Spotlight Interview: Natalie Michaels

Natalie Michaels, Performance Artist

New York City

WFU Class of 2015

Majors: Vocal Performance and Theater Arts

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Natalie Michaels catches us up since her graduation in 2015. The Performance artist describes her experiences at Wake, in the New York theater scene, and throughout everything in between.

DeacLink: Please walk me through your path after graduation.

Natalie Michaels: My second semester senior year I ended up doing the SATC conference, which I had done a couple of years before trying to find professional work for once I graduated, and I didn't. I had a couple auditions, a couple of callbacks, but I didn't really find anything. So what I ended up doing was applying to another program, and at that point I didn't see myself going to more school. I felt like I had graduated with my double major and was done, but I ended up applying to a different program through the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut. It's called the National Theater Institute. They have a semester long program, and a lot of colleges offer it as kind of semester abroad during school. But what I ended up doing was the Fall after I graduated I attended for a semester as kind of a postgrad study. I got college credit through Connecticut College, but since I had already graduated I didn't really need it. It was just kind of more credit, but not really towards any degree specifically. I called it a fake grad school.

So I did for a semester, and graduated from that program in December of 2015. And then for awhile lived at home, I live in Connecticut, and I was auditioning a bunch and doing that New York grind. I was commuting from Connecticut into the city. I would go back and forth, go to auditions, and then I worked at a restaurant as a hostess.

And then one audition in April I sent a video submission to a resort in West Virginia to be a cabaret singer. At that point in time, and even still today, you kinda just submit for everything and hope it works out. This job was kind of one of those where I just submitted and like hoped to hear back from them. And I did. And they said we love your voice. We’d love to hire you for a cabaret, which they called Spring House Entertainers. So you do cabaret shows and you do waltzes in this big resort, The Greenbrier, in West Virginia. So that was the beginning of May. They said we'd love to hire you, we'd love to interview you, talk to you about the job. Can you come here in a week.

So within a week, I decided I'm picking up my life and I'm going to West Virginia. I was working there and that was a six days a week performer gig. You did cabaret shows all of the time and dances. I started in May of 2016 and then I finished my contract in January of 2017, so I was there for eight months, which is long for a performer contract. I really loved it. It was great to be able to settle somewhere for a little bit. And then after January I decided it's time. I'd saved a lot of money. I was going to move to New York. So I went from home to West Virginia, and then I moved to New York in March of 2017. So I lived here for about six months, again doing auditions. I did a few small festival and plays and things like that, cabaret performances in the city.

And then actually one of my friends who I'd worked with in West Virginia said, “Hey, we need somebody last minute. A soprano dropped out of our group really quickly. Can you come and do Christmas season?” So I lived in the city for about six or seven months, and was working the grind and doing the auditions thing, and doing a few things here and there if I got them. And then I ended up back in West Virginia for two months from November of 2017 to January of 2018. It was nice to go back to because I had already know the job, and a lot of the people were still the same, and it was nice to leave the hectic city for a little bit, especially at Christmas time.

So I went back and then came back again. I had somebody sublet my room. I came back to my apartment in the city in January and then in February I auditioned for this show. It was your typical “Oh, I'm going to go audition for this thing, we'll see what happens.” But I actually booked it. I'm working off Broadway at St. Luke's Theater right now. So that show, it's called It Came from Beyond. We started rehearsals in the beginning of March, and we opened in April, and we're still running. So that’s where I am now.

The show that I'm doing right now only performs once a week. So I'm still working full time and performing. You have to find that balance of how much work, how much to not, how much to audition, how much to take classes, things like that. It’s hard. Given that I was born and raised here, it was the logical choice after school to just landing here and see what happens.


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

NM: When I came to Wake, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I knew exactly what I wanted to major in. I knew exactly the plan I wanted to take. Initially I was looking for a musical theater degree, like a BFA, which a lot of people in musical theater gravitate towards. And then when I accepted to Wake, I realized it's a BA program. I decided to major in theater and major in music so I could make up my own musical theater degree.

Wake fully prepared me to pursue a career in theater and acting and music and all of that. I took all of the classes that I knew I would need - acting classes and vocal lessons and things like that.  I really appreciated how much Wake not only trained me as a performer but also trained as a theater person. For the people who go to conservatories, that's all they do. With Wake, they train you how to be a performer, but they also want you to know every other aspect there is. You take design classes and history classes. I took DMP, scene design, stage makeup, and all of these things. So you learn exactly how a theater works. And I think that was the most valuable thing because I stepped out of my little performer bubble that I had put myself in and became a well rounded theater. Wake definitely helped me do that. So now when helping out with a festival or a recital, I don't only look at it from the performer's, point of view, but I look at it from the theatrical production standpoint. So I can say ”the lights here are weird,” or you know, “maybe you should try this staging differently.” And while I'm not the greatest director, at least I know how see something in a different way than just standing on stage and singing.

As far as Music at Wake, it was such a helpful training tool to get out of my head as far as solely musical theater. Like I said, I had a straight path. Nothing was gonna stop me. But the music degree is mostly classical music, which is great and I love it, but it made me open my head to something other than musical theater. So I studied a full classical repertoire all my four years and ended up doing a full honors voice recital, with all classical music. It opened me up to the world of Opera, which is definitely something I've done since and wish I could get more into because it is still theater. I also noticed how much my voice changed too from ages 18 to 21. It  developed in a way that I didn't think it could.

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

NM: I think they do a lot to prepare students for the outside world. That’s Wake’s nature, so the theater department just does that as well. The senior seminar was hugely helpful. I remember in that class and we'd have people come in and talk to us about different theater companies, different Grad schools, different cities.

I think they could help student find more performance jobs or tech jobs. I think it would be great if there were ways to incorporate musical theater into Wake’s curriculum. I think a lot of people in both music and theater like musicians. And I wish they would do more than one musical every other year, but that's just me.

DL: So what is your favorite part about working in the city?

NM: I’ve always been in love with the city. It's a catch 22. It causes a lot of stress, but it causes a lot of fun of not knowing what's next. You know what I mean? I've kind of lived the last few years not knowing where I'm going to be next, but knowing it'll be fun to find out. So I think that's my favorite part.

The theater scene in New York is no other. It's just fun to be a part of it, and fun to meet so many different performers. You can throw a rock in the city and find somebody who sings, or dances, or acts, or designs, or whatever. I think finding that community and meeting people who after the same goals, is great. It's hard because there's a lot of competition in the city, but it’s also important to set aside that competition and realize we're all after the same goal. It’s best to be a community that can come together to make a piece of theater, all go to this audition together, or all get drinks after a horrible audition. It’s nice to have such a large community that understands what you're going through.

DL: What’s your favorite part about acting?

NM: I used to say that my favorite part of acting was rehearsal process.  I loved just playing around. You have a script or you have an idea, and you just play around with what it could be. That was my favorite part of acting - just being able to see what works and see what does it and watch, watch something come together. And I think for me it's still kind of that.

But for now, I've been in the same show for a couple of months and playing the same part. I'm doing an understudy for one of the leads, so I get to kind of step into that role once or twice. But playing, the same part in the same show for a long time is actually kind of fun because you know exactly what you're doing, you know the process you have to go through. But once you've done it for a while, you can start mixing things up. You can start saying, “Oh I don't want my character to think about that right now. What if she thought about this instead and that drove the scene? So now, my favorite part of acting is just the play of it. The not knowing where you're going to land, but figuring it out. Being able to think about a character and think about what they would do and what they want, but also realizing, oh, that was a horrible choice, I'm going to try something else. It’s not just settling with one option.

DL: So what’s next for you?

NM: The show that I'm doing right now just was extended to the end of September, so I'll probably be there at least till after that. Other than that, I’ll be living in the city for a little bit longer. Probably more auditions, more day jobs. Just the grind until that right audition comes along. You never know what's next, but you hope it’s good.

DL: What advice do you have for theater students?

NM: Fight your hardest for what you want. People at Wake would say “You can’t do that double major,” and would tell me I’m crazy for taking 21 hours every semester. If you know that you have a passion in the arts, go after it. Don’t let anybody say that will be too hard or that it’s impossible. Do it because you want to, and in the end, something good will come out of it.  

Spotlight Interview: Nicole Hillman

Nicole Hillman: Entrepreneur & Events Manager, Minneapolis Institute of Art

Minneapolis, MN

WFU Class of 2013

Major: Communications

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Nicole HIllman catches us up since her graduation in 2013. The entrepreneur and events manager enlightens us on both fields she covers, life in Minneapolis, and much more!

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

Nicole Hillman: I knew from the moment I was done with school that I either wanted to take the entrepreneurial route or get into events. I reached out to a few event planners, and I met with managers of venues and followed people around. There are a lot of planners in this world, but that doesn't make you a good one. To start out, I worked for a party rental company (think linens and chairs). My goal was to do all of the installs. I was going to every venue in the city and seeing corporate events and weddings. I got to see all of the different types of layouts and meet all of the venue managers in the city. Then at the rental company, I started to work with planners- there I met Sara Trotter, who is the best in the state. I asked if she needed an assistant, and thankfully there was an opening so I was able to work for her. I made it my goal to be the best of the best. I quickly got bumped to lead coordinator, and five years later I partnered with her. So I do that, and she transformed my role, and eventually told me to start my own wedding planning company.

I started my own company, Nikki Hill Weddings and Events. That led me now to open an even larger marketing, branding, and production company called We are Active. We do everything from weddings and events to production stuff. We handle a lot of different restaurants and small companies’ Instagrams, making their videos and taking their photos. I started working with one of the biggest venues in Minnesota called Aria, which has been one of the top fifteen venues in the US the last five years. The Director of Aria actually brought me along with her when she took a job at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA). I was brought into a role here to introduce larger scale events to the museum. Previously, they didn't do corporate events and did not allow weddings. It’s been my job to take it past the Director, Kaywin Feldman’s, donor tours and luncheons. I've trained in a team to do weddings, which are unbelievably beautiful, and I am helping them throw bigger and better galas, which helps them raise more money. It’s been great to have them trust me with that responsibility. It’s been a wild and crazy but fun ride.

About three years ago before I started, I had never been to the museum. Most people don’t know it is one of the top eight most visited museums in the US. It's incredibly beautiful. We have a new exhibit opening next week that is supposed to bring in a quarter million people. As a whole, we want to make the community and city more aware of the incredible building we have.

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

NH: Honestly the biggest part of what really shaped me at Wake was the career classes that I took. My professor did an incredible job teaching me to check my personality and be a better salesman in interviews. They had intensive interviewing courses, you were required to reach out to alumni in the network to do informational interviews. I had chosen more New York corporate people to chat with, and it helped me think about what I wanted to be doing.

