Co-Founder Q&A: Katie Winokur

Get to know Katie Winokur, Co-Founder of Deaclink.

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KATIE WINOKUR

Search and Assessment, Russell Reynolds Associates

     WFU Class of 2014  

           Double Major: Art History & Communications

            Minor: Entrepreneurship & Social Enterprise

 

Q: Why did you start DeacLink?

A: DeacLink is an extension of Kelsey Zalimeni and my love for the Wake Forest Art Department and our desire to help students succeed following graduation. The two of us were incredibly lucky in that we were able to take advantage of all of the opportunities that the university presented us in the arts, and yet both felt that we didn't have the support we needed to succeed in the art world after graduation. As a result, we had to hustle our senior year of college to make things work. During the year, we made many fantastic connections with Wake Alums across the the country and truly began to realize how robust the alumni network was. Two years following graduation, we couldn't stop thinking about how there needed to be a resource to connect those fantastic alums with curious students, and thus DeacLink was born. 

 

Q: What has been your coolest art world experience?

A: This is a hard question, but I have to say visiting the Venice Biennale in 2013 as part of the Lynn Johnson Travel Award was pretty fantastic. Never have I experienced so much contemporary art in such a condensed timeframe.  

 

Q: Can you name your favorite off the radar museum?

A: Hands down this is the Baltimore Museum of Art - it's an absolute jewel of a collection. It has one of the finest Impressionist collections in the country which was a gift of the Cone Sisters. The works they have by Matisse are stunning. The admission is free, and the building is located right next to the Johns Hopkins campus. 

 

Q: Most awesome exhibit or show you've seen?

A: I think the coolest of all was spending spending several hours watching The Visitors by Ragnar Kjartansson at Luhring Augustine in 2013 while on the Art Buying trip. It was one of the most mesmerizing experiences. A close second was the James Turrell retrospective at the Guggenheim. 

 

Q: How did you and Kelsey become friends?

A: Kelsey and I initially bonded over an immense love of food (and food trucks to be exact). From there, we quickly discovered a mutual interest in everything from soccer to art, and from there it was hard to keep us apart. 

 

Q: What's your favorite city for art?

A: I would have to say London (and I am quite jealous Kelsey gets to call this home). London has an amazing mix of contemporary and traditional arts. Their museums and galleries are best in class, and many of them are free (which in my opinion gives the city a leg up over New York). 

 

Q: Why do Wake Arts matter to you?

A: Wake Arts matter to me for many reasons. First, I feel like the faculty and staff in the art department could not have been more supportive of me as a student and a person, and I didn't experience that kind of connection anywhere else on campus. Also, I think that the arts are so instrumental in terms of having a holistic worldview. Studying art challenges you to think about things in a broad and multifaceted way, and when writing about the subject, it forces you to engage in a respectful yet antagonistic discourse in order to defend your opinion. Those kinds of communication skills often prevent people from being narrow-minded, and given today's political and social climate, I think our country could use a bit more of this style of thinking. 

 

 

 

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.

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: Kovi Konowiecki

Kovi Konowiecki: Photographer

Los Angeles / London

WFU Class of 2014

Major: Communications, Media Concentration

Minor: English

 


 

After graduation, Kovi moved to Israel to play with a professional soccer club called Hapoel Kfar Saba F.C. After some time, he realized that photography was what he really wanted to be doing with his life. We spoke with Kovi to learn how this revelation has impacted his journey since.

 

DeacLink: Tell us what you’re up to right now.

Kovi: I just finished my MA in Photography  from University of the Arts London and have two if my images being displayed at the National Portrait Gallery as part of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize.

I am currently polishing up a series called 'Delivering Flowers to Grandpa Jack', which I began creating to capture the uniqueness of Long Beach, California—the people and places that I thought made it different from everywhere else. But as I spent more time documenting my hometown, I realized that its uniqueness does not stem from the people who live there or the streets that comprise it. Rather, it is the things that don’t stand out that make Long Beach like nowhere else for me. The series pays tribute to the elements of Long Beach that many would find commonplace and un-extraordinary, highlighting the beauty of familiarity that can transform the mundane of one’s hometown into something very personal. The photographs’ devotion to the elements of the everyday signifies how the special feeling one associates with their hometown does not come from the place itself—it comes from being from the place. Undefined by a specific era, the people depicted in the series exist in a setting created by my perception of home—a place that remains intimate and ageless—an embodiment of the feeling that no matter how many years pass, and no matter how many things change, there are certain things that never change.


 

DL: How did you end up in a Masters program? What were your biggest incentives for enrolling?

K: Going back to school was really appealing for me at the time-- the process of collaborating and being in a creative environment was really exciting to me. Because I played soccer at Wake, I never really had that experience in college-- to be completely immersed and driven by photography.


 

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

K: Wake allowed me to really figure out who I was, both an as individual and as an artist. I was rather different in a predominantly homogenous community, which perpetuated many of my artistic endeavors. I wanted to create platforms for social change.

I was also fortunate enough to have some really engaging professors that allowed me to form some of the ideas that are the basis for much of my work today.


 

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

K: I think college is all about finding out who you are. For some it takes longer than others. For others it never really happens. I think Wake could do a better job of giving students more opportunities to explore creative outlets. It is very easy to get sucked into the code of getting good grades.

 

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

K: It is highly competitive! Everyone's a photographer these days. It takes a lot of trust in yourself and your sense of authorship. It also takes a lot of patience, as it can take years to establish who you are as an artist.

 

DL: How did you like living and producing work in London, versus back home in LA? Is there a significant difference in the quality of your work, the ease of producing, and the reception of your work, between the two places?

K: I like the negotiation  between LA and London. I sort of get the best of both worlds. London is like an incubator for me, I get tons of inspiration from all of the creative outlets. LA is a more of a place for production and reflection for me. Everything runs at a slower pace in LA, which can be great at times.
 

 

DL: What has surprised you the most about the art scene in London? Do you have any advice for students wanting to move to move there?

K: If you put in the effort to make connections and see what is out there, London can really be a fantastic place to grow. My biggest advice would be to take initiative-- there is too much going on to sit back.

 

DL: How about in LA?

K: With regards to LA, the art scene is growing a lot. There seems to be a movement of people coming from NY (I think people are starting to get a bit tired of the cold). But like London, there are tons of collaborations and opportunities waiting to happen.
 

 

DL: What and where is next for you?

K: I wish I knew...I am using this time to reflect and figure out where I want to be... and where will be best for my career.
 

 

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

K: Be patient and let things happen naturally. And the work is always more important than self promotion or getting your name out there-- the work has to always be at the forefront.

 

Visit Kovi's website and follow him on Instagram