Spotlight Interview: Richard Bristow

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

Rome, Georgia

WFU MA Class of 1986

Theatre Program

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

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

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

DL: Why did you choose Wake for your Masters?

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

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

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

DL: What is it like teaching high school?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DL: What is next for you?

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

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

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

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

Spotlight Interview: Kate Miles

Kate Miles: Interior Designer

Charleston, South Carolina

WFU Class of 2007

Major: Art History

Minor: Sociology

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Kate Miles has traveled various paths leaving Wake Forest, including work in galleries, auction houses, interior design, and most recently, starting her own business. We caught up with Kate to learn all that's happened since undergrad.

 

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

Kate Miles: I majored in Art History and minored in Sociology. I did not go to Wake thinking I would do that. Honesty, I didn't know what I would study when I got there. I took a lot of liberal arts classes, and really enjoyed an Art History class. I had previously been interested in fashion, and I thought that I wanted to work in New York in the fashion industry. I dId an internship with Nicole Miller when I was at Wake, and I realized that’s not what I wanted to do.

Once I got into art history, I was thinking I would work in a museum, but I wasn’t really sure. But eventually, art history led to interior design. My parents were building on a house in Kiawah Island, and they hired an interior designer that went to Wake, Tammy Connor.  She has been very successful. I started working with her, and I was watching the process and really liked it. After Wake, I figured I would do an interior design program. I applied to SCAD and a few others, and heard good things about the about Sotheby’s Institute. I was accepted there, and moved to New York to do the Sotheby's year long Masters program in American Fine and Decorative Arts. I learned a lot about antiques, and I spent time at the auction house. I was also able to meet well known people in the industry. During the program, we traveled to London, Boston, and Charleston.

After the program, I decided to move to Charleston and write my thesis on one of the historic homes there. I focused on the Aiken-Rhett House. I wrote about the textiles and how the family selected them in the 1800s and their inspirations.

While I was in Charleston, I decided to start taking design classes at the Art Institute in Charleston. Then I moved, and I transferred to Art Institute of Raleigh in 2011.

Soon after I got married, and my husband took a job in Las Vegas. I had a hard time finding a job since Vegas was not a great market. I was looking at small design firms, and then I started looking at the arts in general. I ended up getting a job at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. I worked there and gave tours. There was a Monet exhibit most of the time I worked there, and it was a really cool experience, but it was not what I wanted to do.

When I got offered a job at Ethan Allen, I immediately accepted.  I would have preferred to work with an interior design firm but I figured it would be a good experience and it definitely was!  I was there for two years, and then we were transferred to Memphis, and I was able to transfer with Ethan Allen for two more years. Sadly, the market in Memphis wasn't quite as good. It was commission based so i wasn’t as successful in Memphis as I was in Vegas.  I took a break to have my son in 2015, and then we moved to Charleston soon after. I have been home with my son for the past two years, but my neighbors recently asked me to help them redo their kitchen. After working on that project, they recommended me to another client.  I have started my own business, Kate Miles Interior Design, which will hopefully continue to grow!

 

DL:  Would you mind telling me more about the interior design practice you are starting?

KM: I plan to focus on residential interior design!  

 

DL: What’s the hardest part about starting your own business?

KM: Getting clients is a big thing. I haven’t totally delved into that yet, but I have been lucky with word of mouth so far.  Getting my ducks in a row has been the hardest part, and it hasn’t always been easy to feel confident and ready to do it!  I saw a quote recently that really spoke to me.  “Great things never came from comfort zones.”

 

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

KM: I do think it definitely did. I was able to take a bunch of different classes, it it was great that the school gives you two years to decide on a major. Studying art history was very fulfilling. I feel well versed on art and I enjoy going to museums and being able to appreciate art.  I also did a summer business program, which prepared me a little bit to be ready to do accounting and think about owning my own business.

 

DL: How have you found the different jobs you've had?