DL: What brought you to Minneapolis?

NH: I actually am from Minneapolis, and I never thought I would return after Wake. I always dreamed of living in New York, but my family is here. Once I got into the wedding industry here, I realized I could hone into a different type of clientele. I have also fallen in love with the museum, and there’s so much to be done here and don't see myself leaving anytime soon. Just recently, we met with the Metropolitan Museum, and we are working with them to get a sense of their best practices for events, how they do their beverages programs, things like that. It’s so cool that we can turn to them as a partner!

DL: What advice do you have for students looking to work in events?

NH: Coming from Wake, the education you get there, it’s beyond anything else, and you are prepared to take on whatever. Students coming out of Wake should not be afraid to take a leap of faith. Starting your own event company is very different than a traditional business. You are talking to different people every day, no two events are the same, budgets and clients are completely different. My schedule is pretty packed. I have meetings with clients from 7am-9am, I am at the museum from 9am-5pm, and then 5pm-11pm I’m with clients again, then I’m sending emails until 1am, so it’s a lot. As long as you do well under stress, you can do anything. No matter how much you plan, events will always change, someone will change their mind, and something won’t go right. You just have to be flexible.

DL: What tips and suggestions do you have for the student audience on networking, interviewing and applying for jobs?

NH: Don't be afraid to network and reach out to a lot of people. Each person in the event world has different ways to do things, different styles or visions. So be patient in the process, and know where your focus is. You have to meet with a lot of people, work with a lot of partners to figure out where you fit in. I am one of the only event planners in Minnesota that brings a very traditional design sense into my weddings and events. Minneapolis is very up-and-coming, modern and hip, and I am more of a traditionalist in terms of my floral and decor. You meet a lot of people and they will see things and envision rooms and flowers very differently than you. That’s okay, you just need to find your own style. Don't give up and make sure you meet a lot of people. Unlike investment banking, where the only change is the client, you need to position yourself to have the right clientele, and long term that will make things much more enjoyable.

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

NH: I would have loved to have had more accredited courses on entrepreneurship. Starting a business is so different than going into the corporate world. There are lots of things I wish I could have learned about before just jumping in. I have done lots of studies on my own to figure out how to do this successfully, but it doesn't always go that way. Ninety percent of business fail, so it would have been helpful to have had have more experience prior to graduating.

More generally, it would have been great to have had more classes in the arts just so I could have more of a basis in terms of what we are doing here. The work we do is so cool and really has a community focus. Admission is free for the community, and we really do focus on giving back and getting them to know more about the art and dive into different cultures.

DL: What is your favorite part about working for MIA? Any perks or cool experiences from the job?

NH: It has been eye opening and inspirational to learn about the different arts we have at the museum. It has really opened up the creative side of me, even when it comes to events. I also have one of the most incredible bosses in the world. She is so inspirational and motivational. She is a shark at sales, and that’s her expertise, and then I am there to support her and make those visions come to life. It is really fun.

DL:RP Series: Melissa McGhie Proctor

Introducing the DL:RP Series

There’s some amazing alumni out there, and we don’t want you to miss a single story about their moves. DL:RP, the DeacLink Repost blog series brings you the top tales from around WFU’s vast and brilliant commmunity.

We’re leading off with Zsakual Arrington’s feature on Melissa McGhie Proctor (WFU’02) for WFU Business School’s ‘Newsroom’ page - enjoy!


From ball girl to CMO, Wake Forest alumna shares her career journey to the Atlanta Hawks

by Zsakual Arrington, posted 3/25/18

Authenticity, persistence, and perseverance. These were the guiding themes Atlanta Hawks CMO Melissa McGhie Proctor (’02) shared during a workshop she hosted at Wake Forest University School of Business on Tuesday, March 28. Proctor shared her career journey, beginning with her determination to become the first ball girl for the Miami Heat professional basketball team. Along the way she earned her communications degree from Wake Forest University and worked at Turner Broadcasting for more than a decade before becoming Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of the Atlanta Hawks and Phillips Arena.

“Everything happens for a reason,” she said. Growing up as an artist in high school in Miami, Proctor wasn’t very familiar with basketball but fell in love with the NBA after her cousin introduced her to the sport. The introduction launched a dream Proctor described as “wanting to become the first female coach in the NBA despite never having played basketball.”

In pursuit of this goal, Proctor wrote many letters to the Miami Heat seeking an opportunity to work with the team. “Eventually my persistence paid off,” Proctor said. When the Heat called her back, it was for an undefined position because, at the time, the team had only ball boys and wasn’t sure how to incorporate Proctor. Because of this, Proctor admits that she was slightly discouraged, but on her first day she learned so much and has been in love with basketball ever since. Ultimately, she became the Heat’s first ball girl, which the team renamed “team attendant.”

Proctor credits this opportunity to her ongoing persistence and finding ways to market her authentic self to the organization creatively. Her creativity stood out, and she served as an intern with the Miami Heat for six years up until she graduated from Wake Forest in 2002.

After graduation, Proctor began her professional career with Turner Broadcasting Systems in Atlanta, Georgia. Her first year in Atlanta, she also worked part-time as a ball girl with the Atlanta Hawks. During her time with Turner, Proctor served a variety of positions and built her brand along the way, earning many professional achievements and accolades.

A decade at Turner earned Proctor a solid reputation and invaluable connections and relationships, and there came a time when she was chosen to lead a health and wellness startup within the organization. When the company went in a different direction, Proctor and the entire business unit were laid off. She shared with the students in the audience that this time was a difficult period in her life, but Proctor persevered because she believes everything happens for a reason.

While unemployed, Proctor remained involved in the marketing industry and continued to network. During an event, she encountered a former colleague who had recently left Turner and for the Atlanta Hawks. One conversation led to another, and she was invited to consult with the Atlanta Hawks. Proctor consulted for a few months and was ultimately brought on as VP of Brand Strategy. Proctor said she relishes the irony of the situation because she knows she was in the right place at the right time.

To the students in attendance Proctor offered this advice:

  • Be your authentic self, find ways to market yourself, and stand out.

  • Be persistent, prove why you belong in the organization.

  • Persevere through tough times and stand tall. Everything happens for a reason.

“It was truly humbling to hear Ms. Proctor share the journey that led to her position as the Atlanta Hawks CMO,” said Elton Jonuzaj (MA ’18). “She is a perfect example of being authentically yourself and still proving to others the quality of your work. I believe this comes from her starting from the bottom which gave her the experience to understand what it means to be a great leader holistically.”

Mellisa McGhie Proctor WFU ‘02  Photo credit: https://medium.com/@msmelissammm

Mellisa McGhie Proctor WFU ‘02

Photo credit: https://medium.com/@msmelissammm

Spotlight Interview: Maggie Niehaus

Maggie Niehaus: MBA Candidate, Emory University

Atlanta

WFU Class of 2012

Major: English

Minor: Journalism

Maggie Niehaus left Wake Forest in 2012 and began a career with PR giant Edelman in her native city of Atlanta. Taking advantage of the onset of media’s digital era, Niehaus became a key player in the movement for the Atlanta practice. Currently pursuing an MBA from Emory University, Maggie caught us up on everything since graduation.

Maggie Niehaus left Wake Forest in 2012 and began a career with PR giant Edelman in her native city of Atlanta. Taking advantage of the onset of media’s digital era, Niehaus became a key player in the movement for the Atlanta practice. Currently pursuing an MBA from Emory University, Maggie caught us up on everything since graduation.

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

Maggie Niehaus: I was an English major and a Journalism minor. After I decided to be an English major, my Dad, who’s an investment banker and very logical, said “that’s a subject, but that’s not a job.” So Journalism was the job-version of my English major. As an English major, I knew I’d be well-read, but unless you want to be an academic or go into creative writing, that isn’t a job. I was taking literature courses and things that were a little bit fluffy, and it was very hard to translate that to a career, and that’s where Journalism came in. It was taking what I was reading and how I was learning to write, and turning them into practice skills. My original post-grad game plan was to work at a magazine. I wanted to do something with my degree, but more on the editorial side rather than something like investigative or hard journalism.

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

MN: Magazines, as great as they are and as good for the soul as they are, are not necessarily the industry that you want to be in right now. Print isn’t what it used to be. Quite frankly they weren’t hiring when I graduated, and not interested in making their staffs bigger. Instead, magazines were looking for content from freelance writers, and without a lot of people on the payroll. I also didn't really want to live in New York, which was limiting. That kind of got me into the PR world.

I remember sitting in a journalism class, and the professor was joking that PR was the field for journalists that don't want to do journalism. To real, hard-core journalists, PR has a negative connotation. That’s not the case for me, because I never tried it as a real journalist, and the skills really do translate.


After graduation, I ended up at Edelman. I had a PR internship in consumer branding, where I was pitching media and writing press releases. From there my career went rogue. I really built my career at Edelman by following the firm’s growth and seeing where the company was going. I saw the company was moving in a more digitally-focused direction, so I began to make my pivot. While Edelman is a PR company through and through, I wanted to be one of the first people to get their foot in the door into the newly-emerging digital practice. I thought that this could potentially help me accelerate my career, and that is exactly what happened.

I went from interning on the PR side to working full time in the digital practice. It wasn’t a direct translation of my skills, but my career was very much more about the people I knew and getting people in my corner. I was doing good work, whatever that may have been, so when I went up for jobs on other teams, those people could vouch for me. That’s how I built my career at Edelman. A big part of it was getting in earlier in the digital practice, which then evolved into me building out a paid media team in the Atlanta office. When I joined, a lot of what I was doing was digital advertising, which was globally run, and wasn’t specific to an office. We were a pod of resources any global office could use. That led to me having great experience off the bat working with our office in the Middle East and Europe, which I would have never worked with otherwise. However, later they decided to build out a media team in each of their offices, and because I was located in Atlanta, I helped to start that team here. I was that team’s first hire in Atlanta, and I was just a year into my job. I took it and ran with it. In early days of media team in Atlanta, there were 3-4 of us, and this past May when I left, there were 12-14 members. Our unit quadrupled because the company saw value in bringing digital into everything they did. This allowed us to scale the team to the size of the clients we had.

My first clients were so small you never heard of them, but by the time I left, it was companies like Olive Garden and SeaWorld. My path was less about any formal training, and consisted of me identifying opportunities and knowing that I can learn quickly.  My theory was that I could figure it out last time, so I could figure it out this time, too.

DL: What led you to pursue an MBA? And how did you pick Emory?

