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.

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: 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: Caroline Perkins

Caroline Perkins: Collector Relations Associate, Artsy

New York City

WFU Class of 2016

Major: Art History

Minor: Math

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DL: What and where is next for you?

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

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

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

Spotlight Interview: Andrew Gristina

Andrew Gristina: VP, Navigators Management

New York City

WFU Class of 1990

Major: Art History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DL: How small is the art insurance world?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight Interview: Claire Altizer

Claire Altizer: Registrar & Exhibitions Manager, Dedalus Foundation

New York City

WFU Class of 2009

Major: Studio Art

Minor: Art History

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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


 

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

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


 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Spotlight Interview: Douglas Fordham

Douglas Fordham: Educator

Charlottesville, Virginia

Associate Professor, UVA Art Department

WFU Class of 1995

Double Major: Art History & Economics

Douglas Fordham arrived at Wake Forest without any prior exposure to the arts. In the four years that followed, Douglas would realize his interest in both art history and creating in the studio. Now a professor of Art History at the University of Virginia, Douglas explains how his path has unfolded since undergrad.

 

DeacLink: Tell us about your current role at University of Virginia.

Douglas Fordham: I’ve been teaching at UVA for the past twelve years. I am an associate professor in the art department, which contains the studio and art history programs. My main field is Eighteenth Century European Art with a specialization in British art. My primary job requirement is to teach four classes a year, both undergraduate and graduate courses, and advise undergraduate and graduate theses. I’m also finishing up a book on printmaking and the British Empire in the Eighteenth Century.

 

DL: That all sounds fantastic. Could you take us through your journey to professorship since leaving undergrad at Wake?

DF: I graduated in 1995 and had no idea what I was going to do. I knew I wasn’t done learning and taking courses, and my experience in London studying art history had been particularly significant. I stayed in Winston to work in Wake Admissions for a year, and during that time I researched and applied to programs. I was grateful to have Professor Harry Titus’s guidance during this process, because I pretty much went into it blind. Looking back I believe the unique combination of my double major at Wake (Art History and Economics) helped me stand out; my undergraduate thesis combined the two and was a bit offbeat compared to the majority of applicants. Yale ended up being an obvious choice for me, given the funding opportunity and their incredible center for British Art.

The first few years at Yale were really hard, honestly. Compared to my peers my art historical background wasn’t terribly strong. However, the interdisciplinary work and research training that I received at Wake prepared me extremely well. It’s probably true for many people; you have strengths and weaknesses, and find a way to work it out.

I completed my graduate degree with Yale after seven years, and although they had career services it was still very stressful and difficult finding that first job. I applied to numerous positions. Anything that was remotely relevant. After interviewing for a few different posts, I was thrilled to accept a two-year Postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia in New York. While I was at Columbia I interviewed with UVa and received an offer to teach there.

 

DL: How much did your studies or Wake in general inform or drive your career path?

DF: I went to London with an Art History course led by Professor Bob Knott as an undergrad student. I had taken a few other courses in Scales before this point, including sculpture, and my semester in London ultimately sold me on the field of Art History.

Equally influential were my friends at Wake, many of whom I met through Dr. Tom Phillips, the Director of Scholarships. We all came to Wake on various scholarships, and were it not for these opportunities I doubt that I would have gone the route that I did. It’s interesting how many of my friends from that period are still working in the arts, including Phil Archer, Seth Brodsky, and Jude Stewart. A number of us started a fine arts house on Polo Road which served as an extension to the creative activities we were engaging with already. We did poetry readings, created artwork, played music… Seth was a phenomenally gifted guitarist (and now a teaches Musicology at University of Chicago) and held informal music lectures for all of us. He married Jude who was involved in the English department and is now a successful freelance author.

That Polo Road space was very important for us; it was an encouraging place. I actually had zero engagement with the arts prior to Wake Forest. I was raised in Jacksonville, Florida and attended high school in the suburbs of Atlanta. Nothing about my background had exposed me to art; in fact I think I had only been to one art museum before coming to Wake!

 

DL: It’s great that you discovered your passion during undergrad. Do you feel that Wake could do more to prepare undergrads like you for your next steps when they graduate?

DF: I think that Wake’s art department has done an extremely good job hiring junior faculty. Adding new fields and continuing to bring in quality people who are really connected to their field is the number one thing they can do for the success of the students who want to go on. The Venice and London houses also made a big impression on me, and helped to prepare me for a career in the arts. It is also beneficial for graduates to see a track record of success in the arts; I don’t remember such a resource for that while I was there.

 

DL: You mentioned the difficulty of getting that first job out of Yale. What resources were there for you during this job search period?