KM: I would say networking has been the primary way. I mentioned Tammy, who worked on my parents house. I interned with her for a month in Birmingham. She connected me with another person in Charleston. Ethan Allen was an application or email or email process. They weren’t hiring, but I just reached out and said I was job searching. My first job for Ethan Allen was more of a front desk role, and not a design job. However, I just took it since i knew I wanted to work in the industry and I needed to start somewhere.

 

DL: The interior design field seems to be a popular career option for art alums. What is the hardest part about breaking into this field?

KM: Your education gives you the background and the fundamentals, but working with someone gives you a look into the ins and outs of what you should be doing. In this field, people see the end product and just think it's fun. But the crunching numbers, researching, tracking, and logistics can be a hard part of the job.

 

DL: What’s the one kernel of advice you would give to current students?

KM: Take a chance and follow your passion. I do think that the art history studies really prepared me for a lot of different things!

 

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

KM: Since I knew I would be doing a graduate program, I didn't spend too much time in the career office.  But, I would think maybe having people working in different industries coming to the art department to speak etc. might give students more ideas of opportunities in the art world!

Spotlight Interview: Emily Ortiz

Emily Ortiz: Graduate Student [ART THERAPY]

Washington, DC

WFU Class of 2015

Double Major: Studio Art & Psychology

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Emily Ortiz came across the 'hidden' profession of art therapy after completing a double major in Studio Art and Psychology at Wake Forest. Emily is currently completing her master's at The George Washington University's Art Therapy & Counseling program. We were lucky to steal Emily from her studies for a moment to discuss her path since WFU.

*Posted September 2017- Since her interview, Emily has moved to Winston-Salem to begin her career in Art Therapy with Sawtooth School of Visual Arts in the Healing & Wellness through the Visual Arts program.

DeacLink: What did you study at Wake? What led you to pursue a degree in Art Therapy?

Emily Ortiz: I was a double major in Studio Art and Psychology. I didn’t go into Wake knowing I wanted to do art or psychology. With the liberal arts program, I had the chance to take lots of different classes, and fell in love with those two subjects. My dad is an artist, so I had that background, and I think I rejected it a little because he was one, too. I eventually got involved in both majors, but I wasn’t sure how to combine them. Then I interned for Arts for Life at Brenner Children’s Hospital, and there I learned about art therapy. It’s this wonderful mental health profession I had no idea about. It combines my love of psychology, the human mind, and the mental health benefits of working with art. I did research on a lot of Master’s programs, and found GW, which was one of the first art therapy programs to be established. I applied and went for an interview, and fell in love with the field and DC.

 

DL: Would you mind telling me more about your program?

EO: It is a 2 year program if you go full time, and I will graduate with my Master’s in August. You get a very thorough education and learn general therapy and counseling theories, techniques, and processes, while also learning how to incorporate creative processes, stages of artistic development, and so on. So it's a really an education that's quite unique to the field of art therapy. In order to do this, you need to have some undergraduate training in art and psychology, but not necessarily a major in those fields. A lot of people come from art or psychology backgrounds, but many of my classmates came from graphic design, teaching, interior design, and other backgrounds.


While in school at GW, you do two full-year internships. I interned at an inpatient psychiatric unit and a local county’s behavioral health department. So there’s a lot of hands-on learning that happens from your supervisors and directly from your clients. For instance, when working in this field with a client, you learn to stress the process and not the product. Not focus on what you are making or the end result, but how the process of creating and expressing oneself can be beneficial.

As another part of my program that really drew me is the abroad program that's tied into the cultural diversity course. I’ll be going to Abu Dhabi and India, and while there I will be learning about how art therapy is viewed outside of the US and how to work with diverse populations. There are a lot of considerations, for instance, how different colors or materials might have cultural implications and how your practice is dependent upon availability or acceptability of materials, which might vary from practice in the United States. Also, it will be really interesting to see the role the arts takes on because of the language barrier.

 

DL: What sort of work experience/exposure to the field have you gained? What’s your plan for after graduation?