MN: What prompted the search is that I had worked at the agency for five years. I was in this place where I was on track to be a lifer at Edelman, which is fine, but if I was going to leave and go client-side, it should be now. I had lots of friends go get their MBAs, and I never thought it was for me until I was thinking about what kind of jobs I would want if I were to leave Edelman and go client-side. Getting an MBA started to make sense. I was thinking about pivoting from the skills I had in terms of PR, communications, advertising, and analytics. I have done bits and pieces here and there, but if I wanted to do real big brand marketing, it required me to get an MBA. Also, part of that was I had never taken a business class. I did English and Journalism, which are great, but I couldn't go run someone’s P&L statement without being taught how to. You can get your MBA at any time, but it can be a seamless way to jumpstart a career pivot. My MBA is a way for me to explore other options that I don't know existed, but also to build my playbook of things I can bring to the table. In terms of picking Emory... I started by taking the GMAT.  I wanted to see if I could even do this. Before I started looking at schools and doing applications, I wanted to get a sense of what schools were feasible. And then, I knew I wanted to be in a city. I didn’t want to go to a business school in a college town, because I am from Atlanta and have spent my adult life here, and I wasn’t looking to suddenly be back in a college town. I also wanted to be somewhere business school is only one aspect of my life. I wanted to be able to have stuff outside of school. So with that in mind, I only looked at business schools that I could get into in major cities. Truthfully there weren’t a ton which fit for me. A lot of schools in my range were in places I didn’t want to live, so I applied to NYU and Emory, and got into both. I was thinking about finances and the kind of places I would want to live post-MBA and places I would live during school, and from there I picked Emory.

DL: PR is such an interesting career path. What advice do you have for readers interested in breaking into the industry?

MN: Read the news. That sounds silly, but learn about the stuff that people are interested in reading and thus writing about. That will help you tailor your communication skills. To translate the soft skills I learned at Wake, reading the newspaper is the endgame for PR. What kinds of stories are companies and brands telling, and how are they telling them? Also follow companies on Instagram and see who’s doing something interesting. I listen to trade advertising podcasts, like Yeah, That’s Probably an Ad by AdWeek, which dissects the most interesting commercials. In the end, it is about the stories brands tell. I think an English major translates well to PR because it's about reading, writing and telling stories, just different kinds of stories.

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

MN: I think Wake could just help students realize that there are more careers out there than they seem to indicate. Business school is the same way. They talk about consulting and finance, but it doesn’t have to just be those two. At a place like Wake, lots of smart people go into consulting, finance, law, or medicine, but those are the paths the school talks about the most. There isn’t as much of a focus on the other things you could do. So maybe it’s finding people who have interesting stories and paths, and having those people share them. It’s making sure there is a broader representation of companies that come to school or panelists that speak on campus. I think it's a bit of vicious cycle; I didn’t engage closely with career services while at Wake which was on me… but there’s also no dedicated program keeping up with us after graduation so the connection can be hard to make after the fact.

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

MN: I think what I like the most is that Atlanta has the third-most Fortune 1000 companies in the country. It is a major hub and economic target, but you don't have to have the big city chaos that is New York. It is the best of both worlds. You can have big city feel or go to a suburb. I am from here, so I am really biased. I am a city person, and even Winston-Salem was too small for me… but if I am going to live in a big city, why not live in the big city I already am from? I felt like Atlanta has everything any other city could offer me, plus the bonus of being home. And the cost of living also really helps!

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


MN: Think outside the box. There are a lot of jobs that exist that you don't know about. Don't just follow your friends or family. Think about all of the possibilities out there, because something will be a perfect fit, so just be creative in your search process.

Spotlight Interview: Devon Gilbert

Devon Gilbert: Associate, David Zwirner

New York City

WFU Class of 2017

Double Major: Art History & Business and Enterprise Management with a Concentration in Arts Markets

Minor: Studio Art

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Devon Gilbert took part in WFU programs such as Management in the Arts and the SUAAC ‘Art Buying Trip’ before graduating in 2017. He also took advantage of internships at SECCA, Cristin Tierney Gallery and Christie’s during undergrad. The Winston-Salem native walked us through his path to NYC, including some great networking tips.

DeacLink: What did you study at Wake? Did your areas of study inform or drive your career path?

Devon Gilbert: I was an Art History and BEM double major with with a concentration in Art Markets and a minor in Studio Art. In my sophomore year, I took the Management in the Visual Arts, a class that was co-taught by faculty in the School of business and the Art Department. Part of the course was a study tour to New York and it was there that I met the director of Finance at David Zwirner, James Morrill, a Wake alum and a co-owner of a gallery in the Lower East Side. When I was looking for job senior year, Leigh Ann Hallberg helped me reconnect with James. The timing worked out perfectly as the finance team at Zwirner was expanding and they were looking for a new member at a junior level. They needed someone with some accounting and finance knowledge who was interested in the business side of art, so that ended up being a perfect fit for me.

One thing that was particularly important, in terms of learning about career paths in the art work and making connections, was networking. The Management in the Visual Arts class was more focused on the breadth of the art market, including all the facets of art industry in NY and I was able to learn about careers I’d never even been aware of. The art buying trip also allowed for good opportunities to connect and build rapport with people in the gallery industry that were not necessarily connected to Wake Forest.

DL: Those sound like amazing opportunities. So, how did you find and apply to the various positions you’ve held that led up to your position at David Zwirner? Do you have any tips or suggestions for Wake students on networking, interviewing and applying for jobs especially in the art world?

DG: The Summer before I came to Wake, I was an intern with the Registrar & Exhibitions Manager at SECCA. I grew up in Winston-Salem and had met the Registrar previously, so this connection helped, but this internship gave me my first taste of working in the arts.

The next Summer I interned at the Mint Museum in Charlotte with the Advancement department, working with clients and donors. And I had an internship at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art. Since I wanted to work my way up to an internship at the Smithsonian, the Met, or MoMA before graduation, I was looking for internships that would help prepare me. I worked 2 days a week at the Mint, dealing with affiliate groups, members programs, and working to analyze data about memberships. I was at Reynolda House the other 3 days a week, with the education department. There I was learning about the house and the art, as well as giving tours. I also completed a research project and presentation on work selected from collection and analyzing it in context of piece of literature and music from same year.

The summer between my sophomore and junior years, I interned with Cristin Tierney at her gallery in NY. I met Cristin during the Arts Management trip, but I was initially introduced to her through Allison Perkins, the Director of Reynolda House. When I was applying for that internship, she knew me and knew that I was interested in working in the arts, so my previous interactions with her definitely helped me.

My last internship was at Christie’s in the 20-21st Century Decorative Art and Design group and the sale and photographs department. When I applied, I didn’t really know any alumni at Christie’s, but Cristin did help me by making a few introductions with her contacts from her time at Christie’s.

In terms of tips for interviewing, I would say recommend that you always try to be authentic and let your genuine interest show. I think when we are preparing for an interview or deciding how to talk about ourselves, it’s easy for things to feel too rehearsed. As for networking, just go for it. In my experience, Wake alums are always interested in helping out students and fellow alums and I’ve always had great conversations with them. LinkedIn is really useful as well, for seeing what people are up to and for making that first connection.

DL: Thank you for walking us through all those amazing internships! While looking back on these internships, is there anything you think Wake could have done better to prepare students for life after graduation?

DG: The Business School requires an internship between Junior and Senior year which I think is a great thing. It would be great for the university to encourage that for everyone because it really does help you figure out what you want to do and it makes you more marketable for other internships or jobs down the road. There’s really no downside to having additional internships. Career services at Wake does the best they can with art/art history students and is still improving in this arena. Right now, art students have to make things happen for themselves which isn’t easy, but it is beneficial for the people who come out of it. But that’s part of the reason DeacLink exists, so arts alumni can help current students or recent grads.

DL: In New York, what is the most interesting thing going on in the art scene there at the moment, in your opinion?

DG: Working at Zwirner and being so plugged into the art world has given me access to an immense amount of art. New York really is the centerpiece of the global art world, so there are dozens of great shows happening at any given time. Especially if you like post-war and contemporary art, I think there really is no better place. There was a show at Pace a couple of months ago of Louise Nevelson sculptures. I am a huge fan of her work and Wake has one of her pieces in it’s collection. The Met Breuer had a phenomenal show of Edvard Munch paintings, which really displayed the breadth in his work. I also got to see Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi at Christie’s before the auction. Overall, I feel like I’ve been able to take advantage of all these amazing opportunities and I’ve gotten to see some really incredible works of art.

DL: Wow, that sounds incredible! Do you have a favorite part about working for Zwirner?

DG: There was a Richard Serra show opening earlier this year, and he (Serra) took the entire staff on a walk-through of the show. We got to talk about all the work including the sculptures and prints. Overall, it was such a rare opportunity where I was able to hear the artist talk about his work in person. I also really loved seeing the 25th anniversary show for Zwirner. I really got to see the history of the gallery and a lot of great work from all of our artists. It was amazing to see the arc of the gallery and our artists since its creation.

DL: What’s next for you?

DG: I was recently promoted to a new role within department, so I’m working on that transition. Right now I’m focused on my work at Zwirner.

DL: Do you have any advice you would like to give to the readers?

DG: Aside from internships and general networking, I would recommend getting to know your fellow students at Wake. I am still in contact with some of the Seniors from when I was a Freshman. I followed their example and they have helped me make a lot of connections. Other than that, just take advantage of all the opportunities you can at Wake!

Spotlight Interview: Lucy Zimmerman

Lucy Zimmerman: Assistant Curator

Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

WFU Class of 2009

Major: Art History

Minor: Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise

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Lucy Zimmerman is currently the Assistant Curator at the Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University. Read on to see how Lucy’s senior thesis jumpstarted her museum career.

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

Lucy Zimmerman: It was a bit of serendipity, in a way. I’m from Cleveland, graduating in 2009 it was pretty rough time to be out in the world looking for a job and had planned to move home. Jay Curley (my thesis advisor) knew Jon Seydl (then the Vignos Curator of European Paintings and Sculpture, 1500-1800 at the Cleveland Museum of Art). Some of my coursework overlapped with an exhibition Jon was organizing, so Jay suggested we meet.  I interned for Jon for the summer, then was hired as a curatorial research assistant. 

The exhibition I worked on with Jon was about Pompeii and the modern imagination, considering how Pompeii has served as a shifting mirror for contemporary ideas about decadence, apocalypse, and resurrection. I did research on all of the modern and contemporary works in the show (Warhol, Rothko, Allan McCollum, Tacita Dean, Lucy McKenzie, among others) for about a year—research trips to the Warhol and the Smithsonian Archives of American Art were some highlights. 