DF: Yes, I was on the job market for two years. Yale did have some career service help, but they also had a pretty grandiose sense of themselves saying, ‘Just apply and you’ll be fine.’ They’ve now devised a much better support system, from what I understand. People with PhD’s in the arts and humanities are getting jobs in all sorts of fields now, and they’re helpings graduates find employers who look for those credentials.

I essentially searched for jobs through CAA (the College Art Association), which is the professional organization for studio art, art history, and museums in North America. Jobs are listed by academic specialization, which can be quite narrow, so you apply to whatever makes sense. The CAA has an office in NYC but hosts annual conferences, sponsors publishing and research grants, and other programs. It’s kind of like the American Medical Association… a lobby, promotional, and conference organizing group.

 

DL: Now that you’re happily stationed at UVA, how do you like living in Virginia? What is your favorite institution to visit for exhibitions?

DF: I have to say the VMFA (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts) in Richmond. I love that museum. They have an amazing permanent collection, host wonderful visiting exhibitions, and have a great team of curators. It’s such an underrated museum, and I don’t think it gets the credit it deserves. I take my classes there whenever I can schedule it.

 

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

DF: There are no guarantees in the arts. You do this job because you love the research, the writing, and mostly because you love the people involved in it. I feel incredibly lucky to be in this area where every day I’m dealing with students and faculty that simply love thinking and talking about art.

Spotlight Interview: Anna Raines King

Anna Raines King: Architect & Entrepreneur

Beaufort, North Carolina

WFU Class of 2010

Major: Art History

Minor: Studio Art

Anna Raines King is a fantastic example of pursuing one's passions whilst making a difference. The Co-Founder of the eco-conscious architecture firm 2Kings explains how her career has taken shape since leaving the Forest.

 

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

Anna Raines King: I graduated Cum Laude in 2010 with a major in Art History and a minor in Studio Art. At that time, I planned to complete an MFA in printmaking, so I began to apply to graduate schools; meanwhile, I worked part time as a studio assistant for Professor David Faber. However, during that year I decided on a different career path. Having worked throughout high school and college for an architecture firm, Owen Architecture, in Winston-Salem, I realized that architecture would be a good fit for my both my art history and studio art interests and abilities. I entered UNC Charlotte’s Masters in Architecture and graduated with Honors in 2014.  

During graduate school, I cast a pretty wide net. I sought out design studios taught by practicing architects. I took interdisciplinary classes in Urban Design, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and real estate development. My thesis focused on the occupation of public space and architecture; more specifically, how spatial occupation, manifested as demonstrations as acts of protest, and the appropriation of public space in contemporary protest culture, relate to and physically alter the architectural and urban environment(s).

 

DL: Would you mind telling me more about 2Kings?

AK: I met David King, who’s now my husband, in architecture school. He, too,  was working on an interdisciplinary thesis. Although by the time we graduated the economy had improved, the field of architecture was-- and still is--  experiencing a period of fluctuation. The field is navigating new relationships with technology, computing, and the licensure process. The large firms that were hiring in 2014  were not what we were looking for.  We chose to found our own design-build firm at the end of school as an intellectual exercise, and it quickly became our full time job. We have an unlimited general contractor's license as well as our real estate brokers license. Our passion is responsible coastal development - our clients are mainly high-end residential; however, we also partner with other professionals in both the public and private sectors on pocket parks, temporary installations, and redevelopment projects. Currently, we are in the midst of town approvals for our first low impact development in a neighboring town.

 

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

AK: This was an amazing time to be at Wake Forest! Students in the business world and the art world intermixed! The newly created Entrepreneurship minor was cross-listed with the Art Department, and that interdisciplinary approach facilitated, for example, the creation of the START gallery in Reynolda Village -- a student-run gallery where art classes could exhibit and sell their work. Professors like Jan Detter and Lynn Book were extremely dedicated to helping students develop their own “kit-of-parts” needed to navigate future careers in creative fields. The successful realization of an idea relies on a donor, a grant, a kick-starter or a residency program, etc and, the “kit” developed in those classes is what I relied on to navigate the practical realities of finding success in a creative field.

 

DL: Architecture and design seem to be  popular career paths for art alums despite the fact there are no real programs for this at Wake. How did you know this is what you wanted to do? What’s the hardest part about breaking into the field?

