Co-Founder Q&A: Kelsey Zalimeni

Get to know Kelsey Zalimeni, Co-Founder of DeacLink.

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Kelsey Zalimeni

Art Gallerist, Thompson's London

WFU Class of 2014

Major: Studio Art with Honors

Minor: Art History

 

Q: Were you and Katie friends at Wake? Why did you two start DeacLink?

A: Katie and I both experienced a cobbled-together path of hustling for contacts and work experience in the art world as undergraduates. We ran sort of parallel paths in Scales until junior year, where we cemented a friendship during the 2013 SUAAC ('Art Buying') Trip. It's been four years since we met, and we both now work in the arts- I'm at a gallery and Kate is in recruitment for art institutions. Even though we've both made our way, a recurring discussion between us was always about the difficulty of breaking into arts jobs, particularly coming out of Wake. We thought it ironic that a healthy percentage of WFU Alumni were working as art world professionals, yet we as students had very limited knowledge of, or access to them. Our goal was to create a single online resource which would connect and inform students and alumni alike. 

 

Q: Why do Wake Arts matter to you?

A: As a Presidential, Meredith, and Dingledine Scholar (all arts-based scholarships at WFU), I owe a lot to the Wake Forest Art Department. Put simply, if it weren't for those and a few other scholarships, my experience at Wake wouldn't have been possible. Furthermore, my college soccer career was cut short due to double ACL injuries on the same knee; in the gap that Spry Stadium left, Scales became my sanctuary. The faculty in the department are stellar as well; they really invest in the students and foster their aspirations. DeacLink exists to expand and improve this effort.

 

Q: What is the coolest art exhibit you've seen?

A: The most memorable show of late has to be 'The Infinite Mix', put on by the Hayward Gallery in an off-site location. They installed 10 video pieces at The Store, some taking up entire rooms and one showing a 3D piece in the parking garage. The variety of content was excellent, including a hologram piece by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and my personal favorite, Kahlil Joseph's two-channel Kendrick-backed video, m.A.A.d. I think I spent five hours total absorbing the exhibition- but you could easily spend twice that!

 

Q: Do you have a favorite off the radar museum?

A: In London we're spoiled with many excellent museums, but one place that doesn't get enough praise is the Zabludowicz Collection. My first visit was to see a four-movie solo show born of a collabo between Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch. My interest lies in crazy, post-internet digital art and they seem committed to showing lots of that.

 

Q: What has been your coolest art world experience?

A: I once had the pleasure of spending an afternoon at the Blum's home in LA. They were kind enough to show me around their insanely cool collection and shared stories about all of the Pop Art greats. I also came away with some solid life and career advice that day- shouts out to Irving and Jackie!

 

Q: Best kernel of advice you've got?

A: If you try and succeed, you did it. If you try and you fail, you still did it. Regardless, you have to keep going. 

 

 

Spotlight Interview: Cristin Tierney

Cristin Tierney: Gallerist

New York City

Owner & Founder of Cristin Tierney Gallery

WFU Graduate

Major: English

 

Everyone in the Wake Forest arts community knows the name Cristin Tierney. Blazing a trail into New York's renowned Chelsea district in 2010, Cristin established a presence with her eponymous contemporary gallery. We recently learned what drove her transition from Wake English major to NYC gallerist. 

 

DeacLink: How has your career unfolded since Wake?

Cristin Tierney: It has been a long and winding path. I opened my gallery in 2010 after having an advisory business for a number of years and doing projects in the art world and art market. Opening a gallery was a bit of an absurd thing to do at that point in my life. But, my desire to do so had a lot to do with the fact I had never really worked with artists. When I was younger, I thought I wouldn’t want to do this, but one of the best parts of being in the art world is working with artists. And gallerists are the people that spend the most time with artists and help develop their careers. That fact greatly influenced my decision to open up the gallery. Thankfully I had a lot of work experiences and connections in the art world, which also enabled me to get started.

DL: How did you go about building a client base as an art advisor?

CT: I worked as a consultant to Christie’s in the education department for years, and I was able to do client development through education. People that are interested in collecting want to learn about art before they start buying it. Often, these people were non-degree students and weren’t working towards a Master’s. The Director of the education program had recognized that these people were potential clients for the auction house. Often, they were super intelligent, accomplished and financially comfortable people that were hungry for more information. If you took them on and helped them develop their eye, they could become your clients. I helped Christie’s do that for years, and then I started doing it for myself. I ran private seminars and helped people acquire art privately and not just at auction. In turn, that led to a lot of referrals.

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

CT: At Wake, I was an English major. I had an interest in art when I was younger, but I wasn’t really aware that you could be an art historian. My desire to pursue a career in art history came rather late while I was overseas. Wake had a rigorous program in France that introduced me to careers in the arts beyond the museum world. I learned that in some places, art is part of everyday life and is fabricated into daily culture. Upon my return, the professors in the art department were very supportive when I asked for help and for more information.  

