do you have for readers interested in breaking into the field?

EP: For me, I discovered that my liberal arts background gave me the rudimentary skills applicable to my role. Also, a bonus with liberal arts is creative thinking, which is harder to teach post-college. For the skills that I wanted more expertise in, I found there are multitude of platforms to continue learning of specific skill-sets. I have used online programs like Lynda, or searched for local seminars in the area for certain skills that I want to learn more about. For a niche market like mine, you apply a lot of different backgrounds and skills, so I am always trying to find additional ways to round out my expertise.

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

EP: One of the best things that Wake Forest did for me was providing the career trek to network through the OPCD. We came to New York for a few days, to tour companies and network with alumni. While it was a great opportunity, Wake could have done more to prepare us for the trek and coach us on the follow-through of the networking, to give us a more well-rounded experience. I was overwhelmed at the Alumni networking party, and I think that with more preparation and post follow-up I would have made stronger connections with alumni. Looking back on it, it was a missed opportunity for me, but an easy fix would be a longer program, giving me best practices for networking going in, and goals set in place to follow up with alumni post event.

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

EP: New York is one of the biggest cities in the world, and one of the most diverse. It is special because of the cultures and people that make it unique - creating everything from world-renowned events to the family-owned restaurant. I was excited to move here because of the bucket-list NYC items that I had heard about, but what has kept me here are the little experiences that have made me feel like a true local.

DL: What is your favorite part about working for Jack Morton?

EP: My team. I have traveled all over the world, working on amazing projects, but that isn’t rewarding unless you like the people around you. Some of my closest friends I have made from work - we work long onsite hours, but then we still hang out post-event to enjoy where we have traveled. My colleagues have helped me grow since I joined the team, and there is mutual trust that ensures success for a project.

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

EP: All of my advice comes back to networking. Reach out. It’s always worth it.

Spotlight Interview: Kat Shuford

Kat Shuford: UI Designer + Owner/Founder of Catbat Shop

New York City

WFU Class of 2009

Major: Studio Art

Double Minor: Spanish & Latin American Studies

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Kat Shuford is a multitalented creator, leading a dual career in web design and fashion. Kat graduated from Wake with a Studio Major in 2009 and has since carved her own path in New York. She spoke with us recently to outline her journey since Winston-Salem.

DeacLink: What did you study at Wake? What was the job market like upon graduation?

Kat Shuford: I majored in Studio Art, with a concentration in Sculpture. I double-minored in Spanish & Latin American Studies.  I had been told that you can always be an art teacher at a private school the year after you graduate, but the Great Recession had hit teaching jobs hard, and my applications went unanswered.  My other idea was to teach English abroad, which I had done the previous summer, and I was accepted to a program through the Spanish government to teach in Mallorca for a year. When graduation finally came though, I was too exhausted from travelling during my years at Wake Forest (Santiago, Chile and Querétaro, Mexico) and thought that it would be hard to continue an art practice doing that.  

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

KS: I decided to move back home to Atlanta and save money to move to New York to pursue my art career. I had a number of odd jobs and internships that year, and I didn’t have much more than 3k saved. I figured that I had handled a big city before in a different language and culture, so I should be able to navigate New York. I only knew one or two people there and no close friends.  I managed to line up an internship as an artist assistant for Dustin Yellin through Craigslist (unpaid) and decided to go ahead and move since I could network better from New York than sending out more resumes from Atlanta.

I worked at the Dustin Yellin’s studio for several years, mainly doing collage work.  He happened to get a big commission right around the time I was going to have to stop interning there and get a paid job elsewhere. It was lucky timing. The team of assistants was up to 20 people at one point. In many ways, it was a dream job. I was doing art everyday and working alongside talented people, but it was physically taxing. I was exhausted by the time I got home.  My own art practice seemed so small in comparison.

After a few years there, I was growing restless. I wanted to have my own studio and the energy to work on my own art. I saw that working in the art world would always be a hustle. I got burnt out and quit. I started teaching myself web design with online videos and by building my own websites.  Web design appealed to me for the same reasons I liked making art: I put something out in the world, and someone on the other end would have to make sense of it without me there alongside them.

I was able to find internships by applying online, and one of those turned into steady gig. I got connected with my current job at BrightCrowd when a friend introduced me to one of his buddies from Business school at a mixer as SXSW.  I’ve been a UI designer at BrightCrowd for 4 years now. It’s a directory of helpful alumni that was started by two Stanford alumni and has spread to 20 more top universities. I do everything visually-related for them- from graphic design to front-end templating.  

And what happened to those dreams of being an artist? Once I started working as a web designer, I had enough money and time to get a small studio. I loved having a space to create in, but I didn’t like being alone in a tiny windowless room when there was the entire city of New York around me! I somehow found my way into designing capes that could be worn everyday, and it led me back out into the world, going into factories and warehouses in Brooklyn and New York, touching and learning about fabric, meeting incredible models and photographers, having an eye out for photoshoot locations. You can check out what I do at http://www.catbatshop.com/ or on Instagram @catbatshop.