AK: To answer the first part of your question-- In addition to my work with Owen Architecture in Winston-Salem I took advantage of as many arts-related opportunities as possible at Wake Forest outside of the required curriculum. The summer of my sophomore year I interned at the Westminster Archive Center in London, England through a joint internship placement program with Wake Forest and Boston University. There I helped examine the physical condition of newly acquired documents and collections to develop basic working database for conservation and preservation. The next summer I was awarded a 10-week, $4500 stipend for a scholarly research collaboration through the Research Fellows Program with Professor Harry Titus in Paris, France.  Professor Titus helped guide my research in the advancements and problems of architectural vocabulary within revival-style church building in Second Empire Paris, as well as its significance within a broader context of modern art and architecture.  During the school year I worked for 3 to 4 Ounces, the student art and literary magazine, eventually becoming editor-in-chief. My senior year I chaired the Media Board, which oversees all seven of the student publications and media organizations. Taken as a whole, my experiences in each of these various paths during my time at Wake Forest allowed me to confidently choose a career path upon graduating.

To answer the second part of your question-- In architecture, one of the most difficult challenges to breaking into the field is that you need life experience. Architecture professors will say “Architecture is an old man’s game.” An accumulation of knowledge --building codes, materials, budget timelines, best practices and public/private partnerships- is necessary in the field.  And that takes a lot of time to learn.  For recent graduates, this can be frustrating. Additionally, architecture has been primarily a “man’s game” and so there is that aspect of being a female architect and outside the norm.  

 

DL: How do you like living in North Carolina? What advice do you have for students considering pursuing a career outside of a major arts hub?

AK: There are pluses and minuses. Because we live in a coastal area, with a small year round population, access to resources such as print labs and fabricators is challenging. On the positive side, we are influencing and changing the built environment in a way we couldn't in a larger city. Fortunately, we have the fastest internet in our town, and with cloud-based technology we can connect to a larger community via the internet.

David and I are passionate about climate change and sea level rise, and what it is going to mean to live on the coast in 10-100 years.  Few coastal communities have the architects and other resources like those available to the coasts of New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. On a personal level, it is important to us to know that we will be here in this community and will be able to help with the imminent climate effects.

 

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

AK: The existence of cross disciplinary experiences is good. However, the school needs to continue to provide a variety of experiences beyond the classroom.Taking advantage of off-campus opportunities in Winston-Salem and in Europe made a big difference for me. Having the ability to take risks, especially formative ones in a low risk environment, in college is so important. The arts world can be harsh. Having that confidence gained through experience and support through people that believe in you is something that you can draw on when times are tough.

 

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

AK: In the greater world, the arts field tends to be undervalued. This shows up in the idea that creatives should intern or work for free for years or charge less for the service they provide. This type of thinking undercuts the importance of the art field. So my best advice would be to value yourself and your abilities. Recognize that what you offer is as important as other fields. You can’t expect others to value you if you don’t value yourself.

 

Check out the 2Kings website here

Spotlight Interview: Mattos Paschal

Mattos Paschal: Former Graduate Student

New York City

NYU's IFA Masters Program

WFU Class of 2014

Major: Art History (Honors)

Mattos Paschal graduated with Honors in Art History from Wake in 2014. At the time of the interview, she was in the process of obtaining her Master's degree at NYU's Institute of Fine Arts. In her interview, Mattos explains the realities of grad school and gives insight to life after undergrad.

 

DeacLink: What have you been doing since graduation? 

Mattos Paschal: After graduation, I interned at Cristin Tierney’s gallery for the summer, and then I applied for different gallery roles in New York. That didn’t pan out, so I moved home and spent two years working as a Children’s Arts Educator at a museum in Greenville. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. Realistically, I wanted to use my brain a little more, and not be sanitizing these incredibly interesting artists for children. So, I decided to go back for and get my Masters. I have to say that the application process is a beast. Thankfully, I got into almost all of the programs that I applied to. I applied to Christie's and Sotheby's, which are auction house centered programs, and I applied to academic centered program. I went with latter since ultimate goal was more closely aligned with what I would study on the academic side. This fall, I began studying at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts (IFA).

Right now, I live on the Upper East Side close to the IFA’s campus. At the IFA, I have been dropped into their alumni network, which is international in scope. Through these connections, I have had internship interviews with two alumni at the Whitney, and I am also interviewing with alums at Met. The connection to the IFA has been very helpful. You can apply to something, interview the next day, and accept the next day. Within five days, I applied, interviewed and accepted role at Gagosian. The quick turnaround is made possible because of proximity. Also, it helps that there are so many opportunities in galleries, and my IFA/WFU education has helped me stand out. 

DL: What has your first semester been like? What has surprised you the most? 

MP: At the IFA, you only take 3 classes per semester, and they meet only per week. That was a big change from undergrad. I find myself studying a lot in my free time. I have to say, I am lucky coming from Wake. We have this capstone class where you focus on theory. At Wake, I did that in our foundational class. Some of my classmates have had trouble taking theory based classes they have only been in object based classes. Wake has definitely prepared me for grad school, and has given me a leg up. 