I went to the MA program in the Humanities at University of Chicago in the fall of 2010; which was a fast and rigorous yearlong program. After that year, I came back to the CMA and wrote entries for the exhibition catalogue, as well as authoring didactics. I gave gallery talks and tours, produced and cleared rights for reels of film clips, and worked on an audio guide. It was a great learning experience to see many facets of the show come together, and Jon was an incredible and empowering mentor. 

 After that I worked in the modern art department in Cleveland for about a year, and I worked on special exhibitions primarily and some acquisitions research. Both of my jobs at the CMA weren’t full-time to be totally transparent, so I was cobbling things together on the side. I worked as a private chef for a family for a little bit, and then a full-time job opened up at the Wexner Center for the Arts where I was hired as a Curatorial Assistant in the fall of 2014, and recently was promoted to Assistant Curator of Exhibitions. This was a natural next step for me, as it was more aligned with my goal of working with contemporary art and living artists.  

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

LZ: The two most formative experiences for me at Wake were both in my last year there: being selected to be part of the student union art acquisition committee and writing my honors thesis. It was such a unique experience to go to New York and interface with galleries, talk with contemporary artists, and purchase art that felt relevant to put in the collection to mark our time. Additionally, I wrote an honors thesis senior year, which was challenging, but it satisfied my passion for research. Both of those experiences opened many doors for me, and the honors thesis was a valuable experience in utilizing the student to teacher ratio and thinking with more nuance about my ideas through conversations with Professor Curley.

DL: How did you find and apply to the various positions you’ve held (online, inside reference, networking etc)? Please share tips and suggestions for the student audience on networking, interviewing and applying for jobs.

LZ: My experience was unique, I guess had the right coursework and proved myself with my research skills and by being resourceful. I would recommend looking at art as much as possible, going to talks, events, and visiting museums when you travel; this way you will be ready when opportunities present themselves to have an informed opinion about what you like and don’t like and why. Keep at it. Museums jobs are highly competitive, and there is a super qualified applicant pool; if this is the career path someone wants to take, it requires persistence. 

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

LZ: Part of me wants to say it’s not what Wake could have done better but what I could have done better; in terms of being more proactive and engaging in the art on and off campus. Wake can be a bubble, so students should be thinking about using local and regional resources to see art in North Carolina whether it’s at SECCA or Reynolda House, the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke, Ackland Art Museum at UNC, etc. 

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

LZ: I used to be apologetic about living in Ohio and not in New York, but Ohio is a quick jaunt to New York or Chicago; so, I don’t necessarily feel like I’m missing out on being in the center of art world. I like that Columbus has a slower pace, it allows me to have some headspace, though there is still a decent number of things happening. There’s a pretty active DIY culture, art collectives, and galleries run by artists that are bringing in young names. Being connected to the university is exciting because you have all these resources and the energy of the campus and students. 

DL: What is your favorite part about working for the Wexner Center for the Arts?

LZ: The Wex is a nimble institution by virtue of not having a permanent collection and has a reputation for being a laboratory for contemporary art. The artist residency program is amazing and has defined this place since the center opened, almost 30 years ago. This annual award supports the creation of new work and encourages artists to try something complicated or new. Everyone here jumps at the opportunity to nurture and support unique and challenging work and ideas, and it has been such a joy working with great artists.

I have been fortunate in the last year to work with an array of terrific artists: Anita Witek, Ruth Root, Stanya Kahn, Mickalene Thomas. Kahn is an artist I advocated for acquiring on the buying trip at Wake, so it was such an honor bring her to Columbus and speak with her on a stage about her most recent video. 

DL: What and where is next for you?

LZ: I am working through exhibition proposals now and some ideas for the future while continuing to work in collaboration with the senior curator and the curator-at-large on supporting and providing input on their shows.

DL: Do you have a kernel of advice you'd like to impart to the readers?

LZ: There’s a lot going on outside of NY/LA—it’s certainly more affordable when you’re starting out—so don’t be afraid to consider options between the coasts.

Other than that, I guess always be looking, reading, and thinking. The field of contemporary art is so vast that it can feel unknowable, so to get anywhere you have to be active. I read ArtForum, reviews in the NYT and LA Times, Texte zur Kunst, Mousse, and listen to Modern Art Notes podcasts.

Special Feature: Reflections

Reflections on 2018 by Caitlin Berry

Gallery Director, Washington DC

Hemphill Fine Arts

WFU Class of 2009

Next up in our special ‘Reflections’ series is gallery director Caitlin Berry. This heartfelt recap on 2018 is both inspiring and encouraging. Read on and enjoy!

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2018 has been quite a year. Personally and professionally, I’ve been busier and more fulfilled than ever. I kicked off the year by marrying my best friend and ended it with an inspiring trip to Miami for Art Basel and its satellite fairs. The market itself inflated to epic proportions with the auction of a seminal David Hockney painting that sold for a price approaching $100 million dollars while middle market galleries across the world closed at an astonishing rate. We’ve seen the work of women artists and artists of color come to the fore commercially and curatorially. It feels as though we have arrived at a watershed moment in the art world and I hope that we take a turn for the more supportive and inclusive. No one’s ever accused me of being a pessimist!

In October, I hosted the Wake Forest DC area alumni group, inclusive of Wake Washington’s crop of students from the Art History department, shepherded by Dr. Bernadine Barnes, at Hemphill Fine Arts. Exhibiting artist Renée Stout spoke to the group about her exhibition “When 6 is 9: Visions of a Parallel Universe” which takes viewers on a journey through her world of voodoo and hoodoo, laden with references to African and Caribbean spirituality, music, and the tumultuous political environment in which we find ourselves today.

At year’s end, I joined the board of Greater Reston Art Center, run by the indefatigable Lily Siegel. It is a jewel of an institution in Reston, VA. Their robust programming and cutting edge exhibitions are due in no small part to Lily’s vision and breadth of depth of art historical expertise. I’m excited to see what is on the horizon for this small but mighty organization.

Perhaps more than anything this year, I’ve been struck by the strength of the women in my life from artists to colleagues to friends to family members. Magnifying this sentiment has been my commitment to ArtTable, as co-chair of the Washington, DC Chapter, alongside design dynamo Ruth Abrahams. As a former New Yorker, I was a bit adrift when I landed in DC 5 years ago. Joining ArtTable instantly connected me to the broad network of women arts leaders here in DC and now I consider many of those women my close friends. Particularly now, it is absolutely essential that women bring each other up as they advance professionally and grant access to women from a diverse range of backgrounds. We have everything to gain from each other. The art world is notorious for vaulting men to positions of power at the top of institutions and galleries while women hold the majority of positions in supporting roles beneath them. ArtTable is working tirelessly to provide support and access to women leaders to change this dynamic. I hope to see what people are calling “the year of the woman” turn into the first of many.

-Caitlin

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Special Feature: Reflections

Reflections on 2018 by Laurel McLaughlin

PhD Candidate and Curator, Bryn Mawr College

WFU Class of 2013

Our ‘Reflections’ series continues with the brilliant Laurel McLaughlin sharing her thoughts on 2018, contributing an aptly titled feature called ‘2018 in Hindsight: Timescales of Relationality’. Enjoy!

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2018 in Hindsight: Timescales of Relationality

by Laurel McLaughlin

In this contemporary world so focused on the present, how do we look at our past—especially considering milestones and project-based work which seems to compartmentalize academic time—and the future, wherein goals attempt to overpower all else? As a PhD candidate at Bryn Mawr College, it’s something I’ve been considering after a mammoth year of doctoral exams, symposia, two major exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), two retrospectives at PAFA and Bryn Mawr College, and the development of a programming series. I’ll share two experiences from this past year, which have proven to challenge this conception of “production” between the past, present, and future.

This past fall, I had the pleasure of working on Tania El Khoury’s residency: ear-whispered, her exhibition: Camp Pause, and a related programming series at Bryn Mawr College. El Khoury’s practice relays the experiences of subjects caught in political upheaval. Her “live art” performances and installations tell the stories of refugees, migrants, and political activists in the Middle East, particularly in the regions of Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. Alongside Bryn Mawr College’s Curator for Art & Artifacts, Carrie Robbins, I developed a series of programs throughout the fall semester that activated the themes in El Khoury’s work, including migration, diaspora, memory, and trauma, with scholars, curators, and artists from interdisciplinary fields, such as anthropology, archaeology, art history, performance, poetry, political science, and urban studies. The extension of the programming throughout the Fall semester enabled a meditative engagement with El Khoury’s practice that related to my Masters work at The Courtauld with Sarah Wilson, my current dissertation with Homay King at Bryn Mawr, and an upcoming presentation at the College Art Association with Carrie Robbins for a panel investigating migration in contemporary art. Drawing these past, present, and future endeavors together caused me to consider the types of knowledge that both moved and challenged me. Rather than acquiring or mastering such knowledge, the experiential seemed to function within a type of relational structure, as I learned with the subjects in the works, the artists, and the regions in which they practice.

Another experience which challenges me to consider the past within present terms, and vice-versa has come from my doctoral prelims. At Bryn Mawr College, we define four major fields of study, select advisors from each, and then embark upon a year-long study program until we sit for four written exams and then an oral exam. I studied Post-War Monuments and Trauma Studies with Christiane Hertel; 20th–21st-Century Performance Art and Studies with Homay King, my primary advisor; Global Contemporary and Post-Colonial Theory with James Merle Thomas; and Feminist Video and Installation Art with Kaja Silverman. The opportunity to research works and texts, develop bibliographies, and think alongside such dedicated and brilliant scholars, was fascinating and simultaneously humbling. I found that as I examined the canon in the beginning of the process, and reviewed my bibliographies in retrospect, the holes and even erasures within the canon and my own thinking as well emerged. But these lacunae somehow continue to fuel present and future goals, in this kind of ever-evolving exchange with the past. These reminiscent thoughts ultimately stem from a kind of internal resistance to seeing milestones or personal accomplishments as such—as “products” of an art world, or an emblem of “mastery” over a field—but instead as generative and continually-evolving encounters with others.

Special Feature: Reflections

Reflections on 2018 by Kovi Konowiecki

Artist, Los Angeles

WFU Class of 2014

DeacLink is pleased to present a new blog series titled ‘Reflections’. As 2018 comes to a close, a selection of DeacLink Panelists consider the year they’ve had and share those thoughts with you. Enjoy these recaps, absorb the lessons relayed, and get excited for a great 2019!

A shot from the project ‘ Borderlands’ by Kovi Konowiecki. Credit www.kovikonowiecki.com

A shot from the project ‘ Borderlands’ by Kovi Konowiecki. Credit www.kovikonowiecki.com

Hello everyone and thank you for taking the time to read my post. If my blog post helps in any way to open up your mind or perspective in life or in art, that would make me very happy. Below is some very simple advice, but something I remind myself of everyday amidst the daily struggles of being and artist.