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

KS: I was pushed and challenged, but it was very much within an academic context.  Some of that translated to the larger world, and some of it didn’t. There were a lot of gaps. Many people competing for the same art jobs I was came from art schools, so they had a really strong network and more technical skills.  I felt like I had a critical eye and that I understood the dialogue in the art world, but those skills didn’t translate to getting a job.


DL: How did you find and apply to the various positions you’ve held? Do you have any tips and suggestions for the student audience on networking, interviewing and applying for jobs?

KS: Craigslist… I think a lot has changed since I was an intern. First of all, interns get paid! Almost all of mine were unpaid. If you want a job from an internship, I do think you have to go above and beyond what the other interns are doing and to become friendly with people in the company. Even in the most casual work cultures, you still have to be top of mind. Even if they can’t hire you, they’ll feel confident recommending you or passing your name along if you have been helpful. I also applied through NYFA frequently, but I never had much luck with it.


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

KS: I remember they had a How to Interview panel, but the panelists worked in finance and sales. There wasn’t a tailored experience for students in the arts. As I mentioned before, the people I met in New York who went to art schools had big networks and the skills that put them at an advantage in getting jobs in the arts. Making sure every studio art major knows their way around the Adobe suite, specifically related to photo and video editing, would be a good step. I’m happy to talk to anyone who’s just graduated and trying to figure out what to do.


DL: What is your favorite part of living and working in New York? What is the most interesting thing going on in the art scene there at the moment, in your opinion?

KS: I was sold on New York during my first week here.  I loved being able to ride a bike most places, and I met so many interesting people it made my head spin. After 8 years, I still think it’s the people. A perfect day for me is to ride my bike into Manhattan bounce around to different cafes, bookstores, parks -- people-watching and eating.

I’m a bit out of touch with the art scene, but I saw Like Life this summer at the Met Breuer. I loved the mix of time periods. When I was younger, I only wanted to see contemporary art-- art of ideas. The Met knocked that out of me.

DL: What is your favorite part about owning a clothing line? What about web design- what are the perks of that?
KS: Designing the capes brings me in contact with new places and talented people.  It’s inherently collaborative. I get my fabric from a deadstock fabric supplier named Danny in Chelsea. Five generations of his family have been selling fabric out of the warehouse, and now he’s got a Zaha Hadid apartment building across the street and hotels all around him. It’s a remnant of an older New York.

As for web design, I like being a part of a team and knowing my creative skills have real value for the team. If you like to be constantly learning and you are happy spending the day not talking to anyone, web design is a good fit.


Spotlight Interview: Mary Leigh Cherry

Mary Leigh Cherry: Los Angeles Director, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

WFU Class of 1997

Major: Art History, Criticism & Conservation

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Mary Leigh Cherry serves as Director at the newly opened location of Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in Los Angeles. In July 2018, Mary Leigh spoke with us about job hunting, owning a gallery, the future of art and tech, and much more.

DeacLink: So I know you just made an exciting career transition - tell me more about it.

Mary Leigh Cherry: Yes, I am now the Los Angeles director for Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, which has always been one of my favorite programs in New York. In 1997, the first show I saw at her space was Charles Long. The show we just opened last week, was also Charles Long, and his 12th solo with the gallery. I have known him off and on through the years. It’s perfect timing to have this show up now as the inaugural exhibition in the LA space. It’s been great working with Tanya, who has had a slightly longer career than I have. The artists she represents are unbelievable and also international. I wasn’t planning on this as a path, but the timing and opportunity were right.

DL: Mind walking me through your career up until this point?

MLC: I have had three versions of the gallery over the years. It started as Cherry in a garage in Venice, CA. I started the next version with my husband, cherrydelosreyes. Then his career as an artist started taking off, and I took on a partner which became Cherry and Martin. It was a full fledged program for 12 years. It started with representing artists of our generation. Then we also moved into representing estates and established artists that were overlooked and underrecognized. We built markets for their careers by applying the same principles as we were for young artists. By the time I left, we had three estates, people in their 70s and 80s, and down to people in their 30s and 40s. Most of the artists were American, but our clients were from all over the world, and we showed international artists in group shows.

DL: What led to your transition?

MLC: In terms of stepping away from the partnership, I think that at one point I saw myself always running the gallery with my business partner or at least staying involved in some way. We were reaching the point where we needed to reinvest, such as acquire a building, and it required me to get even more involved with someone. Personality wise, I was always the person wanting to grow and take risks. I am very entrepreneurial, and I just felt like I was the one pushing, pushing, pushing. I don’t deny that the growth was stressful and risky. At every crucial moment, the growth was what made us successful and kept us from going under. In 2008, we moved to a bigger space in a better neighborhood. We wouldn’t have survived the downturn if we hadn’t moved.

My business partner wasn’t as keen on continuing to grow, and I personally wanted a change from that relationship dynamic. The art world is also changing, and I felt the need to investigate that. I took a sabbatical for 4 months, and was doing research and thinking about new ways to work in the art world, keeping technology in mind. It was definitely hard to leave the artists I represented, and I am still friends with so many of them, and we will stay in touch. My partnership was 50/50 and we really did split the work, but our goals weren’t matching up.