Also, in grad school, you have to work a little harder to find balance, and you know that you are purely in charge of if you sink or swim. Wake is small, tight knit community with safety nets. If you aren’t performing well, professors will talk to you. In grad school, classes are smaller, but those professors are writing their own books or preparing big lectures. And, they are also teaching undergrads, so they aren't as focused on your performance. You have to take the initiative to get help. Also, you have to be very open to criticism. People here can be blunt. 

Another thing that has been an adjustment is that you are mixed in classes with PhD students, so you have to quickly get up to speed with your peers. There are times you have 400 pages of reading per week for a class, but then you also have to do background research to get caught up on an obscure topic that your classmates may know more about. Grad school demands a lot of you, but Wake prepares you well. 

There is one last things that is very different from undergrad. You are expected to produce original work all of the time. I had to do this when I wrote my thesis, and Professor Curley often wanted original work in final papers. But most of my papers as an undergrad where just applying theories to something or just tweaking someone else’s theory. But here, that doesn’t fly. Also, you are expected to be able to read in a foreign language. Everyone was joking that you just have to scrape by in another language, but that’s not the case. I am learning German and French. However, I am taking classes to become fluent in these languages. The IFA has reading proficiency classes to become fluent in French, Italian and German. 

DL: What are you planning to do after graduation? 


MP: The IFA is pro-PhD program. The first week on campus, everyone asks you what PhD programs you are applying to. I am going to apply to a few. Modern/Contemporary is hyper-saturated right now, and as a result, is very competitive. Also I will be applying to jobs and relying on the IFA and Wake alumni network. Knowing that my area is so competitive, I might take a break year before pursuing my PhD. If I do this, I am thinking about working directly with collections in loans, or as a registrar. In order to do this, I am trying to get collection management skills. I had an internship last spring as a collections assistant. Going forward, I need to pursue roles with more prominent collections. Also, I need to gain experience with The Museum System (TMS), which is a computer cataloging system for museums. You are required to know it if you want to work with a big name collection. So TMS experience is the next skill I want to learn. 

I think there is value in a gap year between finishing a MA program and starting a PhD program. It helps you focus on what you want out of your career. Recently, I applied for four curatorial internships, and interviewed for two of them. I didn’t get one of them because I wasn’t an expert in a specific subject area. You will realize that curatorial jobs are sexy. Everyone wants then. It would be really interesting and powerful position because you are in charge of how someone views a work of art. At the same time, that is not the end all, be all. There is so much more going on behind the scenes that helps the curator mount a show. For instance, the registrar coordinates with other museums regarding loans of works. And these days, museum shows are all blockbusters, so there a lot of people who are coordinating the movement of works. Registrars work with art shippers and development to physically get the works to move, and fund their inclusion in a show. 

DL: Have you ever considered a role in development? 

MP: If you are in development, you are basically in sales. You are selling the museum. I have considered a role in development. My passion and enthusiasm for this field will translate well to selling an institution without coming across as cheesy. And if you think about it, without development, a museum couldn’t exist.  It’s interesting though. Development is one thing that universities and MA programs don’t focus on. You will hear about other career paths in museums, but they don’t ever want to talk about the critical role that is development. 

DL: I know the New York art scene is robust, but is it approachable? 


MP: Yes, because there are Wake alums working in all facets of the art world. This really helps you break into different fields. In terms of breaking into the New York gallery world - you can’t have pride or shame. You have to send resume to everyone and just get your name out there. Getting an unpaid internship really is key because one internship will lead to another. Also, if you do want to work in the gallery space, don’t discredit working with START. I have that on my resume, and people always ask about it in interviews. 

DL: What kernel of advice would you give to anyone reading this? 


MP: I would get an internship as early as possible. From that, I was able to get a job. Start building your resume as early as possible, and diversify it. That way, you can pull from more types of experiences. Also, don’t be afraid to go for the crappy, less sexy position if it gets your foot in the door. And, don’t pigeonhole yourself too early. If going into the academic or museum world, there is a tendency to get sucked in and stuck on a track. At time, I feel like I have pidegon holded myself in arts education. I wish I had continued to diversity my experiences until I was absolutely certain of a track. And, be prepared for your track to change. Originally, I thought I Wanted to teach, and now I want to run a collection. Also, I recommend pursuing unpaid internships while you are in college. However, when you get out of college, don't expect to get the perfect job or paid internship you want. You might have to struggle and do unpaid internship dance a while longer. It will work out in the end. 