EO: I recently finished year two of the 2 one-year internships. In our program, you work one year with adults and the second with children or adolescents. I did a bit more work with adults. My first one was inpatient psychiatric unit in DC. We did an art therapy group daily and worked with the patients there. It was an acute psychiatric unit, so the people were in crisis and only there for a short time. We used a variety of artistic media and processes to see how we help with people working towards stability. It was powerful to see how people can express themselves through artistic processes when they may not be able to speak about painful or traumatic experiences.

My second internship I just finished, and it was was with a local county’s behavioral health services. I started in Child and Family Services and then transitioned to Behavioral Health which was adult services. We did groups for outpatient clients, and I did groups with homeless outreach services. I had individual clients, and I co-lead a group for domestic and sexual violence services. It was a wide range of clients and it was really great to work with so many different people on any given day.

Our program also gives us the chance to work in an onsite community trauma clinic where we work as student therapists. As part of GW’s trauma training, each second or third year student works individually with a client in the George Washington Art Therapy Clinic. With client permission, our sessions are recorded so that we can bring the video to supervision and learn to critique ourselves and receive feedback. So that's something I found to be a really unique and important part of the learning process.

When using art as therapy, you are providing the materials or themes and letting people do what they feel they need to do in what might be a more open studio approach. You are there to support emotions that come out as people are creating, or help them process through the imagery or ideas that arise. Then there might be more directive art therapy, like some groups I do a more directive project and do projects that are related to their treatment goals, such as trauma processing or emotional regulation. There's a lot of learning to assess the client and what they need in that hour that you're with them.

 

DL: This is a field most alums don’t think about. How did you make the transition, and what is the hardest part about breaking into this field?

EO: Knowing that this field exists is the hardest part. People see coloring books that are labeled as “art therapy”, but that’s not really therapy. It can be so much more impactful for people. I think that’s a shame, and I wish I had known about the field sooner. It is such a powerful thing, and as an artist you know intrinsically that art is important and that the creative process can be healing, but most people don’t know the field is there and that there's an opportunity to bring that to more people.  

 

DL: What will you be doing after graduation?

EO: After I graduate, I will be moving back to Winston-Salem and looking for a job. My goal is to work with the adult population. Ideally, I’d like to work part time with that population, and start something else on the side. There is such a vibrant and growing art culture in Winston-Salem, especially community art. I think there's a lot of potential there for some sort of community art therapy initiative and I'd love to work on that. I've become very passionate about preventative mental health care, and I really believe art can help people deal with stressors of their daily lives. I would like to start something along those lines. It’s also been exciting to see things like THRIVE at Wake which tackles some of this.

 

DL: How do you like living in DC? What’s the arts community like?

EO: I really enjoy DC. It’s so exciting when you have a free day and are able to just wander into the National Gallery and be around this incredible artwork. It is such an exciting place to be. There’s obviously a lot going on politically in the city, but there’s much more than that. It’s also been interesting to see how people express political ideas through art. It's also great to see the arts culture in the cities around D.C. I live in Arlington, and in Alexandria there’s the Torpedo Factory which has over 100 artist studios and gallery and is a really inspiring space.

 

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

EO: I was not prepared for life after graduation, in the way that I think some of my classmates in other majors were. Wake focuses so much on business, but some of that is missing with art. The OPCD is a generally a good resource, but I'm not sure they were really aware of some of the more non-traditional options that are out there and how students might prepare for those paths. But I think some of that is changing from within the department. My senior year, Leigh Ann Hallberg put together a video meeting with Wake art alums in different fields, including an art therapist. It was amazing to be in touch with a therapist who had gone to Wake and to learn about her path, so I really appreciated that opportunity. I think more of that would be helpful for the majors that don't get as much attention from the school, like art. Wake needs more “Lunch and Learns” and things like that video meeting to increase exposure to non-traditional career paths.