For those of you that are artists or pursuing artistic endeavors, have you ever really asked yourself what you want to say with your work? This is not the same as thinking about your work, or what you want it to look like, or what you want your work to be about. What do you really want to say with your work? Whether you are taking photographs, painting, making sculptures, etc., it is really important to consider the essence of what it is you are doing. I can spend an entire month making pictures every day, and the hardest thing to do is constantly bring myself back to that simple question. What am I saying with these photographs? For me, this is the difference between someone who makes beautiful art and someone who is an artist.

A shot from the project ‘ Borderlands’ by Kovi Konowiecki. Credit www.kovikonowiecki.com

A shot from the project ‘ Borderlands’ by Kovi Konowiecki. Credit www.kovikonowiecki.com

Let me take a step back and say that acting on emotion, spontaneity, color and light is very important. Often times when I take photograph on the road, I am acting on some sort of inner compass that is not predictable, nor does it make much sense. But I am also working within a certain framework, and this is very important to me. Rather than creating something visually beautiful, I try to use photography to express my feelings with real depth. There is a very dense world out there with so many important stories to be told and voices to be heard. It does not matter if you're shooting with a digital camera or an analog camera, or using a paint brush versus a pencil. What matters is the message and the voice behind the work, and I challenge all of you to think about this idea. Really think about it.

A shot from the project ‘The Hawks Come up before the Sun’ by Kovi Konowiecki. Credit www.kovikonowiecki.com

A shot from the project ‘The Hawks Come up before the Sun’ by Kovi Konowiecki. Credit www.kovikonowiecki.com

Your message matters, you philosophy matters, and your work matters! Find your own path, find your own language, and find a way to share that with the world.

I hope you can take something positive away from this.

-Kovi

A shot from the project ‘Borderlands’ by Kovi Konowiecki. Credit www.kovikonowiecki.com

A shot from the project ‘Borderlands’ by Kovi Konowiecki. Credit www.kovikonowiecki.com

Keep up with Kovi’s career by following him on IG @kovi.konowiecki

Visit his website for the latest projects at www.kovikonowiecki.com

Spotlight Interview: Alfredo Rodriguez-Allen

Alfredo Rodriguez-Allen: Director

Freelance Filmmaker, Los Angeles CA

WFU Class of 2012

Major: Film, Cinema, Video Studies

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Alfredo Rodriguez-Allen came to Wake Forest to play for its legendary Men’s Soccer team. During undergrad he dove headfirst into another passion of his, film. Now a freelance director in Los Angeles, Alfredo walks us through his path since Wake including the realities of working in the entertainment world and invaluable lessons he’s pick up along his journey thus far.

DeacLink: How are things right now for you in the film industry?

Alfredo Rodriguez-Allen: They’re going very well! I’m on the grind of getting my own work off the ground as a director so it’s exciting. Fortunately, I’m a freelancer so I can take jobs when I need them and work on my personal projects the rest of the time. It’s a lifestyle that suits me because it allows me to go to the beat of my own drum.

DL: What’s your path been like from Winston-Salem to LA?

ARA: At the end of my junior year I knew I wanted to get into film, no question about it. Senior year I began reaching out to virtually anybody and everybody online. I used Craigslist and contacted every single posting for jobs that could guide me to directing movies or commercials in Los Angeles. Finally, a woman, Elda Bravo, replied to me after my relentless bugging, and confirmed that I could work as a PA (production assistant) for her once I graduated. I drove out to LA after graduating and was fortunate enough to crash in a spare room for a couple of months while I got my bearings in the city. My role as a PA for Elda included all sorts of odd tasks, but that’s par for the course in the entertainment racket. During this time I was constantly on the lookout for other side gigs, and was able to be a 2nd AD (assistant director) on a low budget movie, which then led me to a job as a script reader. From there, the person I read scripts for ended up hiring me as a full-time assistant at his talent management agency. I didn’t want to work on the business side, but it was massively helpful to work under him and learn the nuances of that branch of the entertainment industry. Luckily, now I’m making a living off of my own work as a freelancer, but that’s after six years of working for others whilst gaining my footing and stability in the city and in the business.

On my off time, I did a short film and a short documentary of my own. Even though I can’t stand watching the short film these days, it got into the Short Film Corner of the Cannes Film Festival. It was a pivotal moment for me and provided unbelievable exposure. I was surrounded by some of the masters I had idolized since gaining an interest in film, and although I was a part of this prestigious film festival, I realized I had a very long way to go. The experience woke me up to the realities of what it takes to be a great filmmaker and it motivated me to work even harder to pursue this crazy dream of mine! I hit the ground running after that point.

Off the back of the festival, I committed to watching 20 new movies a month, to be a true student of cinema. With streaming services these days, there’s no excuse to not watch movies all the time. I didn’t go to film school, so essentially I am working on a self-taught film education. Learning everything from theory to trade on my own has been essential to my progress toward my objective...and I still have a ways to go. If you ever think you know everything about movies, find an interview with Martin Scorsese and he’ll humble you.

Going back to the timeline; after completing those two projects, I needed to make some dough and wait for the right opportunity to continue my path towards directing. I took a job at a talent agency where I worked for Robert Arakelian, who represents “below the line” talent such as cinematographers, production designers, editors, etc. He was constantly sharing knowledge with me about his clients’ craft and the business behind it. The key to his success is that he cares about the work and that’s why he’s the best in the business. He was and is a true mentor. He added to my business education, which is crucial because you need to know how to sell yourself, your movies, and who to get to champion your work.

Robert then got me the opportunity to serve as understudy to director Fredrik Bond. As far as directing goes, the three primary categories are: film, TV, and commercials, and Fredrik is a living legend in the commercial world. I worked alongside him for three years, which was hands down the best education I could receive in this field. I traveled the world, collaborated with crews from five different continents, was connected to and worked with Oscar winners, and was learning at every turn about all aspects of filmmaking… the entire process from start to finish. I was essentially executing all of these facets myself and that was a massive learning opportunity. It was exhausting and definitely took a toll on me, but the experience set me up to go at it alone. Since April 2018, I’ve been making a living as a freelancer; directing and writing treatments as well as designing them. I’m writing my own narrative scripts and hopefully will be able to realize one of them in the near future.

DL: Congratulations on reaching this point! What is it like working freelance?

ARA: It’s fantastic. As I mentioned, I like working intensely on a job for a few days and then spending time on my own material when I’m not booked. At the moment, most of the jobs I’m getting are as a treatment writer and designer, which is a great way to keep my creative juices pumping. Getting to write and/or design for directors like Fredrik Bond, Martin De Thurah, Rupert Sanders, Harmony Korine and others is amazing. For someone like one of them to call me up and pick my brain by asking, “Hey - what do you know about Brutalist architecture in mid-60s Liverpool?” keeps me on my toes. I’m constantly teaching myself new information from all disciplines of subject matter. Through this I’m able to learn about the different creative processes. If any of these directors’ techniques speak to me, I take them and put them in my toolbox to mesh with my own. After all, as a director, I want and need to find a distinctive voice and style that I can call my own, and in this day and age, it will inevitably be influenced by those that I’ve been hired to work with. It’s great when I’m asked my opinion by these directors because I can confidently express my approach, and at times, I can also flat out disagree with their stance. The ultimate goal is to implement my unique style on my own projects with autonomy but that takes time, and I’m building toward this point little by little, slowly but surely.

DL: Let’s rewind to the Cannes experience. It’s a huge deal to get picked up by the world’s most prestigious film festival! Talk about the application process and the experience of attending.

ARA: To be clear, there are different levels of competition at Cannes. So saying I got into the festival and that’s it, would be misleading. My short film was featured in the student category (despite no longer being a student, technically!). But the application is as simple as uploading your work onto their site and they review it. If they dig what you made, you get invited… and I did. I’m not sure what the odds are but I do feel luck had a role in my selection. I’ve always been a lucky person.

DL: They do say luck is when chance meets opportunity! Either way, well done. So how does treatment writing work? This is your primary task for freelance, right?

ARA: Yes - treatment writing is hard work but it comes naturally to me… it’s so much fun! As a random and generic example, let’s say a massive company like Coca-Cola wants to make a Christmas commercial featuring snowmen. Every company has an ad agency which represents them and creates their campaigns, so Coca-Cola will call their agency describing the sort of campaign they have in mind. From there, the agency will write a deck presenting Coca-Cola with specifics; for example, the snowmen going around the world handing out the drink to everyone. Once Coca-Cola approves the concept, the agency takes their deck to three or four directors asking how they’d do it. If the director engages, they take a call to go over the agency’s deck in detail then turn to the person writing the treatment (that’s where I come in) to break down everything in their vision, from casting to cinematography and music, etc. It’s then my job to synthesize all these aspects into visuals and text, creating a treatment. This has to reflect the director’s voice and vision accurately and can either secure or lose the gig for the director. The treatment goes to the agency who select the most suitable version, and if selected, we proceed in executing the project. Fortunately, I have a good track record from writing treatments, and if you secure one job, another one usually comes from referral down the line. I personally love writing these little stories and doing the research for whatever the project requires - the fact that I get paid for it is super exciting as well!

These cats are some of the best in the business so being able to work for and learn from them is a privilege. It’s also a lot of fun because each director is so different. Fredrik has an eye for humor and fun storytelling that is second to none. Harmony’s approach focuses mainly on underbelly cultures and he has a masterful ability to make people who may be totally different feel relatable. Rupert approaches filmmaking more from the artistic side. He’s an art school grad whose medium is film. He’s an incredibly visual director, and his work is stunning. Martin’s work, meanwhile, is breathtaking, and his versatility and taste are impeccable. It also helps that they’re all really nice and cool dudes.

I love writing treatments because it allows me to continuously learn about each person’s creative process and letting it filter into mine, hoping that it develops into something original.

DL: What would you say impacted you most while studying at Wake? Did you feel prepared for the LA film industry upon graduation?

ARA: I picked up lots, purely from the variety of courses that a liberal arts education offers but also, I was fortunate to study under incredible professors such as Clay Hassler and Peter Brunette. Clay was the sort of teacher who encouraged us to just go out in the world, shoot, and then figure it out. In his course (‘Advanced Media Production’) he emphasized how there was no perfect piece of work, and you can’t be a perfectionist to the point that you hold off on doing something for fear of it not being 100 percent perfect. He didn’t care if 99% of your project was trash. He’d focus on the positive 1% and push you to keep improving. We learned basic shooting and editing skills in this class… not as much theoretical knowledge but the actual know-how and hands-on aspects of film. The theoretical aspects and all that jazz came from Peter Brunette’s classes. He was an absolute wizard when it came to theory. The films we watched in his classes blew my mind.