DL: What do you think is the hardest part about breaking into the gallery world?

CT: I never worked at a gallery before I opened one, but you have to know people to get a job. When we advertise an entry-level position, we get tons of resumes. And because it is an entry-level role, there is no easy way to sift through. When you have a small staff, you are much more likely to go with someone you know or someone who’s been recommended by a person you trust. For the bigger galleries, they must get so many, and I have no idea how they can decide.

These days, more people gravitate towards roles with bigger galleries. Most students graduate with debt, and they have expectations about the art world. They are not taking the risk on a smaller gallery, where they could be more hands on, because a place like Zwirner seems more stable. There’s a predictability, corporate nature, and structure at the big galleries. But, it is also harder to get your foot in the door there, and there is high turnover.

DL: When you are hiring, what kind of technical skills you are looking for?

CT: We are immediately interested in anyone who can use Photoshop or SketchUp. Basic technical computer skills are very important. Programs like that are routinely part of a job, and if you don’t have to train someone how to use them, then you are more likely to keep them on. We also need people who are active and engaged on social media and who understand the back end of web programming. Additional languages are also helpful in terms of playing in the global art scene. We deal a lot with Latin America, so Spanish is great for us specifically.  

DL: New York is known as the art capital of the world. Do you think it is a hard community to break into? What advice do you have for students that are considering a move here? 

CT: It depends on the person and their personality. Often, younger people come up here right out of school. For them, the most important thing to do is to develop a network of older people that can help out and recommend you for different roles. Also, students and recent grads should be developing a network with their peers. Often times, your friends can tell you about the different jobs available, especially if they are already working somewhere. But in general, you should support your peers and go to each other’s openings. When you have your first exhibition or curate your first show, your network of friends show up, and they in turn can bring their writer friends and help you get publicity.

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

CT: I think it would be good to introduce more art world professionals to students when they are younger. A limited amount of that happens now. However, it is hard. The center of the art world is New York, then it’s Los Angeles, but then you have to get people from those places to North Carolina. One of the reasons the Management in the Visual Arts class is so important is because it opens up people’s eyes and provides them with initial introductions. Continuing and expanding on the ideas of the program would be a great thing.

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

CT: Take every opportunity, especially when you are young and don’t need to to sleep as much and aren’t addicted to creature comforts yet.

Also, make sure you really belong to a community, and aren’t just there to leverage it.

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. 

Spotlight Interview: Caitlin Berry

Caitlin Berry: Gallerist

Washington, DC

WFU Class of 2009

Major: Communications

Double Minor: Art History & Studio Art

Photo taken by Albert Ting at Smithsonian American Art Museum  

Photo taken by Albert Ting at Smithsonian American Art Museum 


Caitlin Berry graduated at a time when the economy was less than promising for job seekers, but embraced the opportunity to get creative with how she pursued her aspirations. Springboarding from the inaugural management role at Wake’s START Gallery, Caitlin went on to break into the New York and DC art scenes.  We’ve caught up with Caitlin to learn about her career path, and what’s next for art in DC.

 

DeacLink: What are you up to right now, both in and outside of work?

Caitlin Berry: Right now I’m the Associate Director at Hemphill Fine Arts, one of the oldest operating galleries in DC. Founded in 1993, we represent twenty-eight contemporary artists and two artist’s estates. We hold regular exhibitions here and curate two other locations in town which are more experimental. Additionally, we have a healthy secondary market program, with expertise and academic knowledge of Post-War American art and the Washington Color School. This historical side of the secondary market was my main strength when joining Hemphill. I continue to develop that program here.

My role, as it is in any small gallery, requires me to wear many hats. I do sales, a bit of artist development… which right now has consumed my last year and a half, working on a show with the newest artist to our stable, Hedieh Javanshir Ilchi. She’s been receiving great press, and rightly so, including a recent writeup from Hyperallergic. I’ve also been focused on an upcoming Washington Color School exhibition which opens at the beginning of February. We’ve been working with collectors across DC to pull that together.

Outside of work I co-chair the Communications Committee for the Art Table DC chapter, which does annual rapid-fire discussion based presentations for movers and shakers in the DC art scene- gallerists, politicians, artists, and so forth. It’s called ‘State of the Art’, and the next edition will be in the Fall.
 

DL: Take us through your journey from Wake to your current occupation.