 

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

EO: It’s important to stay serious and do the research in terms of of what’s out there, so that you can find out about these more “hidden” career options. By doing your research, you are preparing yourself and opening yourself up to more experiences. Also, really getting to know yourself so you can figure out what you want to be doing and how that's going to match up to what you're passionate about. Grad school was definitely difficult, but what kept me going was a passion for what I was doing. I think if you find that passion it'll drive you towards where you need to be.

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: William Crow

William Crow: Former Managing Educator

New York

Former Managing Museum Educator, Metropolitan Museum of Art
WFU Class of 1995
Double Major: Studio Art & Spanish

At the time of the interview, William was based in New York and working at the Metropolitan Museum. Since then, he has moved to Pennsylvania and is currently the Director of the Lehigh University Art Galleries.

DeacLink: You were a studio art major at Wake. How has your career unfolded since?

William Crow: I was a Studio Art and Spanish double major, and it has been a winding road to get to where I am today. It has been one that really draws upon the different experiences I’ve had. My senior year at Wake there was an artist in residence working on a project at SECCA. I got to know her and her work, and she was based in New York. I knew I wanted to pursue art as a career, and she invited me to be her assistant in the City after graduation. She also recommended I apply for role as a Site Supervisor for Creative Time.

I moved to New York the summer after graduation. The experience exposed me to contemporary artists, and I really learned what it is like to make art and be engaged with others around the making of art, curating and mounting exhibitions. I learned the logistical details in addition to the physical creation. It was a great experience. 

Parallel to that, I also knew that I was really interested in exploring some kind of teaching. I had a sensibility for working with young people, and I wanted to pursue an education line of work along with an art practice. I took a job at an all boys independent school where I taught AP Art History, Studio Art and Spanish. I was able to access skills that I had learned and studied at Wake, but in an independent setting. The school was part of a Benedictine monastery, and I lived on campus. I learned a lot about teaching in addition to learning more about myself and my own interests. The entire time, I continued my own creative practice. 

I taught for a few years, but then went to Hunter College/CUNY to get my MFA in painting. It was a great opportunity to dive in and immerse myself in my artistic practice. I learned what it would take to break into the art scene in New York. My studio space was near Times Square, and it was walking distance to the Chelsea galleries. I built on connections I had made with other artists. I quickly learned that being an artist as a professional career path was not what I wanted to do. In addition to lots of long, hard hours in your studio, you also have to market yourself and engage in the the business of art and getting gallery representation. I had solo and group exhibitions, but I wasn’t as interested in the marketing piece of myself as an artist. 

Then I realized I wanted to pursue another teaching route. Fortuitously I had this teaching background at the school, but then a neighbor of mine suggested I consider teaching in the informal learning environment of museums. She had experience teaching as a freelance educator in a museum. So I started teaching in the Morgan Library. I worked mostly with school groups and connecting the Morgan’s collection to school based curriculum. 

I also started doing freelance work as an educator at the Met. I started in teaching programs for families on weekends. That quickly expanded to teaching access programs, and programs for teachers. I did that from 1999-2003. My main work was as a freelance educator across programs at the Met and Morgan Library, meanwhile continuing my artistic practice and holding artist residencies. I had a residency in World Trade Tower 1, which ended in the summer of 2001. In 2003, a full time position became available at the Met overseeing school programs. I took the position, and I have been at the Met since. I have gradually moved into positions of greater responsibility with different audiences. I now oversee Teaching and Learning, covering audiences ranging from newborns to families and teens to graduate students. I also am responsible for teaching practice across all audience areas. I am surrounded by people engaging with and asking questions about art. I immensely enjoy finding ways to make art relevant to their lives in different ways. I am constantly thinking through how to engage a wide variety of learners. I also do some university teaching. I am an adjunct professor at NYU in their M.A. Museum Studies program. I also teach online in the M.A. Program in Museum Studies at Johns Hopkins.