DL: Most people from Wake tend to think about a move to New York after graduation. Tell me a bit more about the art scene in LA.

MLC: In the art world I am in, there’s a mass-migration to LA. The New York art world is tough unless you have access to the top five or ten galleries. It is hard to work there, make art there, and live there. LA isn’t inexpensive, but we have space, artists, collectors, amazing museums, and great weather. Everyone is moving here. There are problems with traffic, making things a logistical nightmare. It’s not a perfect utopia but considering other places, it is the top coastal city to live in.

DL: What did you do right after graduating?

MLC: I went to Wake Forest’s Casa Artom in Venice, Italy as a sophomore. After graduation I was hired by Wake to go abroad as Tom Phillip’s student assistant for the semester at Casa Artom. I tried to stay on longer, but there was not a lot of work and I didn’t have a work visa. After my contract ended, I stayed in Venice teaching English as a second language and receiving pay under the table. I was essentially an illegal immigrant. However, I wasn’t making ends meet since it was not an above board job and I was fearful of getting caught without the correct visa. So I moved back to the states not knowing what I was going to do.

I had met Mercedes Teixido (Wake alum) at Casa Artom. She is an artist and professor at Pomona College. She visited Venice and in exchange for staying a couple of nights at Casa Artom, she took our students to see the Venice Biennale. When I came back to the US, I house sat for her in Venice Beach and applied for jobs all over San Francisco to try and stay in California. I knew Northern California pretty well because I had spent summers in Los Gatos and Santa Cruz during college. Back then, LA was where you went to do crazy things. In the 90s the migration wasn’t to live in LA, it was to live in San Francisco, but I fell in love with LA. So I started looking for jobs here, and I only had to temp for a few weeks before landing a job at the Santa Monica Museum of Art (now known as Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles). Within a year of being at the Museum, I started the garage gallery, Cherry.

DL: Tell me a bit more about some of the ideas you are working on.

MLC: One thing that I am curious about is how blockchain will affect the art world, and I am advising on how it could. Digital currency is big in LA, bigger than in Silicon Valley, so I find that fascinating. But blockchain is something different than currency, in terms of what you can do with regards to authenticating art. I'm doing this because I am interested in the topic, and I want to stay future thinking. In terms of a business model, I was looking into creating a bespoke shared-resources firm. It’s sort of like WeWork or The Wing where the offices are handpicked by me. This version would be for the art world where you are sharing administrative resources, and the services in the various offices are say an art attorney, advisor, philanthropic concierge, etc. It also could be an event space for exhibitions, fundraisers, or political events.

Another thing I am working on is for Wake. In 2011, I was in Aspen talking with clients and I hadn’t been to the Biennale that year, but I was hearing about this project that was at Casa Artom. However, it didn’t say Wake Forest anywhere in all of the press that the project received. I shot off an email to Professor Page Laughlin trying to figure out how that was happening. Cut to 2013- I ended up doing an event at the house with fellow alum Cristin Tierney, and they sent out the Dean, who was Jacquelyn Fetrow at the time. She did some research to find out what the event was, and now the school is more aware of the extreme importance and global reach of the Venice Biennale. Wake is now in its 3rd year of a Biennale program for students. The first trip was in 2015, and last year I went over with Page for the program. I set up a lot of meetings and took the students through the Biennale during the Vernissage week while there were many of my colleagues in attendance. The next Biennale will be in 2019, and Page will be teaching the course for it, and I will go again and offer my contacts to enrich the experience for the students.

Spotlight Interview: Tayllor Battle

Tayllor Battle: Designer, Mighty 8th Media

Atlanta

WFU Class of 2010

Major: Studio Art

Double Minor: Art History & Communications

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Tayllor Battle arrived at Wake Forest hoping to work in museums one day. Now based in Atlanta, Tayllor discusses her career in graphic design and what’s led her to this point since leaving Winston.

DeacLink: What did you study while you were at Wake?

Tayllor Battle: I majored in Studio Art with a concentration in oil painting. I also minored in Art History and Communications because I thought I might want to work in a museum some day.

DL: Since you’ve graduated, how has your career unfolded? Can you walk me through your path from graduation day to your current job?

TB: After graduation I got an account management internship at an Zimmerman Advertising agency in south Florida. Out of the program I was offered a job, but decided to move to Atlanta because that’s where I really wanted to live. I took another internship at BBDO Atlanta, which lead me to my first real job in media planning and buying at Ames Scullin O’Haire Advertising. I worked there for two and a half years and loved it most of the time, but eventually needed a change. So I took a job at Zenith Media to work on the Sonic fast food account. After about 6 months or so, I realized the job change wasn’t what I was looking for. What I really needed was a career change. I missed my creative roots. I got swept up in some fun jobs, but my heart wasn’t in it. I knew if I was going to work for 40 more years, it needed to be doing something fulfilling. So I quit my job and joined the circus. Okay not the literal circus, but a little portfolio school called the Creative Circus. I had never heard of portfolio school before, but I just so happened to live in the city on one of the top programs in the country. I like to think of it as a Masters in Design without the thesis-writing and test-taking. I spent two years there working harder than I’d ever worked in my life, to put together a portfolio that helped me land a design job. Which is where I am now. Working as a Brand and Marketing Designer at a small agency called Mighty 8th Media.