CB: I graduated in 2009, right after the economy tanked. I remember Joe Biden speaking at our graduation, saying ‘I really envy you guys, you have this great opportunity to succeed in the face of adversity.’ At the time we all thought, ‘Yeah sure Joe.. we can’t find jobs’... but looking back he was right. Everyone I graduated with did struggle but we were all better for it. The conditions required us to get creative with how we proceeded, and in my case that rang true. By graduation I already had plans in place to move to NYC for an internship under Cristin Tierney at her gallery. Little did I know, she had been in touch with Gordon McCray from the business school (and leader of the Managements in Visual Arts course). They had earmarked me as a candidate for the inaugural position of gallery manager at START Gallery, which was still a rather nebulous concept at the time. When they approached me it was perfect timing, and after a rigorous interview process I was offered the position. The basic agreement was, I could go up to New York to work for Cristin but I had to come back to do START. I couldn’t have anticipated how great the experience was going to be… it was essentially myself and Paul Bright working with the Provost Office and a few others to bring START to life. Through the process I learned enormous amounts about what it’s like to run a gallery; it laid foundations for my understanding of professional organizations in the art world.

Of course, after START I wanted to get back up to New York- I had caught the bug while interning for Cristin. And speaking of Cristin, she is the biggest mentor in my life- we stayed in close touch after my internship, and she would frequently send me job postings and inform me of conversations she had with people looking for help. The pickings were still slim at this point… it was the Fall of 2010 and people were still trying to get out of the recession.

One day Cristin sent an email, saying to send my resume straight away to Eykyn Maclean, a gallery which was hiring help for a museum-quality exhibition of Alberto Giacometti’s oeuvre. This wasn’t just sculpture, but works on paper, paintings, writings… and this opportunity got me back to New York, but talk about baptism by fire. Throughout my time with Eykyn Maclean, there were plenty of surreal and amazing experiences, and I worked Wall Street hours; but I enjoyed every minute there.

One weekend in April 2012 I went down to DC for a visit with Wake friends, where I met the man I’m about to marry. I moved to Washington in 2013 and found a job with a 19th-Century gallery, where I spent a short spell. I was networking a lot in the DC art scene, and was part of The Philips Collection Contemporaries Steering Committee, through which I made a friend who is my now-predecessor. She was leaving for St. Louis and recommended that I apply for her job at Hemphill. I jumped into the opportunity, and here I am three years later- very happy and wanting to stay for as long as I can.
 

DL: Did you consider a graduate degree after Wake?

CB: I’ve always considered going to grad school; I love the scholarly aspect of working with secondary market objects. I love nothing more than sitting in archives all day, going through catalogues raisonne and figuring out where works fit within an artist’s oeuvre. So while I’m happy where I am now, I would certainly consider grad school if it gelled into the right timing and allowed me to continue work.

I think it should be said, that grad school shouldn’t be a prerequisite for success. It can be good for some people but it’s certainly not for everyone.. People can succeed without it.
 

DL: Did your time at Wake have a big impact on your career path?

CB:  I did have a sorority sister who was working at Gagosian… I remember thinking, ‘I want to do what she’s doing,’ so I asked her exactly how I could. She gave me some great advice, essentially laid out key guidelines for things I needed to do, in order to work in the art world. Two things she said were vital- taking the Management in Visual Arts course and to read any and everything I could about what was  going on in the art world. ArtNews, Art Forum, you name it- I was constantly reading on the latest, and the pace of change was rapid. But employers in the art world expect you to be aware of everything that’s going on.

 

DL: Do you think Wake’s art department prepared you for life after graduation?

CB:  I really think without the Management in Visual Arts class I would’ve been totally adrift in terms of having the tools to break into the art world, which can be a tough nut to crack. The best advice I got at the time was, be willing to work for free. Basically you have to understand, nobody is going to be making six figures right off the bat. But all Art History and Studio students should have to take an art marketing course. There’s an academic bias not to commoditize artwork, but artists can’t subsist without being able to do this, and galleries are so essential to the overall health of the market. Wake art students would benefit massively from developing a business sensibility.
 

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

CB: Realizing that you’re not entitled to success. I think being hard working, having a good attitude and being accountable is the perfect recipe for success in any field. But those three attributes are increasingly rare in the art world, and a person who comes into this ready to work is going to be an asset to any company, gallery, or museum they end up with. Networking has helped me massively with breaking into my field as well. Keeping up good relationships and not being a jerk frankly, are very important.
 

DL: How do you like living and working in DC? Do you have any advice for students wanting to move there?

CB: I would say- if you want to work in art world in DC, you should be focused on working institutionally or with a non-profit. That’s not to say you can’t be successful  in a commercial gallery here, but for all aspiring gallerists, I’d say please move here immediately and open your gallery. We need healthy competition and more variety in our art scene.

I’m also a huge advocate of working whilst going to grad school, which will help you get a job in a museum especially if you’re curating. Grad degrees aren’t necessary for the development side of things, so one could obtain a grad degree for curating while still working in development at a museum.
 

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

CB: The number of hugely talented artists who live and work in the area… not all great artists are in Brooklyn. The artists here are just as inventive and powerful, but don’t get nearly the same credit as those up in New York. There is a big opportunity to champion the local artists here.. So yet again- gallerists, come to DC and open your gallery!
 

DL: What’s the best piece of advice you can leave our readers with?

CB:  Have a positive attitude.