DL:RP Series: Matt James (ft Tyler Cameron)

Hello, DeacLinkers! The DL:RP Series returns with a recent addition, Matt James and ABC Food Tours. The fantastic ex-football player has enjoyed a surge of support and activity in the charity program, most notably involving former Wake teammate and Bachelorette sensation Tyler Cameron on NYC tours. Congrats to both Wake athlete alums, we’re proud to share your story!


Matt James: Founder, ABC Food Tours

New York City

WFU Class of 2015

Major: Economics

image (11).png

ABC Food Tours founder Matt James recaps his journey from Winston-Salem to NYC, including major lessons about networking, giving back, and hitting your stride after graduation.

DeacLink: Walk us through your path since graduation day, up to the founding and fruition of ABC Food Tours.

Matt James: Man, where to start! I didn’t think I was going to make a career out of football, but I thought my stint in the NFL would be longer than a few months. Fortunately, I had a support system back home in Raleigh (Mom) who allowed me to stay at her house and train while I figured out my next steps. By the end of that first season in 2016 I had moved on from football and off to Pittsburgh for a Corporate & Institutional Banking role in Pittsburgh with PNC. After a 1 ½ years in Pittsburgh, which I loved and still cherish, I spread my wings a flew up to NYC where I felt like I was missing out on life. My first six months were spent couch surfing, navigating the new NYC landscape and deciding if this new role in advertising as a media planner was for me. Ultimately, I left that job (just in time as the company went belly up 12 months later) and took a position as a research analyst at a commercial real estate company called CBRE.

Four months into my CBRE role, I began to realize how much I loved food. I was eating out virtually every meal! I also really missed interacting with kids, since at Wake I was very involved with programs like Eat with the Deacs and Project Pumpkin through SAAC (Student-Athlete Advisory Committee). I met a group of “kids” who were students from a local neighborhood elementary school P.S. 188- where 50% of the students are homeless- hanging outside my favorite restaurant in the Alphabet City…. way later than they should have been out. We joked on each other for a few minutes then parted ways; they didn’t realize that wouldn’t be the last they saw of me. I reached out to their principal the following morning to set up a time where I could take their students to my favorite restaurant called Bob White’s. Although it was located right in their back yard, the kids had never been inside! This occasion marked the first food tour… the rest is history!

Photo courtesy of abcfoodtours.com

Photo courtesy of abcfoodtours.com

DL: You were an athlete at Wake (on the football team). What impact did this have upon your undergrad experience, and did it influence the moves you made upon graduating?

MJ: Being an athlete, I grew to appreciate everything that had been granted to me closer to the end of my time at Wake. Some random person decided it would be a good idea to give Wake over a quarter million dollars to support someone like myself going to college! I’m close to the benefactor, Dr. Stan Rogers, to this day. He changed my life!

Going to Wake also cultured me. I know that sounds crazy as most students would say that a majority of the kids a Wake are pretty similar. It was a chance for me to see peers from across the country all aspiring to be different things; see how being brought up in different areas of the country had quite an influence on the type person you became. It inspired me to want the best for myself and question why I would allow anything less than the very best for myself, why couldn’t I be just like these kids at Wake?

DL: Away from athletics, how much did your studies and general classroom experience at Wake inform or drive your career path?

MJ: Looking back, my favorite teachers were professors I had before I even knew I wanted to major in Economics. I have always been business minded, so Econ made the most sense (since I would NOT be taking accounting and making a run at the business school). I would say students, parents, and my interactions with individuals associated with Wake, validated that you didn’t need to be an athlete to be successful. An important mentor for me in this case was Mr. Leak, who was a wealth manager at Morgan Stanley and invited me to intern with him my senior year.

DL: How did you find and apply to the various jobs you’ve held since graduating? Do you have any tips or suggestions for the student audience on networking, interviewing and applying for jobs?

MJ: The best networking I’ve done was during undergrad at Wake! That being said, it’s never too late. Wake Forest is a family, and alumni are more than willing to help introduce you to the right people and steer you in the right direction. My first job was through a connection I made with a baseball player at Wake (who is one of my boys to this day!). His father put me in contact with someone who linked me to another person, who eventually offered me a job in Pittsburgh! That opportunity came from my willingness to be flexible through the process… like, I would have taken a job in Montana. Nothing is permanent, living experience is invaluable.

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

MJ: From a student-athlete perspective, I didn’t realize that although being eligible to play GPA-wise was great, that GPA isn’t close to high enough to be competitive in a job market. Good grades matter initially- they can get you seen in a competitive pool. I would also encourage undergrads to connect with as many students as possible. Figure out what their parents do and ask lots of questions because you may be in class with someone whose parents do something super interesting! I’ve found that parents are more than willing to talk to a current college student as opposed to a college grad who is “desperate” for a job.