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

TB: They helped me realize I definitely wanted to stay in the arts. Also, the Wake Forest name carries a lot of weight. I definitely think it helped me get interviews and be seen as a serious candidate.

DL: How did you find and apply to the various positions you’ve held (online, inside reference/rec, networking in person, WFU resources, other)? Do you have any tips or suggestions for the student audience on networking, interviewing and applying for jobs.

TB: Some online, some by inside references, some by networking. When you’re looking for a job, I think it’s really important to just put yourself out there in every way you can. When I was looking for the role I’m currently in, I really inserted myself into the Atlanta design community. I went to straight networking events, but I also went to designer talks, museum exhibitions, Creative Mornings, and anything else that might put me in a situation to meet the right people. I also worked my network. I reached out to alumni from both of my schools to gain perspective on the industry and what employers were looking for. It can be really difficult to put yourself in uncomfortable situations, but it will help you find the right job in the end.

DL: The design route seems to be a popular career option for art alums despite the fact we don’t have a formal design program. What advice do you have for readers interested in breaking into the field?

TB: Definitely take advantage of the resources and classes that Wake has. When I was there, I focused way more on the Fine Arts than Design. Unfortunately there just isn’t much of a market for a full time artist. I wish I would have taken more of the Graphic Design classes at Wake and engaged with that community more. But I am endlessly grateful that I got an authentic art experience at Wake and it informed my Graphic Design eye moving forward. Coming from the Wake art program though, I definitely recommend a Portfolio school or other Graduate program if you want to be a Designer. It will help you take what you learned in the Wake Arts and really focus it on the practical aspects of Design.

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

TB: In the arts specifically, I think there could have been more of an effort to push fine artists into the Graphic Design field since it’s a more practical skill in today’s job market. More practical projects to work on would have helped too. Designing for yourself and designing for a client are so very different and it’s important to learn that skill.

DL: What is your favorite part of living and working in Atlanta? What is the most interesting thing going on in the art scene there at the moment, in your opinion?

TB: Atlanta has so much to offer. It’s a big city with a small town feel. It’s got skyscrapers and trees. It has culture, community and great music. It has great design that comes from some big name brands, local brands, big agencies and small agencies. For me, the best part of the art scene are the programs being organized by the local AIGA (American Institute of the Graphic Arts) and Creative Mornings chapters. They’re really working to bring a global and local perspective to the art community here with speakers, workshops, networking and more.

DL: What is your favorite part about working for Mighty 8th Media? (Can include perks, specific experiences or anecdotes from the job)

TB: I love the wide variety of projects I get to work on at Mighty 8th. I love that every day is different. I love helping real businesses solve real business problems. I’ve worked at a couple of massive agencies and brands over the years and I really love that Mighty 8th is the opposite of that. I have autonomy, but also a great team to collaborate with. I have creative freedom and clients that value our creative expertise.

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

TB: Be engaged. If there’s one thing I regret from my time at Wake Forest is that I wasn’t as engaged in the educational process as I should’ve been. Being truly engaged goes a long way with your peers, teachers, coworkers, and employers. You really can’t fake genuine engagement and people know it when they see it.

SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW: Meagan Hooper

Meagan Hooper: Founder & CEO of bSmartGuide.com

New York City

WFU Class of 2004

Major: Theatre

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Meagan Hooper graduated from Wake Forest with a Theater major and enormous amounts of ambition. She soon found herself balancing auditions with part-time work at a hedge fund in New York. Meagan speaks to us now as founder and CEO of bSmartGuide.com, an online platform for women to network and mentor one another. Learn how Meagan’s path since Wake led her to founding this incredible online community.

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

Meagan Hooper: When I graduated in 2004, my husband and I moved to Italy for the summer for him to teach English and music. In the Fall we moved to New York - a condition of his proposing. ;) I was an aspiring actress with a film and TV agent and manager. I had worked for a regional theater company, the Williamstown Theater Festival, that won a Tony Award and had a film reel from student projects at UNC School of the Arts. I began auditioning for anything and everything from soap operas, Netflix series, network pilots, and feature films. I auditioned for How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock, Gossip Girl, Law and Order, and High School Musical to name a few.

During this time, I had a freelance job working in finance. Through a fellow WFU Theater Major, Melissa Jones, I met a family who needed a part-time babysitter. The gentleman I babysat for ran an emerging markets equities research firm. I asked him if I could be of any help to him and his business as I was looking for extra work. Being a Wake Forest University Theater Major, I felt confident I could help edit the stock reports and create a monthly newsletter featuring emerging market sectors and stocks. I was really grateful for my liberal arts education because I could apply my versatile education to a field like finance. I worked for his firm on a freelance basis while I auditioned. I gained a tremendous education in finance that year learning on the job. I learned how to value a company, how the stock market works, how to read financial statements, and much more - I found it fascinating! Then, in 2006, I was babysitting again. This time for another Wake Forest graduate and Theater Major, Cambra Overend (key tip here - your college friends are your professional network!).