My process has remained similar to what Clay’s class taught - ‘throw lots at the wall and see what sticks’. I overwrite and over-research, because I believe it’s better to have more than less, and then I sift through the findings and pick out what is best and most relevant for the story, as opposed to finding the bare minimum and trying to make it work from there. People can always tell when your work is contrived.

At Wake, I engaged in a variety of disciplines. I jumped from subject to subject because so many different topics spoke to me, and I used to be insecure about the fact that I couldn’t simply focus my energy on a specific major like most other students. I’d go to the library and see peers with ten books on the same subject. Meanwhile, I had ten books on ten different subjects. Looking back now, I can see how my exploration of different fields only made me a more creative and well-rounded person. Like any other college student, I was immature, ignorant and still figuring life out, so I definitely benefited from my diverse course selection that allowed me to learn about so many topics. I can go back to my notes on Greek and Roman Comedy, or Spanish Poetry, to Economics, to Dance, to Urban Development, to Gender Studies etc., and find something that applies to a job that I may be hired for. What a younger me felt was foolish turned out to be exactly the way I should’ve been learning; gathering information about a lot of different topics that genuinely interested me. I loved that about my Wake education! Also, I have to give a shout out to the ZSR because the film library that they had and hopefully still have is phenomenal. My roommate, Sam Redmond, and I would check out movies all the time, and watching them helped me acquire a wealth of cinematic knowledge outside of class.

In another vein, my stint at Wake was also interesting because I was one of very few Latinos. Since I’ve graduated I’m sure the student body has further diversified, but during my time as an undergraduate, I was able to really embrace my individuality and identity as a Guatemalan and an American, taking pride in both.

As for being prepared for the film industry upon graduation, I’d have to say yes because I’m here now and things are fortunately going well.

DL: What resources would be useful for Wake to offer students aspiring to careers as a director? Did you feel prepared for pursuing this path upon graduation?

ARA: Wake isn’t a film school like NYU Tisch or USC. I knew I wanted to do film but I got recruited to play soccer at Wake which ultimately dictated my final choice of colleges. Although I came in with soccer as a priority, I realized during undergrad that it wasn’t going to be my future. Film took the prime spot from then on, and I dove headfirst into preparing myself before leaving Wake.

I took classes with Peter Brunette, who was a fantastic film critic. When it came to theory and knowledge of film he was unreal. Sadly, he passed away during my junior year, but learning from him was truly inspiring. Luckily, I took classes with Mary Dalton and she was another great teacher on the theoretical side. Above all though, I still think Clay’s teaching impacted me the most, even down to little stuff that helps you get your foot in the door like knowing what a gaffer does, or what to reach for when someone asks for the apple box on set. The hands-on and terminology aspects are crucial when starting out.

Anyway, I can’t fault the University for not having a better production course, because that’s not the kind of school you sign up for if you go to Wake. I learned a lot about film at Wake mainly from my determination to do so. And that’s a life lesson in itself; if you generally want to be successful, then you have to be the person who watched the movie for homework, and then watched three other films to understand that one movie better, and then watched the movie with the director’s commentary after that. Wake certainly does give you the tools, but what you do with those tools is more important than anything!

In the future I would of course love to see Wake bring in new resources like a physical production class, or even offer pop-up style workshops across the year where alumni working in film come back and teach little units. Those could be immensely beneficial and encouraging for students.

DL: How do you get your freelance gigs? Word or mouth, cold calls, applying straight online, other means?

ARA: My first jobs in LA were all Craigslist jobs. I was a real pain. I’d bug people until they gave me the job because I really wanted to work! You have to be persistent at the start and throughout, reaching out to anyone and everyone, and doing a great job when given the opportunity. Eventually it’s morphed to where most of my work comes from the word of mouth circuit. If I do a good job for somebody and was enjoyable to work with, that speaks volumes and can secure further business off referrals. Also, if people straight up just like your work, they’ll call you.

DL: What mantra do you go by, or a kernel of advice you want to impart with the readers?

ARA: Be aware that there’s always someone out there who is more talented and harder working than you. That should motivate you to work incredibly hard and sharpen the tools in your specific craft. If you want to direct, study the directors that speak to you and then study who influenced them...and then study who influenced them. If you want to be a cinematographer, don’t just watch Roger Deakins and Emmanuel Lubezki’s work, go back and learn about Nestor Almendros and Sven Nykvist, as well as Robbie Muller and their predecessors… You have to be a nerd!!

Also, be patient. Patience is an absolute virtue in this field because it’s all about the small victories. It really does take time unless you’re as naturally talented as Paul Thomas Anderson or Lynne Ramsay, and we can’t all be them. Let the small accomplishments sustain you on the path of progress. If you maintain your work ethic and stay patient, you will continue to improve. That being said, never get complacent. I could make a good living for the rest of my life from writing and designing, but my goal is to direct and I will not stop until I reach it. Don’t follow the money, follow the dream. Just be truthful to the way you intuit and head where your stock is high.

Having played soccer my entire life and for the Wake Men’s Soccer team, I often see analogies from the traits, lessons, and virtues I picked up in my sporting career and try to apply them to my filmmaking path. For instance, I’ve met a lot of cats who are way more talented than I am but they eventually quit for some reason or another. Do they love it less than I do? I think so. Then again, love and passion can’t be quantified… but it’s possible that they didn’t have the determination to succeed. You see it in sports all the time: There’s always a wunderkind with all the potential in the world who ultimately develops to nothing, and then the guy who wins the World Cup who was an average talent but worked hard day in and day out, harder than anyone else to become a champion. You have to commit to learning and working as hard as you possibly can to make progress. And you need to create your own luck, even though I admit I’m pretty lucky, I do believe that the better you are, the luckier you get. That being said, I’m well aware that there is no guarantee of success.

Another big thing... Do NOT have an ego. The best way to learn is by listening and allowing yourself to be humbled. At one point I thought I knew everything about everything, and it was detrimental for my development as a director and, more importantly, as a person. I’ve realized that, as the Red Hot Chili Peppers so eloquently put it, “the more I see, the less I know.” The more I learn about specific topics, the more I realize that I know nothing about them… but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to educate myself further. Being humble enough to know that you have much to learn is the only way to truly improve, but that’s a decision you make daily and it requires hard work. On the flip side, I’m fascinated by (and have suffered from) imposter syndrome. It’s the fear of not belonging where you are, even if you’re seeing success in that realm. Even Paul McCartney admitted in a recent interview, that as recently as five years ago he was waiting for someone to just tap his shoulder and say, ‘We’ve got you figured out - you’re a fake and a phony. You don’t belong!’ Don’t let imposter syndrome keep you from pursuing your dream with fervor. You have just as much right to try as anybody. Those who talk down to you are projecting the insecurities they have themselves. I should know because I used to do it… But I’ve learned and will keep on learning.

Last thing about film… If you commit to this life make sure you love it! If you don’t, know that someone else out there loves it more than you do and their odds of succeeding are far higher than yours. That’s guaranteed. Also, don’t join the entertainment business for the glamor. Doing it for the wrong reasons, such as a desire to be famous, is a recipe for disappointment. You may have watched TV shows or movies that romanticize the business, but it’s a tough racket full of twisted people (like any other business). You may think that you’d love to be an actor or a writer or a director, but it’s possible that you’re more in love with the idea of being one of those rather than truly doing it. All of these disciplines require you to pull up your sleeves and get down to the nitty-gritty, often times with no reward. It’s a tough business, no matter what you want to do in it. But I love it.

Spotlight Interview: Katy Reis

Katy Reis: Co-Founder, Reis Leahy Art Advisors

Columbus, Ohio

WFU Class of 2004

Major: Spanish

Double Minor: Art History & Studio Art

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Katy Reis (pictured left) is the co-founder of Reis Leahy Art Advisors in Columbus, Ohio. Katy recently walked us through her path from Winston-Salem to the burgeoning Midwestern art scene.

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

Katy Reis: Once I graduated, I began with an unpaid academic-year internship at the Corcoran Gallery of Art working for the Curator of Prints and Drawings. I simultaneously worked full-time at the National Gallery of Art in the gift shop during that time. Once that internship was completed, I took on two part-time roles at the Corcoran, one in the traveling exhibitions department and the other as membership director for Washington Project for the Arts which at that time was still part of the Corcoran (they are now an independent arts non-profit organization). Eventually, I took my final role at the Corcoran as Exhibitions Officer working with the Exhibitions Director on every exhibition from Old Masters to Contemporary Art. After doing that for a couple of years, I decided to join my husband in Columbus. I took a job in the Exhibitions department at the Wexner Center for the Arts and remained in curatorial most of my time there. My last few years at the Wex, I moved over to the Development Office working as Senior Development Officer in Individual Giving. Before I knew it, we had two children and I took a few years off to be with them before founding Reis Leahy Art Advisors with my partner Lauren Yen Leahy.

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

KR: As much as I may have disregarded its importance as an incoming freshman, the core curriculum requirements unsurprisingly served their purpose. The subjects I postponed taking until I was a senior are now my favorite reading and research topics. Early in my college career, I enjoyed science, math and foreign languages. After realizing that I didn’t want to go to medical school, I chose to major in Spanish partially because the deadline was upon me and partially because I knew I wanted to go abroad and would complete most of the courses for the major while I was there. I enjoyed classes with my Spanish professors, but it wasn’t my passion. While I was studying abroad, I found myself perpetually in art museums and loving every minute of it. I had always taken studio art classes for my own personal enjoyment, but never thought I could make a career of them. It (finally!) occurred to me to take an art history class upon returning to Wake the following semester. That was the pivotal moment. I realized I loved studying art. I loved studio art critiques because I found myself thoughtfully analyzing the art of my peers and seeing the visual vocabulary from art history that informed their work. I was hooked. I didn’t know enough about the field to know what my next step would be, but I knew I wanted to do something related to art history.

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

KR: Dr. Barnes and David Faber were both instrumental in guiding me towards career opportunities that might be a good fit for me.

Ultimately, I took the internship with the Corcoran Gallery of Art and just kept jumping at every opportunity that came my way. I was fortunate enough to always work under supportive leadership who let me move into new roles as my interests grew and changed. It helped give me the experience I needed to do what I am doing today. Once you have your foot in the door, if you work hard, practice patience and work well with others, there are always colleagues who will help you get to where you want to go.

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

KR: Truthfully, after reading DeacLink, I wish that resource had been around when I was a student. Though I know career services did a phenomenal job for many of my classmates, I always left my meetings there feeling like the opportunities were all geared towards the business school and communications majors, working with recruiters from major companies and corporations.