DL: What is your favorite part of living and working in NYC? What is the most interesting thing going on in the food scene, in your opinion?

MJ: I love lots of things about living in NYC! Top things being:

Diversity – you have no choice but to be inclusive. The thing about NYC, regardless of your culture, religion, gender, etc. if you’re competent and work hard then you will succeed! You aren’t discriminated against (like some parts of the country) as NYC is a melting pot like no other city.

Opportunity – You are uniquely positioned in a city where there is every industry and influential people all around you. If you’re a mover and shaker, the world is your oyster. The resources are here for anyone to be successful if they choose to apply themselves.

DL: What is your favorite part about running ABC Food Tours? What are your hopes for the future of the program?

MJ: My favorite part of running ABC is working with kids! They’re at an age where they’re super impressionable. No one is born racist or rude; these are all traits that are acquired through influence and experience. If you can positively influence these students at this age, you can potentially change the course of their lives. Also, I love seeing our students try new foods! We went to Blue Ribbon Sushi recently and it was so rewarding watching these 3rd and 4th graders try sushi for the first time. We encourage them to try everything. The kids don’t’ have to like it but they’re able to speak as to why they do or don’t by the end of a tour.

Photo courtesy of abcfoodtours.com

Photo courtesy of abcfoodtours.com

DL: How can Wake Forest alumni or current students support ABC?

MJ: The biggest way they can support is by joining us for a tour! We strive to surround our students with individuals who are nothing like them (typically upper middle class, white male/female). This allows them to see for themselves who these people are and not be influenced by their parents and the media on what certain demographics represent. You can also go online and sponsor a tour on our website allowing a student or entire classroom the opportunity to experience these restaurants (and fitness classes now!).

Photo courtesy of abcfoodtours.com

Photo courtesy of abcfoodtours.com

DL: What and where is next for you?

MJ: I’m headed into brokerage (with CBRE) in a few months so I’m stoked about that! We’ve also launched ABC Fitness which takes students on fitness tours of local gyms in NYC focusing on health and wellness in 2019. We also recently hosted our first international tour in Brixton, London!

DL: That’s fantastic- long may this expansive effort continue! What piece of advice would you like to leave with the readers?

MJ: Be a good person. A smile can go a very long way.


Support ABC Food Tours by visiting their website here.

Follow ABC on IG to keep updated on the latest food and fitness tour activity (Matt’s IG is pretty great too).

Photo courtesy of abcfoodtours.com

Photo courtesy of abcfoodtours.com

Spotlight Interview: Matt James

Matt James: Founder, ABC Food Tours

New York City

WFU Class of 2015

Major: Economics

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ABC Food Tours founder Matt James recaps his journey from Winston-Salem to NYC, including major lessons about networking, giving back, and hitting your stride after graduation.

DeacLink: Walk us through your path since graduation day, up to the founding and fruition of ABC Food Tours.

Matt James: Man, where to start! I didn’t think I was going to make a career out of football, but I thought my stint in the NFL would be longer than a few months. Fortunately, I had a support system back home in Raleigh (Mom) who allowed me to stay at her house and train while I figured out my next steps. By the end of that first season in 2016 I had moved on from football and off to Pittsburgh for a Corporate & Institutional Banking role in Pittsburgh with PNC. After a 1 ½ years in Pittsburgh, which I loved and still cherish, I spread my wings a flew up to NYC where I felt like I was missing out on life. My first six months were spent couch surfing, navigating the new NYC landscape and deciding if this new role in advertising as a media planner was for me. Ultimately, I left that job (just in time as the company went belly up 12 months later) and took a position as a research analyst at a commercial real estate company called CBRE.

Four months into my CBRE role, I began to realize how much I loved food. I was eating out virtually every meal! I also really missed interacting with kids, since at Wake I was very involved with programs like Eat with the Deacs and Project Pumpkin through SAAC (Student-Athlete Advisory Committee). I met a group of “kids” who were students from a local neighborhood elementary school P.S. 188- where 50% of the students are homeless- hanging outside my favorite restaurant in the Alphabet City…. way later than they should have been out. We joked on each other for a few minutes then parted ways; they didn’t realize that wouldn’t be the last they saw of me. I reached out to their principal the following morning to set up a time where I could take their students to my favorite restaurant called Bob White’s. Although it was located right in their back yard, the kids had never been inside! This occasion marked the first food tour… the rest is history!