Through this babysitting job, I became acquainted with a WFU Babcock Business School graduate, who managed a hedge fund. I told him I was an actress who worked for an emerging market equities research firm. He shared that his COO could use an assistant and asked if I would be interested in the role. I accepted on the condition that I could go on auditions as they arose and he agreed. This job exposed me to investment management, which proved even more interesting, dramatic, and fabulous than any of the movies I was auditioning for (including Wall Street 2!).

I continued auditioning, but I realized more and more my heart was back at the office. I would put a stock trade in the market, run to an audition, watch the markets while auditioning for MTV or Nickelodeon, then run back to the office. I found myself really loving the office environment and the people. I was scared that if I booked a part - no matter how big, I would lose this place and the feeling it gave me. I was presented with touring theater opportunities but turned them down to stay, but stayed open to film and short-term national commercial bookings.

In 2008, my mentor and COO of the hedge fund decided to retire. I put myself forward to fill the position, and after much consideration and candidate interviews, was chosen for the role. Fortunately, I was still allowed to leave for auditions even with this increased responsibility. The hedge fund was completely supportive of my performing arts dream, which made endeared them even more to me.

During this time I was experiencing a tremendous amount of success, professionally and personally. An increasing number of people were asking me to get coffee to pick my brain about how to get a raise, a promotion, or what I had learned about personal finance. It became clear to me how mentorship and advice was in scarce supply for women in this industry. I was also noticing firsthand how few women there were in senior positions, not just in finance, but in all industries.

I decided to do something about it. I created a post-college guide - a curriculum for women on how to be successful after college. I drafted a nonfiction book proposal, conducted interviews, pitched the sample publishing houses, and got rejected. I then thought ‘Nobody can stop me online’... so I set up a website. My goal was to create a community where people could share content about how to be smart and mentor each other online.

I launched the site in 2010, providing a place for women to share their advice, watch video interviews featuring smart, successful women, participate in masterclasses, and more. The key at the heart of all this was networking online. Women needed easier access to help one another, in order to share information and increase the number of female leaders and decision makers. Men conduct business with their friends. So if women are going to get ahead professionally, we need to do business with each other.

DL: You launched your site eight years ago. It’s almost as if bSmartGuide.com was ahead of its time.

MH: It definitely was. People didn’t understand the concept of a community blog with a variety of writers, let alone know that bSmartGuide.com was a blog itself. At the time Huffington Post was the only recognizable ‘blog of blogs’ and Facebook was the only online platform people felt comfortable creating a personal profile attached to their name.

DL: Networking seems to be the fulcrum of your platform, and your journey in total. How important is networking to you?

MH: Democratized networking with easy access will be the key to increasing the number of women leaders and decision makers globally. Unfortunately, women are socialized to view networking as ‘asking for something’ or ‘being a bother to someone.’ Instead, the successful men I worked for viewed networking as looking at your circle or the people around you and asking yourself, ‘How can I be helpful to them, and how can they be helpful to me?’ That is the foundation of utilizing your network. If your circle is only comprised of people who don’t want to be helpful to you,, then you should build a new community around yourself and your goals. A woman I recently interviewed shared that you can host a meetup group, create a student group, or move to a different city, to give a few examples for creating your network. It’s very important to be proactive about your network. You can have a LinkedIn connection or a bSmart connection, but it’s only useful if those connections are utilized to help each other.

DL: What is your favorite part about being the Founder of bSmartGuide.com?

MH: I love seeing people recognize their potential, then take action towards that potential. It’s amazing to see that light go on in someone’s mind, realizing their capacity is far bigger than they thought it was. That’s the whole mission of bSmart, for us to help users realize and take steps towards their full potential in our online community and through our content.

DL: Have you got a kernel or two of advice for theatre majors?

MH: I cite my Wake Forest Theatre Major as one of the most influential factors of my success. I was able to capitalize on opportunities by applying the myriad skills I obtained in Theater. I learned how speak with a mantra while performing, how to understand and enact the concept of status, to identify my objective and try different tactics to achieve it, leverage a high emotional intelligence, and developed the ability to make choices with my body and my voice based on the professional role I enacted. All of these things were the cornerstone to crafting the person I wanted to be as a professional.

When I entered the world of New York finance there were very few women leaders, so I borrowed the mindset, characteristics, and behaviors of the men that were successful. Through my ability to play with status in real life situation, identifying my objective whilst trying different tactics within the office environment, I was able to navigate the waters quickly and create the reputation I wanted. I essentially cast myself in the role. Now corporations bring me in to train their associates and managers on the same strategy. I call it “Acting for Success.”

As a theatre major, you have every opportunity and option available to create the life you want. You will always have to learn on the job - even if it’s accounting or finance like me - so don’t limit your vision!