Spotlight Interview: Margaret Gristina

Margaret Gristina: Senior Specialist & Head of Sale

Christie’s New York, Chinese Works of Art
WFU Class of 1990
Art History Major

Margi Gristina came to Wake for a Business major, but after one Art History course she knew she'd discovered her passion. Currently serving as Senior Specialist and Head of Sale in the Chinese Works of Art Department at Christie's New York, Margi spoke with us to share about her path to this role, along with some sage advice.

 

DeacLink: Please tell us about your current job.

Margaret Gristina: I am currently the Senior Specialist & Head of Sale in the Chinese Works of Art Department at Christie’s New York. I oversee all Chinese works of art auctions in NYC, dealing with furniture, porcelain, ceramics and all other objects apart from paintings, dating from the 20th century back to 2000 BC and beyond. Our NY team of Chinese-art specialists is the largest within our Asian art cluster at Christie’s worldwide. We have sales in March and September each year, so we’re meeting deadlines now in preparation for next month. Generally we’ll have anywhere from 3-5 live auctions during our sale weeks, and around 4 online sales per year. In our ‘down time’ (which isn’t really that quiet!) we complete valuations for clients that consist of private collectors, estates and museums.

 

DL: Please take us through your journey to your current occupation since leaving Wake.

MG: After graduating from Wake I went into the Sotheby’s one-year masters course in London. During this time I was introduced to the decorative arts and fell in love with Chinese art. The course was good for exposing me to the commercial art world at large and all types of art, and I grew to understand what I personally liked. 

I went into a job with The Chinese Porcelain Company in New York after Sotheby’s, which was a small operation at that time. My boss was a huge influence on me, and mentored me for ten years. After my first four years the company grew into a bigger space on Park Avenue, and later I became director, writing four to five catalogues a year and participating in many antique shows in New York and London.

After fifteen years at The Chinese Porcelain Company I spent about five years as a consultant, advising clients and contributing to a series of books on Chinese export porcelain made for Portugal. Five years ago I moved to Christie’s for a new role in their Chinese Art Department as Appraisals Associate. The corporate structure at Christie’s has many benefits, one being the ability to move up and grow along the series of steps in the departments. I graduated to a Specialist role, and continued up the ranks to my current position after four years, as Senior Specialist & Head of Sale in the Chinese Works of Art Department. 

 

DL:  How much did your studies or Wake in general inform or drive your career path?

MG: I went into Wake expecting to be a business major, but after my first Art History class I knew it had to be art. One of the most influential experiences at Wake was my semester abroad to Venice during junior year. The art history course at the time at Casa Artom was taught by renowned Veronese specialist Professor Terisio Pignatti, which was really special.  Sitting in the classroom with him and learning about a specific work, then visiting the church or gallery where it was housed, was an experience that could never be repeated. It was organic learning at its best and anyone who was there during the time he taught was very fortunate. That semester secured my desire to be in the art world and also work in an international setting.

 

DL: Do you feel like Wake arts prepared you for life after graduation?

MG: It was so different when I was there.  Wake is great for those interested in business, accounting and so forth, but there were no resources at the time for Art History students wanting to enter careers in the commercial art world.

 

DL: What other sorts of jobs have you had? How did you find and apply to them? 

MG: All of my jobs and opportunities arose from networking, and this was the pre-digital era. I had an internship during undergrad at an American art gallery in New York called Hirschl & Adler. A friend of mine at Wake connected me to someone working there. 

After Wake and toward the end of my masters in London, I took a printed guide of the National Antique Dealers of America to my mentor at the Sotheby’s program, asking if he knew anyone within the directory. I was pointed to The Chinese Porcelain Company and after contacting them was hired onto their team.

 

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

MG: Getting your foot in the door. Once you can get that first wedge in though, if you can show you’re a motivated, hard worker you are going to be desirable. The best way to break in is through internships. Especially at Christie’s, we like to hire internally. Lots of companies do. If they can see that you work well in their environment it’s likely they’ll want to help you move forward. We’ve had lots of interns become full time employees from internships here at Christie’s.

 

DL: What has surprised you the most about the art scene in New York? 

MG: It’s so expansive and there are innumerable opportunities. There are galleries, museums, art fairs, and auction houses (which even within themselves along have so many categories to become interested in- between proposal writing, estates and appraisals, and even art insurance). If you can get any experience at all, anywhere, you can start to understand what you like and dislike, and build toward a path you really want to be on. 

 

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

MG: Have an open mind about opportunities and don’t be shy about utilizing your network. When given the chance, show that you’re focused, capable and motivated. Those are the top traits people look for.