Photo courtesy of abcfoodtours.com

Photo courtesy of abcfoodtours.com

DL: You were an athlete at Wake (on the football team). What impact did this have upon your undergrad experience, and did it influence the moves you made upon graduating?

MJ: Being an athlete, I grew to appreciate everything that had been granted to me closer to the end of my time at Wake. Some random person decided it would be a good idea to give Wake over a quarter million dollars to support someone like myself going to college! I’m close to the benefactor, Dr. Stan Rogers, to this day. He changed my life!

Going to Wake also cultured me. I know that sounds crazy as most students would say that a majority of the kids a Wake are pretty similar. It was a chance for me to see peers from across the country all aspiring to be different things; see how being brought up in different areas of the country had quite an influence on the type person you became. It inspired me to want the best for myself and question why I would allow anything less than the very best for myself, why couldn’t I be just like these kids at Wake?

DL: Away from athletics, how much did your studies and general classroom experience at Wake inform or drive your career path?

MJ: Looking back, my favorite teachers were professors I had before I even knew I wanted to major in Economics. I have always been business minded, so Econ made the most sense (since I would NOT be taking accounting and making a run at the business school). I would say students, parents, and my interactions with individuals associated with Wake, validated that you didn’t need to be an athlete to be successful. An important mentor for me in this case was Mr. Leak, who was a wealth manager at Morgan Stanley and invited me to intern with him my senior year.

DL: How did you find and apply to the various jobs you’ve held since graduating? Do you have any tips or suggestions for the student audience on networking, interviewing and applying for jobs?

MJ: The best networking I’ve done was during undergrad at Wake! That being said, it’s never too late. Wake Forest is a family, and alumni are more than willing to help introduce you to the right people and steer you in the right direction. My first job was through a connection I made with a baseball player at Wake (who is one of my boys to this day!). His father put me in contact with someone who linked me to another person, who eventually offered me a job in Pittsburgh! That opportunity came from my willingness to be flexible through the process… like, I would have taken a job in Montana. Nothing is permanent, living experience is invaluable.

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

MJ: From a student-athlete perspective, I didn’t realize that although being eligible to play GPA-wise was great, that GPA isn’t close to high enough to be competitive in a job market. Good grades matter initially- they can get you seen in a competitive pool. I would also encourage undergrads to connect with as many students as possible. Figure out what their parents do and ask lots of questions because you may be in class with someone whose parents do something super interesting! I’ve found that parents are more than willing to talk to a current college student as opposed to a college grad who is “desperate” for a job.

DL: What is your favorite part of living and working in NYC? What is the most interesting thing going on in the food scene, in your opinion?

MJ: I love lots of things about living in NYC! Top things being:

Diversity – you have no choice but to be inclusive. The thing about NYC, regardless of your culture, religion, gender, etc. if you’re competent and work hard then you will succeed! You aren’t discriminated against (like some parts of the country) as NYC is a melting pot like no other city.

Opportunity – You are uniquely positioned in a city where there is every industry and influential people all around you. If you’re a mover and shaker, the world is your oyster. The resources are here for anyone to be successful if they choose to apply themselves.

DL: What is your favorite part about running ABC Food Tours? What are your hopes for the future of the program?

MJ: My favorite part of running ABC is working with kids! They’re at an age where they’re super impressionable. No one is born racist or rude; these are all traits that are acquired through influence and experience. If you can positively influence these students at this age, you can potentially change the course of their lives. Also, I love seeing our students try new foods! We went to Blue Ribbon Sushi recently and it was so rewarding watching these 3rd and 4th graders try sushi for the first time. We encourage them to try everything. The kids don’t’ have to like it but they’re able to speak as to why they do or don’t by the end of a tour.

Photo courtesy of abcfoodtours.com

Photo courtesy of abcfoodtours.com

DL: How can Wake Forest alumni or current students support ABC?

MJ: The biggest way they can support is by joining us for a tour! We strive to surround our students with individuals who are nothing like them (typically upper middle class, white male/female). This allows them to see for themselves who these people are and not be influenced by their parents and the media on what certain demographics represent. You can also go online and sponsor a tour on our website allowing a student or entire classroom the opportunity to experience these restaurants (and fitness classes now!).

Photo courtesy of abcfoodtours.com

Photo courtesy of abcfoodtours.com

DL: What and where is next for you?

MJ: I’m headed into brokerage (with CBRE) in a few months so I’m stoked about that! We’ve also launched ABC Fitness which takes students on fitness tours of local gyms in NYC focusing on health and wellness in 2019. We also recently hosted our first international tour in Brixton, London!