At the conclusion of our interview, Meagan imparted a special message to all female students and alumnae, inviting YOU to join the bSmart movement:

bSmart women utilize our platform for mentorship and networking and have told me they view it as ‘LinkedIn for women.’ We’re flattered by that comparison and to make mentorship and networking even more accessible, we’ve just launched our app for Apple and Android. We’d love for the women of Wake Forest to join us as members or apply to be Campus Ambassadors. If you do join, be sure to say hello and connect with me on bSmart here and join my mentorship group here.

Spotlight Interview: Bradley Singleton

Bradley Singleton: Associate Producer, Early Today and MSNBC News

New York City

WFU Class of 2017

Major: Communication and Media Studies

Minor: Journalism

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When Bradley Singleton received an offer at NBC, he packed his bags and moved to New York within that month! We interviewed Bradley about this transition and working at NBC.

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

Bradley Singleton: At Wake, I studied Communication with a concentration in Media Studies and a minor in Journalism. After I graduated in 2017, I stayed in Winston Salem for the summer and worked at the Intercultural Center doing communication and social media work. My next position was at the Wake Forest Office of Diversity and Inclusion as a communication specialist, where I worked the following fall. This was a very creative position, and I focused on social media campaigns, communication strategies, and worked overall to broaden the office’s outreach. I was applying for jobs while working at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and around the end of October I landed two interviews at NBC. I received an offer shortly after these interviews, and within a month I had packed my bags, moved to New York, and begun a job as a production assistant at the Early Today Show at MSNBC!

DL: Can you talk a little about working for the Early Today Show?

BS: I was recruited as a part of the YOH Program at NBC. NBC likes to give new employees who are recent college graduates the chance to explore the company and the news industry by rotating shows and positions until we find our niche. Through this program I happened to be assigned to the Early Today Show on a very small team, which I enjoy because I get a very hands-on experience. For my first three months at the Early Today Show I was a Graphics PA, where I worked as a liaison between the producers and the artists who make the visuals for the show. I knew, however, that I wanted to eventually transition into a writing role, and so I tried to perfect my writing skills by working on scripts on the side. I studied the show to see what I could contribute to make a positive impact and noticed that there was a lack of sports/entertainment. I sent my sample scripts to my producer, and eventually was assigned some small stories! I worked non-stop and those story assignments started multiplying and becoming more serious. Now I work as a sports writer for the show and write breaking news stories.

DL: What is your favorite part about working at the Early Today Show?

BS: At the Early Today Show I am able to give voices to people who wouldn’t necessarily get the attention that they deserve, which is really powerful and rewarding. I also really enjoy writing about sports as well! I feel that I bring a certain trendy vernacular that the show has begun to use and embrace.

DL: How did your studies and general experience at Wake Forest drive your career path and affect your current position?

BS: The most important thing that I learned at Wake was the ability to write – for sure. The Journalism department in particular taught me the fundamentals and drove home the importance of writing. I also learned how to work with hard deadlines and how to juggle multiple projects at once. There are days in my current position where I have to write 6-7 stories in three hours, and I feel calm and confident doing so because of my time at Wake. On top that, I think that Wake gives you a certain confidence and swag that is unmatched. You know that you can handle whatever is coming at you, and you know that you can outwork the next person. The naturally competitive environment and mindset that you develop at Wake sticks with you and encourages you to always do something extra to set yourself apart.

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

BS: Sometimes I felt that there was a certain passiveness to the Communication department. The classes within the department taught rhetoric, science and theory, but I was craving more out of the department. I wanted to learn some more practical skills, like how to work a camera. I ended up having to teach myself a lot of the fine skills and the language of the industry when I was on the job. I would love to see the department grow and serve students who want to do something outside of the norm, but don’t have the same opportunities as their peers.

DL: Can you talk to me about your experiences finding and applying to the various positions you have held?

BS: I held quite a few internships – paid and unpaid – during my time at Wake Forest. I’m from South Carolina, so my first position was at a local station in Columbia, South Carolina. My experience there helped me get a paid position at a local station the next summer, where I got a more hands-on experience and was able to practice my craft. On campus I worked at Wake Radio and Wake TV and was able to then get an internship at a radio station in my hometown the following summer. Networking was really essential in getting my position at NBC. The Director of Talent Recruitment was from my hometown, and I was able to meet him through the girlfriend of a family friend! I built a relationship with him during my early years at Wake and worked hard to continue networking and maintaining that relationship throughout college. When I graduated, he put my resume into a smaller, company pool and definitely played a role in getting my application seen.

DL: What is your favorite part about living in New York?

BS: Living in New York City is like being on a vacation every day! It is such a dope place to live and work. You can travel two train stops away and emerge into a whole new world. There are so many types of people and so many places to explore…. it’s an adventure every time you step outside your door. And in terms of the arts, there are so many opportunities here all condensed into one small area!

DL: What is next for you in your career?

BS: I see myself staying at NBC for a while and exploring some of the other shows. I want to try to do something on air at some point, and I can see myself maybe becoming a producer down the line. I can also see myself moving into the digital sphere, which is an area that is always changing and growing.

DL: What is one piece of advice that you wish you had been told as a student interested in pursuing a career in media?