I did end up going back to grad school again--twice actually--after earning my MFA. As I learned more about the field of museum education, I realized that it is a profession in its own right, and I wanted to learn more about museum management and education theory. I earned my masters in Leadership in Museum Education at Bank Street College. I also wanted to learn more about empirical research methods as they relate to museums and how we can utilize the tools of social science to improve visitors’ learning experiences. Over the last decade there has been an embrace of empirical research methods in museums to determine success and measure impact. What kinds of methods can we use to demonstrate that we are making a difference in people’s lives? I just finished the PhD program in Cognitive Science at Columbia, focusing on how people think about works of art.

DL: What do you think is the hardest part about breaking into this field? 

WC: One of the great strengths of museums is that the more you get to know people who work in museums, the more you realize that they have really diverse backgrounds. They might have been an artist, or have been interested in another field or another career before museum work. Museum professionals have a lot of different interests, and museums are places where those diverse interests can be fed. 

My advice to undergraduates is don’t let go of the passions and interests you have, since there isn't a linear trajectory into the museum field. They should follow their passion and what they are excited about. Museums are places where they can find those passions. There are opportunities for direct teaching about objects, you can be on the side of research and scholarship about collections, or you can be presenting exhibitions to the public. We also have a huge number of people that are related to the business of a museum - development, marketing, strategy, merchandising, physical operations, and engineering. There is a huge spectrum of opportunities. I didn't grow up thinking about museums as a career opportunity. I grew up in rural southwest Virginia where there were not a lot of museums. The idea of being a museum professional didn’t occur to me until college and after college.

I recommend people interested in museum work reach out to people in the field and have informational interviews and ask to shadow them. That’s a great way to see what it is like to work in a museum. Whether a formal internship or not, it can be helpful to find out if its a fit. And honestly, it is just as important to know what you don't want to do. 

DL: How do you like living in New York? What are some of the realities of living there? 

WC: The perception of New York being inaccessible is true. I moved here in 1995, and when I am talking to recent graduates, most aren't looking to live in Manhattan anymore. Real estate is so competitive. Instead, people are living in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and New Jersey. In those places, the cost of living is less, but those neighborhoods have also started creating networks of people in arts communities. So if someone is thinking of moving to New York, they might need to see what the communities look like in the other boroughs and what are the job opportunities in places in addition to Manhattan. Recent graduates need to think strategically about creating a plan for themselves. It is important to experiment and try new things. I recommended they take some risks and allow themselves a few years to try out New York. They should give themselves a budget to experiment and see all that New York really has to offer. 

DL: Is the art scene hard to break into in NY?

WC: The ways to break into communities have changed since I moved to New York and started out. The internet was new when I came here. As a result, a lot of the way you networked was through in-person introductions. You had to go in person to gallery openings. Also, you introduced yourself with slides to a gallery. It was a very analog process. Honestly there is no replacement for a face to face conversation and impromptu meeting, but there are now communities in the digital sphere and on social media. It might not make things easier in terms of getting a job or gallery representation, but there is a greater level of transparency. You can see who the people are and how you can get involved and subsequently learn more. There is a higher amount of information, especially at the emerging artist level. 

Most of my opportunities did not come from established people in the field or from professors/former instructors. Instead, they came from peers. With your peers, you can create your own group exhibitions or work together to explore an opportunity. 

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

WC: All of the experiences I had in college, including the challenging ones, subsequently led to great opportunities. It is hard to look back and see what ended up serving me best. Academia has often been a self contained sphere that doesn’t want to address the issues of career realities and the logistics of what happens after graduation. Whether it’s through engagement with professors, the career center, peer to peer, or alumni networks, I do think that students should actively be putting effort into thinking about what their time after college will look like. They should be thinking about what are the beginnings of a road map, and think about that just as much as academic interests. You don’t want to map out your life to the detriment of not exploring opportunities, but you also need to really think about what is best suited for you in terms of where you can thrive and how people can help you. It does take a certain amount of confidence and willpower to reach out to someone established in their career. But students should definitely do that and treat it as a learning experience.