Though they probably had options for students looking for careers in the arts, it was challenging to sift through everything else to find that. Deaclink seems like a great way for students to make their own future and network in a way that is necessary for a job in the arts. It gives information that someone like me was eager to find as a student. I didn’t know what art history majors did beyond being a professor. I knew museum curators and auction specialists existed, but I had no idea what a regular day was like for them. Having that information at your fingertips and then also having the opportunity to contact that person directly would have been enormously helpful in finding my current role in a little more efficient way.

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

KR: It’s such an open and supportive city.

DL: What is the most interesting thing going on in the art scene there at the moment, in your opinion?

KR: I may be biased as a former employee, but I continue to be amazed by the quality of arts programming at the Wexner Center. And, they are in good company, the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus College of Art and Design and Franklin Park Conservatory all have phenomenal programs too. They all bring in world-class artists who otherwise would not have reason to come here. I am fortunate to have quality art programming and still enjoy all the benefits of living in a smaller city.

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

KR: Flexibility and working with clients. No two collection objectives are the same which keeps research interesting and fun.

DL: What and where is next for you?

KR: At this point, this is it. I get to do what I love and work with wonderful people. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.

DL: Do you have a kernel of advice you’d like to impart to the readers?

KR: Be open to anything. You’ll surprise yourself. Be patient. I never thought I could or would start my own business when it first occurred to me 10 years ago to do so. But, when the time is right, you will know.

Spotlight Interview: Max Gordon

Max Gordon: Associate Graphic Designer, RapidRatings

New York City

WFU Class of 2018

Major: Studio Art

Minor: Chemistry

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Max Gordon came to Wake with sights set on a pre-med track. However, he encountered the Art Department and fell in love! Max works at RapidRatings in NYC as a graphic designer. We recently got the full scoop on Max’s path since Winston.

DeacLink: What did you study at Wake? How much did your studies at Wake inform or drive your career path?

Max Gordon: I majored in Studio Art with a minor in Chemistry when I was at Wake. My experience at Wake had a large impact on my current career path. When I was a freshman, I intended on being pre-med, but I knew I wanted to continue with art as well. After taking my first studio at Wake, I fell in love with the art program because it was small. The size of the department allowed me to develop relationships and receive detailed feedback from the professors. Although I never took a graphic design class at Wake, I began creating my own path by experimenting and teaching myself through Wake’s free Adobe program. I also took a graphic design class when I was abroad in Copenhagen with a DIS program. Taking drawing classes taught by Leigh Ann Hallberg also granted me creative freedom as she allowed me to go in a design-based direction.

DeacLink: So how did you end up becoming a graphic designer in the city?

Max Gordon: It started when I interned at RapidRatings the summer before my senior year. I was then offered the job the following January. I began doing some online work for them and made one in-person visit to NYC for an OPCD Wake Career Trek later that semester. Now I work at RapidRatings full time!

DeacLink: How did you find and apply to RapidRatings and other design internships? Did you receive any helpful tips along the way or have any advice for students applying to internships now?

Max Gordon: I was originally planning on going out to LA for a different internship that I found out about through a Wake alum, but I applied to others including RapidRatings just by searching on my own. In terms of advice I learned that your first choice isn’t going to work out most of the time and that’s fine. Whatever you end up getting will be helpful in some way for what you want to do; it will help you get there. It also helps, especially in the art world, to take initiative and put yourself out there in the first place because people aren’t always going to come to you.

DeacLink: In your experience, do you think there is anything that Wake could have done better to prepare students for life after graduation?

Max Gordon: Wake does a great job with a certain type of student, but in my opinion more could be done for art students in particular. For instance, it would be cool to see the Art Department and the OPCD team up to provide better templates for art students to work from when beginning to search for jobs. In the end, it’s best to trust yourself and what you think is best when you are working with Wake to prepare for your future.

DeacLink: What is your favorite part of living and working in NYC? Is there anything you find interesting going on in the art scene there right now?

Max Gordon: Living in the city gives you tons of opportunities to see public art, especially in the summer. There are installations all over the city; you can’t escape it! The pace here is very different from Winston-Salem. Sometimes the size of Winston was limiting, but you can still make an impact because it’s so small. In NYC it’s harder to make your impact, but the city definitely makes an impact on you.

DeacLink: Could you tell me more about working for RapidRatings? What is your favorite part?

Max Gordon: I really like that it is a small company. I have a unique position since I am the only graphic designer here, so I can make a big impact which is a great feeling. I work on designs for their public-facing content, so I have a lot of responsibility. I also manage the website, infographics, and videos. I can get involved in multiple projects which is cool. I am also getting involved with the UI/UX program for user experience and user interface.

DeacLink: What and where is next for you?

Max Gordon: I was applying to Parsons and NYU for grad school before graduation, but I was offered the job at RapidRatings and accepted before I found out if I got in to either school. Turns out, I got in to both, so I’m in the process of reapplying right now. I’m going for design and technology going into web development or UI/UX.

DeacLink: Is there any advice you have for the readers?

Max Gordon: A great piece of advice I received when I was looking for jobs was “Just land. Figure it out from there.”

Spotlight Interview: Leigh Anne White

Leigh Ann White: Inclusive Design + Cultural Projects Manager, Institute for Human Centered Design

Boston, Massachusetts

WFU Class of 2011

Major: Studio Art

Minor: Art History

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Leigh Anne White graduated from Wake with a Studio Art major and Art History minor. Her career path since has been guided by a strong desire to help others whilst keeping in the art & museums realm. Read on to learn about her story and wisdom acquired along the way.

DeacLink: Since you’ve graduated from Wake, you’ve gone to grad school and had quite the interesting career. How has your career unfolded? Can you walk me through your path from graduation day to your current job?

Leigh Anne White: There are several stops along the path so sit tight. What actually led me to grad school is another Wake alum came to speak during my senior year about her job as an exhibit designer. I had been trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I knew that I needed to do something visual and hands-on but when I went to career services, they told me I needed to apply to every art gallery in New York and that was the only way I was going to find a job in the arts. After that I started looking more into architecture or interior design tracks because I assumed those were my options for design. While at Wake, I had also done an art therapy internship, so I was looking into that as well. Then Jame Anderson came to Wake; at the time she was an exhibit designer for the National Gallery of Art in DC. She was describing her job and I decided that was the exact job I had been searching for because it combined my passion for art history, education, and design.

After the talk, Leigh Ann Hallberg set me up with Jame, and I met with her a couple of times when she was visiting Winston-Salem. She told me about the Corcoran College of Art + Design Masters program that her boss at the National Gallery had started with a few other exhibit designers in DC specifically to train students in not just exhibit design but curatorial studies, conservation practices, graphic design, and lighting design - all subjects a professional exhibit designer uses in their job. I applied to that, got accepted, and started grad school the fall after graduating from Wake. I thought I would end up in New York, and I instead found my way to DC. In the program, I was one of the only people coming straight from undergrad which was intimidating. The program was amazing and confirmed that this was the path for me. I loved every minute of it.

While in grad school, I had a few different internships; one was an internship at the National Museum of American History, which gave me a chance to be apart of an in-house museum design team. After that experience I decided I wanted to work in museums more than anything else. For those who are unfamiliar with exhibit design it is essentially visually interpreting a curator or organization’s message in an accessible and entertaining format for the general public. I loved being able to interpret someone’s written words or idea and turn it into a visual 3D environment but I felt like I wasn’t able to help others in the way I had hoped my career would allow.

As a result of me explaining this over lunch to my boss at the Smithsonian, she told me about their accessibility department and how I might be interested in the work they were doing. They were beginning to come up with new design guidelines for neurodiverse audiences, and wanted to understand how design influences visitors with brain-based conditions. At the time, anything relating to accessibility was shoved to the programming and education departments. Basically they were putting on a bandaid by tweaking the programming or services available because the environment didn’t work for someone rather than changing the design to be accessible. Museums should still have those specialized programs, but that shouldn’t be someone’s only option for visiting. In my last year of grad school, I moved over to that department as a fellow and helped research and write design guidelines for neurodiverse audiences. I watched visitors in the exhibits to see what worked, what didn't work, and figured out how we could change the environment to make it better for visitors with brain-based conditions. I was really hooked after that job and decided I wanted to focus on designing for accessibility.

I had assumed I would stay in DC after graduating from the Corcoran or move to another large city but instead I got an opportunity back in North Carolina that I couldn’t turn down. My friend from grad school had gone to Duke for undergrad and had interned at a local children's museum in college. After grad school she moved back to Durham to design their new museum. She called me a few months before I graduated and asked if I would be interested in moving to Durham to help her design the museum from the ground up. She said I could work on the accessibility of the exhibits which won me over. So on a whim I moved to Durham. It was supposed to be a six month project, but construction never works that way, so six months easily turned into over a full year. Molly and I were the two designers; we worked closely with the construction team, and the entire museum staff throughout the design and build. I also helped teach art classes two times a week at the temporary pop-up space and was able to use my art history knowledge to create programming for the kids. The program I developed was taking a famous artist and explaining his or her work to the kids, and then we would create our own project based on the artist’s work.

Once the museum opened, there wasn’t much else for us to do. I wasn’t ready to leave North Carolina, so I found the one exhibit design firm in the area (Design Dimension), and they luckily had an opening. I applied and got a job as the one structural exhibit designer at the firm. It wasn’t what I was expecting. Their focus was more on smaller exhibits and the industrial design side of things; it wasn’t as much about the educational aspects of the exhibits like I expected. I left there after a year, very confused about what to do next. I thought I wanted to be in a firm and that was the right path for me, but that experience proved otherwise. I liked being in the museum world, but it can be unstable long-term. You go from museum to museum based on projects, and as soon as one is done, there’s no certainly you can stay. So I spent eight months in North Carolina figuring out what I wanted to do. While I looked around, I was able to do freelance graphic design work which allowed me the time I needed to figure out my next step. I realized I missed the accessibility side of things and the ability to analyze environments and wanted to find a job where I could focus on those things. I narrowed my search down to jobs in San Francisco or Boston because those two felt like they were doing the most with accessibility and design. While I was looking, I met with my old boss (Beth Ziebarth) at the Smithsonian, and she gave me a list of people to connect with, most of whom were in Boston. As a result, I moved to Boston without a job determined to find one.

