Spotlight Interview: Sean Wilkinson

Sean Wilkinson: Video + Film


WFU Class of 2015
Major: Studio Art
Minor: Biology

Sean Wilkinson came to Wake Forest with a future in medicine in mind. Across his four years of undergrad, his vision transformed entirely. Swapping Studio Art for Bio, Sean developed his skills in many media whilst bringing projects like ‘Forest Folk’ and ‘Inside Out: Wake’ to life on his own time. Now as Assistant Director of Creative Communications, Sean explains his current position and the path that led him there.


DeacLink: What are you up to right now?
Sean Wilkinson: I’m currently working at WFU as Assistant Director of Creative Communications in the CER (Communications and External Relations) office. That’s a mouthful but the creative team I work in is essentially Wake’s in-house design agency. My greatest interest in this role is the exposure to many disciplines, working with designers and writers and the digital team has been awesome. I came right in as a ‘Creative Fellow’ after graduating and found myself doing lots of video and photography as I had when I was a student. About 10 months in, the Assistant Director role opened up so I applied and ended up getting the position. My main responsibilities revolve around video and editing... but the nice thing about working in a smaller office is that there are opportunities to pursue your own initiatives, and the team here is receptive to that.

DL: Did you plan to go straight from undergrad to a fellows program?
SW: I was caught up with honors and a side project outside of class during senior year. On top of that, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do after graduating. I stumbled into my final semester asking myself, ‘What am I doing?’ and had considered a grad degree in design but hadn’t researched it properly despite its appeal. April rolled around I was pitched the idea of a year-long contract within the CER office by Hayes Henderson, the director of Creative Communications at the time. I met him my sophomore year through some of my photography and had kept in touch throughout undergrad. The offer was entirely out of nowhere, it was actually a brand new position within the office, and I didn’t have anything else lined up so naturally it seemed pretty ideal as a next step.

DL: You came to Wake wanting to major in Biology. What caused the shift toward Studio Art instead?
SW: Yes, originally I wanted to go to med school and to me that meant either majoring in Biology or Chemistry. I was three-fourths of the way
through pre med classes by the end of sophomore fall but my heart was elsewhere. I remember having a conversation with an upperclassman majoring in Studio herself, who encouraged me to go where the passion was. It was an uncomfortable conversation with my parents for sure, but I had to go in that direction at the time. Looking back, I’m glad that I did.

DL: How much did your studies or Wake in general drive your career path?
SW: I think as far as my studies, majoring in studio art just kept me going and feeling refreshed. Without it I would have never tried printmaking or sculpture installation or bookmaking, and those were some of the coolest classes I took in undergrad. The new mediums and overall immersion in art was great. In terms of career though, the extracurricular work and projects I did outside of class were the most influential for me.
The environment at Wake and more largely in Winston-Salem definitely helped. There were certain things I wanted to do with my friends, collaborations that were made possible by the small size and enthusiasm of the community. In addition I landed an internship that later turned into a part time job with the local film production company Silent R by striking up a conversation on the lower quad. They were walking into Tribble with their crew and immediately I recognized their equipment was a bit more professional than the stuff I was using. I walked up and asked what they were doing on campus and started contact from there. The experience from working with Silent R has transferred directly to the role I’m in now.

DL: As an art student, did you feel prepared for life after graduation?
SW: In my experience there wasn’t much emphasis on careers when I was taking art classes. If I had really expressed interest I think I could’ve pushed that issue with professors in the department... but for whatever reason I didn’t really consider what I was doing in class as career options.
Luckily I met some great mentors, again Wake’s small size helped me find those connections; and as far as getting behind a camera and learning to shoot and edit, I relied on learning on the go and some previous experience from high school art courses.

DL: How do you like living and working in Winston-Salem? Do you have any advice for students wanting to remain there?
SW: One of the best parts about staying here is the cost of living. It’s also cool to see new spaces like Innovation Quarter developing in the downtown area, I think Wake will continue to expand its presence! In
general the atmosphere is progressive.
Wake’s Fellow program in particular is also a unique opportunity for graduates, working in the offices we once benefited from as students and being able to apply 4 years of experience as a Wake student in daily work has been valuable.

DL: What and where is next for you?
SW: I’ve had this new position as Assistant Director for six months now and I’m really focused on that. Grad school is still of interest for me, I’m just going to try and keep an open mind about what’s out there.