DL: That’s fantastic- long may this expansive effort continue! What piece of advice would you like to leave with the readers?

MJ: Be a good person. A smile can go a very long way.


Support ABC Food Tours by visiting their website here.

Follow ABC on IG to keep updated on the latest food and fitness tour activity (Matt’s IG is pretty great too).

Photo courtesy of abcfoodtours.com

Photo courtesy of abcfoodtours.com

Spotlight Interview: Natalie Michaels

Natalie Michaels, Performance Artist

New York City

WFU Class of 2015

Majors: Vocal Performance and Theater Arts

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Natalie Michaels catches us up since her graduation in 2015. The Performance artist describes her experiences at Wake, in the New York theater scene, and throughout everything in between.

DeacLink: Please walk me through your path after graduation.

Natalie Michaels: My second semester senior year I ended up doing the SETC conference, which I had done a couple of years before trying to find professional work for once I graduated, and I didn't. I had a couple auditions, a couple of callbacks, but I didn't really find anything. So what I ended up doing was applying to another program, and at that point I didn't see myself going to more school. I felt like I had graduated with my double major and was done, but I ended up applying to a different program through the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut. It's called the National Theater Institute. They have a semester long program, and a lot of colleges offer it as kind of semester abroad during school. But what I ended up doing was the Fall after I graduated I attended for a semester as kind of a postgrad study. I got college credit through Connecticut College, but since I had already graduated I didn't really need it. It was just kind of more credit, but not really towards any degree specifically. I called it a fake grad school.

So I did for a semester, and graduated from that program in December of 2015. And then for awhile lived at home, I live in Connecticut, and I was auditioning a bunch and doing that New York grind. I was commuting from Connecticut into the city. I would go back and forth, go to auditions, and then I worked at a restaurant as a hostess.

And then one audition in April I sent a video submission to a resort in West Virginia to be a cabaret singer. At that point in time, and even still today, you kinda just submit for everything and hope it works out. This job was kind of one of those where I just submitted and like hoped to hear back from them. And I did. And they said we love your voice. We’d love to hire you for a cabaret, which they called Spring House Entertainers. So you do cabaret shows and you do waltzes in this big resort, The Greenbrier, in West Virginia. So that was the beginning of May. They said we'd love to hire you, we'd love to interview you, talk to you about the job. Can you come here in a week.

So within a week, I decided I'm picking up my life and I'm going to West Virginia. I was working there and that was a six days a week performer gig. You did cabaret shows all of the time and dances. I started in May of 2016 and then I finished my contract in January of 2017, so I was there for eight months, which is long for a performer contract. I really loved it. It was great to be able to settle somewhere for a little bit. And then after January I decided it's time. I'd saved a lot of money. I was going to move to New York. So I went from home to West Virginia, and then I moved to New York in March of 2017. So I lived here for about six months, again doing auditions. I did a few small festival and plays and things like that, cabaret performances in the city.

And then actually one of my friends who I'd worked with in West Virginia said, “Hey, we need somebody last minute. A soprano dropped out of our group really quickly. Can you come and do Christmas season?” So I lived in the city for about six or seven months, and was working the grind and doing the auditions thing, and doing a few things here and there if I got them. And then I ended up back in West Virginia for two months from November of 2017 to January of 2018. It was nice to go back to because I had already know the job, and a lot of the people were still the same, and it was nice to leave the hectic city for a little bit, especially at Christmas time.

So I went back and then came back again. I had somebody sublet my room. I came back to my apartment in the city in January and then in February I auditioned for this show. It was your typical “Oh, I'm going to go audition for this thing, we'll see what happens.” But I actually booked it. I'm working off Broadway at St. Luke's Theater right now. So that show, it's called It Came from Beyond. We started rehearsals in the beginning of March, and we opened in April, and we're still running. So that’s where I am now.

The show that I'm doing right now only performs once a week. So I'm still working full time and performing. You have to find that balance of how much work, how much to not, how much to audition, how much to take classes, things like that. It’s hard. Given that I was born and raised here, it was the logical choice after school to just landing here and see what happens.


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

NM: When I came to Wake, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I knew exactly what I wanted to major in. I knew exactly the plan I wanted to take. Initially I was looking for a musical theater degree, like a BFA, which a lot of people in musical theater gravitate towards. And then when I accepted to Wake, I realized it's a BA program. I decided to major in theater and major in music so I could make up my own musical theater degree.