BS: Learn how to write!! Know the fundamentals of writing and always work to perfect that skill. Also, be independent. Learn how to do stuff on your own and be proactive. Always look to make someone else’s job easier – it will pay off in the long run. If you are a senior heading towards graduation, don’t get stressed out if you don’t have a job quite yet. Positions in media are always opening and closing, and you’ll get there! And lastly, don’t let anyone deter you from your dream career. A lot of times at Wake, I felt that other people were trying to influence and change my career path. Follow your passion, and don’t allow people to try and push you towards a more “traditional” job.

Spotlight Interview: Rebecca Gleichenhaus

REBECCA GLEICHENHAUS: Former Negotiator at OMD (Optimum Media Direction)

New York City

WFU Class of 2014

Major: Art History

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At the time of the interview, Rebecca Gleichenhaus was a negotiator for Optimum Media Direction (OMD).  Rebecca moved to New York City with no job and only a dream to make it in the City. Two weeks before she was going to move back home, OMD gave her a position. The rest was history. Now on her third year in NYC working for OMD, Rebecca talks to us about her journey and her connections that got her here. 

*Rebecca is now the Ad Operations Manager at Hyperallergic.

DeacLink: Tell us about your path since graduating from Wake.

Rebecca Gleichenhaus: I graduated and went straight into the START Fellowship for a year. After START I moved to the City and completed two internships in the arts. I was then connected to OMD through a friend from Wake; we were RA’s together on campus. I’ve been with OMD ever since! I’m so thankful for the Wake network because having City connections is how most people get jobs here.

 

DL: Very true. Did you arrive in New York with a job already secured?

RG: I didn’t have anything in place job-wise, actually, I just moved! Another Wake friend very kindly offered the spare room in her family’s apartment while I was starting out. I was given three months and luckily the OMD position came up just two weeks before I had to head home to Colorado. The timing of their offer couldn’t have been better.

 

DL: What was the interview process with OMD like? How important was it to have an inside connection like your WFU pal?

RG: OMD was actually the first place I interviewed upon arrival to New York. I didn’t hear back from them until my three months was nearly up. Like many agencies in this industry, OMD hires mostly based on inside reference. Having a friend pass my name along was crucial.

 

DL: What sort of skills from undergrad or work experience has translated to your role at OMD?

RG: Honestly not a lot. Here they train you from the ground up, so it's mostly learning as you go. I wasn’t really told about the industry prior to being in it. There are practical things I learned at START Gallery, such as sending a professional email and being meticulous with a process which carried over of course. But otherwise, I had to start from square one.

I’m also not on the creative side of advertising like a lot of people may think. There are two separate entities within agencies- the sales side and creative. You can’t hop from one to the other easily, either. Cracking into creative for instance would require me to start all over again, and to learn a new skill set.

 

DL: Did you feel prepared for the working world coming out of Wake?

RG: No, but not for the same reason as a lot of people. The START fellowship was such a great first job and my mentors such as Paul Bright and Leigh Ann were wonderful. I had a lot of responsibility and freedom working at START since I ran all aspects of the gallery. It was a pretty cushy setup because I got to work with professors and students I already knew and people trusted me to do my work well and be innovative. Going from that into huge corporations put me into an opposite situation. Being the lowest on the totem pole without a soul who knew me was difficult. It does, however, force you to step up and prove yourself.

 

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

RG: The education system is just so different from working in the real world. At school, you’re talking entirely in theory and you learn how to think critically but you're not really doing anything that practical.  I really liked that in a way but unless you’re a business student, the skills you pick up in undergrad won’t directly translate to life afterward. That said, I wouldn’t have changed my educational experience just because it’s different. I think there is a lot of value in the liberal arts education because it teaches you to think critically about the world and gave me time and space to explore new ideas.

 

DL: Are there any seminal learning points or experiences from Wake that have stuck with you?

RG: All of Jay Curley’s art history classes were stellar. The Management in the Arts course was also very impactful for me. It’s the only l art course that I took that discussed the art market and how business and art interact outside of an academic setting. It was very eye-opening and showed me what sort of avenues exist for those wanting to pursue careers affiliated with Art World. I did have a lot of private conversations with professors in the art department, where I got the real world advice I was after about what working in the arts post-undergrad was like.

 

DL: What sort of work experience did you garner while in undergrad? How did you find and apply to these roles?

RG: I did a local internship at SECCA during undergrad, which the WFU art department helped facilitate. I also did a summer with Denver Art Museum between junior and senior year. My mom’s friend knew someone in the curatorial program so I came in once a week to help with provenance research. During a semester abroad, I was linked to University College London’s gallery internship.

The two internships I did in New York after Wake were also thanks to Wake connections. I was with ArtSpace, a competitor to Artsy (both online marketplaces for contemporary art). I was put in touch for an interview by Marie who worked for Cristin Tierney. Even though I’d only met Marie once, she was kind enough to pass my name along. I can’t state enough how useful connections are in New York!