DL: What's the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on, or currently go by?
SW: I’d say have fearlessness when taking on projects and also learning on the fly is super valuable. It’s also fun. Don’t categorize yourself as just one set of skills or say, ‘That’s not part of my job’- I’ve found there are always opportunities pick up unexpected skills and expand yourself as you go.


Spotlight Interview: Katie Wolf

Katie Wolf: Gallerist

Winston-Salem, NC
         WFU Class of 2013          
Major: Studio Art with Honors
Minor: Art History

Katie Wolf plays a key role in the Wake Forest arts community as Assistant Director of Hanes Art Gallery. However, her impact and involvement isn't limited to the confines of campus. Katie talks us through her current job and all else to do with Winston's burgeoning art scene. 


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

Katie Wolf: Currently, I am the Assistant Director of the Hanes Art Gallery at Wake Forest. I have many duties and responsibilities, but my favorite parts of my days are working with my student assistants and other art department majors. I also enjoy the parts of my job that require long-term strategic planning. I am also very proud to be on the board of Art Nouveau (ANWS), a group sponsored by the Arts Council of Winston-Salem to get young people more involved in the arts community.

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

KW: Since graduating in 2013, I was honored to receive a Wake Forest Fellow position as the START Gallery Manager, then I applied for and earned my current position at the Hanes Gallery.

DL: Did you always want to pursue the START fellowship? What steps did you take toward building up for the application throughout undergrad?

KW: I started working at the Hanes Gallery as a student assistant my sophomore year. Through that work, in addition to my classes in the art department, I met the gallery’s current director, Paul Bright, and START’s manager at the time, Marcus Keely. I developed a mentor/mentee relationship with both of them and decided at the end of sophomore year that the fellowship would be a great opportunity. I continued working at Hanes Gallery as well as at The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) part-time and had summer internships in various organizations to build an applicable skill base. I think setting this goal early and developing a long-term plan was crucial to my success.

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

KW: My studies completely informed and drove my path. Although I went to an arts based high school where I studied theater, I never considered studying visual art until my time at Wake Forest. I consider myself to be a product of a liberal arts education – without that kind of variety and flexibility I don’t think I would have found such a passion. I also had the opportunity to study management, which I have applied directly to my career.

DL: Prior to what you’re doing now, what other sorts of jobs have you had? How did you find and apply to them? (Internet career search engines, internal reference, agency, recruitment, Wfu resource, internship)

KW: Before Hanes Gallery and the START Gallery, I worked part-time as a student assistant at Hanes Gallery and at SECCA on the weekends. My summer internships were in the curatorial department at Greenhill Center, the education department at SECCA, and in the collections department at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum in Cleveland. I found and applied for all of those internships online without any personal connections prior.

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

KW: The hardest part was simply to decided that this was it for me. Making a plan, studying, gaining skills and experiences, networking, and applying are all wonderfully fulfilling. It was the choice itself and the confidence to be comfortable with that choice was the hardest part.

DL: How did you like living and working in Winston-Salem?  How does your current experience compare to the time you spent as a student in the city?

KW: Winston-Salem is an awesome place to live and a totally different city to the one I vaguely knew of as a student. As a board member of ANWS and a volunteer for the Arts Council I’ve been able to work with many young and enthusiastic artists and patrons in the city, and I am proud of and excited for the future of this place. As a student within a talented and motivated peer group, it’s easy to think that the only measure of success is in New York, Chicago, or Atlanta. However, the cost of living here is unbelievable low (my rent is $396 a month), and that has afforded me a stable financial life. To already have savings, investments, and a retirement plan at 25 will give me more options and flexibility throughout my career. Of course, those are all things I didn’t consider as a student so I am happy to have somewhat fallen into those benefits and opportunities.

DL: What has surprised you the most about the art scene in W-S? Do you have any advice for students wanting to move/remain there?

KW: If you’re bored in Winston-Salem then it’s your own fault. I just looked at my calendar and this week alone I have two public lectures, a concert, a museum exhibition walkthrough and two dinners with people I met outside of the Wake Forest community. There are tons of people really working to make this place better, and there are many ways to get involved yourself. Being intentional and present is important anywhere you end up, but it’s easy to do in Winston-Salem.

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

KW: Being decisive, diligent, and present are the most important qualities to cultivate.