Everyone thought I was crazy and was telling me to just take a job and that what I wanted to do didn’t exist. The place I am working at now (Institute for Human Centered Design), was one of the places Beth had told me to reach out to. I had actually used IHCD a lot in my research in grad school, but it's not a place with regular job postings so I had assumed nothing would be available. I thought they would be able to help me find similar places to apply, so I went to meet with the Executive Director (Valerie Fletcher) last June for an informational interview. I was there for almost three hours and at the end Valerie said “I have heard everything about you, Beth filled me in and told me to not let you leave.”

I have been at IHCD since that meeting where I work mainly on cultural projects. We are a small nonprofit “dedicated to enhancing the experiences of people of all ages, abilities, and cultures through excellence in design”. When we aren’t as busy with our cultural projects, I am doing field research surveying for improved accessibility for parks and other public spaces. I never thought I would be assessing parks or police stations, but I am able to use my designer brain to figure out how to make those environments accessible, too.

DL: Do you have any networking tips for students?

LAW: I think I am terrible at networking. I don't like reaching out to people I don't know, but I do stay close to those that have made a difference in my education and career which I would advise everyone do. It isn't the awkward situation of going back to them after five years of not speaking and asking for something. These people do care about you and more often than not are happy to help. They are a friend and mentor and are invested in you as well. That is very much the case with Leigh Ann Hallberg and Paul Bright at Wake. I still try to stay in touch with Leigh Ann, Paul, and Peggy Smith (who retired the year I graduated). Jame Anderson was that person throughout grad school. Beth at the Smithsonian was very much that, too. It made it a far less awkward experience to go and say, this is what I am looking for and interested in, how can you help me? There are other people I could have reached out to but I would have felt like I was only using them for their connections. I have chosen to only lean on the people I have stayed in touch with.

DL: The design route is an interesting option for art alums considering Wake doesn’t have a formal design program. What advice do you have for readers interested in breaking into the field?

LAW: I think just keep doing your own design work on the side, which seems impossible when you are at Wake and working on other stuff. See how you can incorporate design projects into your studio projects. My collage and drawing classes gave me knowledge and skills I am constantly using in design. I feel like my time at Wake prepared me for design thinking too, especially with the Art History classes. Learning how to think creatively, problem solve, how to look at things aesthetically as well as technically - all of that helped me when I went to grad school for design. It continues to allow me to see things differently. I spent four years analyzing things I looked at in Art History, and today I spend my time looking at how things are designed and figuring out how different visitors experience a space or an artifact. Part of Art History is a subjective understanding of how to interpret a work of art. What I do is also very subjective - there are a million types of people with a million different tastes, thus not just one solution, so how do you come up with something that best suits everyone.

Interning also helps you figure out what you truly want to do. My art therapy internship made me realize I like to use art and creativity to help people. Each new opportunity I had helped me figure out exactly what I wanted, or didn’t want, to do.

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

LAW: I think they could have done a better job of introducing us to more people that have graduated and gone out there in different fields (in the arts) and made something of themselves. They are doing a better job of that now. If Jame hadn’t come to speak, I would have never known this was a career path. It would be great to have more resources that show art and art history doesn't just mean becoming a curator, professional artist, or professor and that there is so much more out there.

DL: What is your favorite part of living and working in Boston? What’s the art scene like there?

LAW: I feel like it is a very innovative city. When people think of Boston and innovation, they think tech and medical, but there is also a huge undercurrent of art innovation. A lot of that is combined with the tech, and as a nonprofit, what we do integrates tech, accessibility, and design. People are excited for new ideas and you can feel that. There’s a buzz going around where everyone wants to think of the latest and greatest idea, and they don't want ownership or fame, but are excited by the possibility of something useful being created. That is a huge contrast to DC where things are a little more linear and things are often influenced by politics.

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

LAW: I feel like I am in an office of people who think like me and feel like me, and we always joke we’ve found our tribe. It is an office full of designers and architects that are passionate about accessibility. It’s not the norm.

I also love being able to work with such varied clients. In the last year I worked with large museums in New York, Chicago, and DC. I’ve worked with aquariums, museums, theaters, and libraries. I love being able to be at the beginning of new museum projects that are trying to be inclusive from day one. I also love being able to go to a historic building that recognizes that their environment is not accessible to all visitors and want to change that. I really enjoy helping our clients design solutions that are both aesthetically pleasing and accessible.

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

LAW: Don't listen to people that say “you can't do it” or that “being an art or art history major won't get you anywhere.” Plenty of people have come before you and made incredible careers out of art degrees. We are an underappreciated group at Wake where everything is more business oriented. It can be hard at times to feel like you are being taken seriously but don't give up on it, you choose your majors and minors for a reason, and there will be something out there that requires the knowledge and skills you developed in the basement of Scales.

Spotlight Interview: Richard Bristow

Richard Bristow: Voice Actor & Teacher (Gordon Central High School)

Rome, Georgia

WFU MA Class of 1986

Theatre Program

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Richard Bristow walks us through his path since Wake’s MA Theatre program, including acting and networking experiences across the country and enlightening us on the art of voiceover work. He leaves us with a gleaming kernel of advice at the end- read on to find out!

DeacLink: What did you study while you were at Wake? What year did you finish your Masters?

Richard Bristow: I was in Wake’s graduate school. Theatre was my concentration. I went to Brenau for undergrad. And to IU for my MFA.

DL: Why did you choose Wake for your Masters?

RB: My mentor at Brenau was a Wake product. He highly recommended it. I went and interviewed and loved it. They gave me an assistantship, too, which was great.

DL: Please walk me through your path from graduate school to your current job.

RB: My path has been all over the place. Right after graduation I worked at an outdoor theater in North Carolina (Horn in the West), and then I went to the Denver Center Theater Company and worked the school year there. It’s a professional theater company that won the first Tony award for a rep company. Then I went to La Jolla Playhouse in California. I went back and forth between those two for a few years. Then my wife, who I met at La Jolla, was a student at Indiana University. I spent a spring break with her, and then I worked at IU for nine years. Then I went to Denver, then Shorter, Berry, and now I am teaching high school. I currently am in Rome, Georgia, and I teach in Calhoun.

DL: What is it like teaching high school?

RB: The kids’ energy is boundless. They are really open and they are eager to learn. Especially for someone who taught in college for nearly thirty years, these students are thriving, and as a result, I am thriving. I love it. We have been to the Shuler Awards. It is the Georgia High School musical theater awards. It is sponsored by Shuler Hensley. It is a really big to-do in high school. We have won three awards in the short two years that I have been at Gordon Central. We have done really well with our one act competitions as well. We have won the region competition for three years in a row - and state one of those! We will be competing in the state competition again this year. I’ll let you know! We are not technically an arts school, but we consider ourselves one.

I also do voiceovers on the side. I got into it when my children were in high school. The were in a place where they didn’t want anything to do with me, so I had free time. So I started pursuing voiceover, which I had always wanted to do. I have done national and regional commercials. I have been in video games and audio games (video games for the blind). I have been everything from grunts and screams in a video game to the end boss in a video game.

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

RB: The thing about theatre, in undergrad and graduate school, you learn a lot of different skills that are applicable in real life. The main one is deadlines. You can't push opening night. You learn to work as a team. Theater is a big collaboration and you can’t function without your team. You are also pushed to think outside the box. There are times where you don't have the budget of Disney, but you still have to do something and be creative in your problem solving skills.

DL: What sort of tips and suggestions do you have for the student audience on networking, interviewing and applying for jobs?

RB: Just don't burn your bridges. It is incredibly true that theatre is a very small world. The more I work in it, the more I realize everyone knows everyone. Even if you don't know someone, you know someone that does. If you make one person mad, you’ve burned a bridge and you won't find work. Don't be a diva. Be nice to people.

There’s a helpful tip I learned in a voiceover workshop. If you are networking somewhere and there is someone with power there, don’t give them your business card - take theirs. If you give them your card, you are one of fifteen to twenty people to do so in one night, and they will likely not remember you. Whereas if you take theirs and send a personal email the next day, then you are more apt to make an impression on them.

DL: Tell me more about some of these workshops you’ve taken.

RB: I am interested in all things theatre, including voiceover. Bob Bergen, who’s currently the voice of Porky the Pig, I’ve taken classes with him. I’ve done workshops in LA and Atlanta. I have taken a workshop with Katie Leigh who is the voice of Connie in Adventures in Odyssey. We’ve become friends. I have also delved into stage combat with the Society of American Fight Directors. I was an Actor Combatant for a while, but I let my membership lapse. That type of work is fun. I am a very physical person, so I love the stage combat, and my high school students love it, too. I am also a big fan of Michael Chekhov’s acting technique. The National Michael Chekhov Association is a wonderful caring place to learn about this amazing technique. Great people run both organizations and I’ve learned a great deal about acting from both!

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

RB: For actors, it would be great to teach them how to audition well. I think Wake did that somewhat, but I've learned a lot since then. Also, a very important lesson I learned at Wake is that the world doesn’t revolve around me. I came in with such an egocentric attitude, and I learned at Wake very quickly you can't bowl you way through life. You have to be able to work with people and collaborate. Not just “Here’s my idea.” but “Here’s my idea and what are yours?” and relish those other ideas and accept them.

For technicians or designers, the portfolio is most important. That’s a big thing now, but it wasn’t while I was there. It’s changed a lot since I was there. You have to have a really solid portfolio, and it has to be digital these days. You should have your own website. Actors should, too. You also need to have a social media presence as well.

DL: What is your favorite part about teaching high school students?

RB: They aren’t tainted yet. They are so open to learning new things. They are eager and that’s what I love about it - their eagerness. Undergrads and graduate students aren’t that way. The longer you are in school, the more tainted you become. They are so new, especially the 9th graders. They are so wide-eyed and eager to learn. I have one student now that is so talented and may be on Broadway. She is always asking what she can do to get better. I love that. I have a student that just graduated, and after every performance, she would come up and ask “Any notes?” and I absolutely loved that.

DL: What is next for you?

RB: I will do voiceover until I die. June Foray, who was the voice of Rocky from Rocky and Bullwinkle and Cindy Lou Who in the animated Grinch (among tons of others), did voiceovers until she died. As long as I can speak and record, I will do voiceovers. I have another eight-and-a-half years before I retire from teaching high school. I am looking forward to retirement, and I am under double digits now which is exciting.

DL: What kernel of advice would you like to impart to the readers?

RB: It goes back to what I said before. Be nice to everyone and don't burn your bridges. Don't talk badly about anyone to anyone. You don't know who that person is. The audition starts in the parking lot. That person you cut off for the prime parking spot . . . that was the casting director. The whole world would be better if we could be nicer to each other and stop talking badly about people. You don't know who knows that person, and you don't want to be “that person” and have a reputation of talking trash.

Readers can go http://bristowvo.com to listen to Richard’s demos and resumes.

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.