My other role was a sale internship at David Zwirner, which lasted just three weeks due to my job offer at OMD. A Wake friend who used to work at Zwirner referred me. Although this was by far the biggest and best gallery I’d been with, I knew I didn’t want to work in an environment like that. It’s a very particular person with a particular look working there. On top of that expectation, the competitive, pressured nature of daily work was rather intense. Everyone working there is very well connected and I felt that was never going to be my world. It was cool to see it for even a short time, though.

 

DL: Tell us about your role at OMD and what it’s like working at such a big advertising agency.

RG: Negotiators do all the media buying on behalf of our clients. I work for a specific client, go into a marketplace and buy all the media for them. It’s the sales side of the industry, so it can be very stressful at times. Clients are always calling for updates and adding new ideas to the pile, and it’s difficult to manage expectations. One major perk offsetting the stress is our access to lots of events and tons of free swag and merch. Everyone’s favorite time is ‘Up Front Week’- all the agencies have parties and host performances by big and emergent talent. You get to enjoy all the freebies and meet the performers, which is really cool.

OMD is a bigger agency as well so there’s lots of job security, which I like. If you lose a client at other agencies you can get fired. Here if that happens you usually get transferred to another team. It’s not the side of the industry I want to be on forever, but I am considering prepping to break into the creative side at some point. It’s possible my mind could change but in theory I’d like to switch over in the future.

 

DL: Could you talk more about how buying media works? It seems like it could get complicated.

RG: When you’re watching TV and see commercial, we’re negotiating the ad space that the video is airing in. For instance, if my client wants to air during a specific show say, ‘This Is Us’ on NBC, I’d have to call the network on their behalf and negotiate that ad space. We do national buying although there are local buying departments too. My company formerly only dealt with TV ad space but now we’ve expanded to the streaming realm and other online video platforms.

There is a set negotiation if you’ve been buying from someone for a while, with a certain inflation or a percentage of what you bought last year expected in the price. Both of my clients buy ‘up front’ which means buying ad space for a full year. When you buy ‘scatter’ it’s for a quarter and networks can charge more because their inventory is really tight. That’s where the negotiation really happens. I have to advise clients on the most effective use of their ad budget, which is always a difficult discussion.

Streaming wise, full episode players like Hulu are really good spaces to be in because it’s a solid network without much fluctuation and they have quality programming that is brand safe for advertisers. Places like YouTube are less predictable because the content or programming is user-generated ie the inventory isn’t as easily controlled. Clients can never be sure what type of content their ad will appear on or around.

 

DL: Any advice for readers wanting to work in your industry?

RG: If you get an interview with an agency, never tell them you don’t follow TV! You should be in the know of television shows and what’s going on, able to share on new developments you find exciting, and so forth. You also definitely need to reach out to someone who’s already working in this space. So many agencies only hire through reference so it’s extremely helpful to have a connection- even if it’s ‘soft’ or multiples degrees away. A name gets you in the door. For instance, there are already 4 WFU alums working at OMD.

 

DL: What other skills are essential to working at OMD?

RG: To be on the media buying side, the most important thing is to be able to build and maintain good relationships with people. Because it is more on the sales side of the industry, it is very social and it really helps to have strong relationships with the networks reps you work with! To be on the creative side you need digital video and editing skills. It’s mandatory to have a portfolio and expertise in the software they’re using.

 

DL: So name game and Adobe suite- check. Let’s play a scenario before we wrap up. Let’s say you don’t know a soul at any agency and you’re a student in your senior summer. What would you do to infiltrate the agency world?

RG: It’s funny you set this up because it’s similar to how I’ve operated before. There was this one creative agency I would love to work for, I would ask around when I met people in the advertising world and even joined a book club to branch out further in hopes of a connection to someone working there. It so happened that a book club acquaintance had a high school friend at the agency- I asked to be put in touch. Essentially, talk to everyone possible until you wiggle in and make it stick.

Another key piece of advice is to be in the city (or at least pretend you’re already in the city) if you want to get a job here. It really helps to list a New York address on your CV if you want to be in the city. There are so many qualified people applying to jobs from within the city; even if you have to fudge it like I did and use a friend’s address for a while, it’s worth doing. I have had friends use my address from outside since!

Spotlight Interview: Cambra Overend

CAMBRA OVEREND: STAGE MANAGER (ON AND OFF BROADWAY)

New York City

WFU Class of 2004

Major: Theatre and Religion

Minor: Gender Studies

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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.

SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW: Kelly FitzGerald

Kelly FitzGerald: Operations Coordinator, UCLA

Los Angeles

WFU Class of 2017

Major: Communication and Media Studies

Minor: Film Studies

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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

FANNÉZHA FORD: FOUNDER, DAILY DOSE DANCE

Los Angeles

WFU Class of 2012

Major: Communications 

Minor : Dance

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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

Atlanta

WFU Class of 2013

Major: Communication 

Minor: WGS

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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.

SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW: CAROLINE NELSON

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

 

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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.

*Update, October 2018: Andrew has taken up a position with Great American Insurance Group as Director. Congrats, Andrew!

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

 

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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.

*Update: As of 2018, Molly’s new title at Gaynor Minden is Business Operations Manager. Congrats, Molly!

 

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

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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

l axelson better image size.jpg

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.