Wake fully prepared me to pursue a career in theater and acting and music and all of that. I took all of the classes that I knew I would need - acting classes and vocal lessons and things like that.  I really appreciated how much Wake not only trained me as a performer but also trained as a theater person. For the people who go to conservatories, that's all they do. With Wake, they train you how to be a performer, but they also want you to know every other aspect there is. You take design classes and history classes. I took D&P, scene design, stage makeup, and all of these things. So you learn exactly how a theater works. And I think that was the most valuable thing because I stepped out of my little performer bubble that I had put myself in and became a well rounded theater. Wake definitely helped me do that. So now when helping out with a festival or a recital, I don't only look at it from the performer's, point of view, but I look at it from the theatrical production standpoint. So I can say ”the lights here are weird,” or you know, “maybe you should try this staging differently.” And while I'm not the greatest director, at least I know how see something in a different way than just standing on stage and singing.

As far as Music at Wake, it was such a helpful training tool to get out of my head as far as solely musical theater. Like I said, I had a straight path. Nothing was gonna stop me. But the music degree is mostly classical music, which is great and I love it, but it made me open my head to something other than musical theater. So I studied a full classical repertoire all my four years and ended up doing a full honors voice recital, with all classical music. It opened me up to the world of Opera, which is definitely something I've done since and wish I could get more into because it is still theater. I also noticed how much my voice changed too from ages 18 to 21. It  developed in a way that I didn't think it could.

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

NM: I think they do a lot to prepare students for the outside world. That’s Wake’s nature, so the theater department just does that as well. The senior seminar was hugely helpful. I remember in that class and we'd have people come in and talk to us about different theater companies, different Grad schools, different cities.

I think they could help student find more performance jobs or tech jobs. I think it would be great if there were ways to incorporate musical theater into Wake’s curriculum. I think a lot of people in both music and theater like musicians. And I wish they would do more than one musical every other year, but that's just me.

DL: So what is your favorite part about working in the city?

NM: I’ve always been in love with the city. It's a catch 22. It causes a lot of stress, but it causes a lot of fun of not knowing what's next. You know what I mean? I've kind of lived the last few years not knowing where I'm going to be next, but knowing it'll be fun to find out. So I think that's my favorite part.

The theater scene in New York is no other. It's just fun to be a part of it, and fun to meet so many different performers. You can throw a rock in the city and find somebody who sings, or dances, or acts, or designs, or whatever. I think finding that community and meeting people who after the same goals, is great. It's hard because there's a lot of competition in the city, but it’s also important to set aside that competition and realize we're all after the same goal. It’s best to be a community that can come together to make a piece of theater, all go to this audition together, or all get drinks after a horrible audition. It’s nice to have such a large community that understands what you're going through.

DL: What’s your favorite part about acting?

NM: I used to say that my favorite part of acting was rehearsal process.  I loved just playing around. You have a script or you have an idea, and you just play around with what it could be. That was my favorite part of acting - just being able to see what works and see what does it and watch, watch something come together. And I think for me it's still kind of that.

But for now, I've been in the same show for a couple of months and playing the same part. I'm doing an understudy for one of the leads, so I get to kind of step into that role once or twice. But playing, the same part in the same show for a long time is actually kind of fun because you know exactly what you're doing, you know the process you have to go through. But once you've done it for a while, you can start mixing things up. You can start saying, “Oh I don't want my character to think about that right now. What if she thought about this instead and that drove the scene? So now, my favorite part of acting is just the play of it. The not knowing where you're going to land, but figuring it out. Being able to think about a character and think about what they would do and what they want, but also realizing, oh, that was a horrible choice, I'm going to try something else. It’s not just settling with one option.

DL: So what’s next for you?

NM: The show that I'm doing right now just was extended to the end of September, so I'll probably be there at least till after that. Other than that, I’ll be living in the city for a little bit longer. Probably more auditions, more day jobs. Just the grind until that right audition comes along. You never know what's next, but you hope it’s good.

DL: What advice do you have for theater students?

NM: Fight your hardest for what you want. People at Wake would say “You can’t do that double major,” and would tell me I’m crazy for taking 21 hours every semester. If you know that you have a passion in the arts, go after it. Don’t let anybody say that will be too hard or that it’s impossible. Do it because you want to, and in the end, something good will come out of it.  

Spotlight Interview: Devon Gilbert

Devon Gilbert: Associate, David Zwirner

New York City

WFU Class of 2017

Double Major: Art History & Business and Enterprise Management with a Concentration in Arts Markets

Minor: Studio Art

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Devon Gilbert took part in WFU programs such as Management in the Arts and the SUAAC ‘Art Buying Trip’ before graduating in 2017. He also took advantage of internships at SECCA, Cristin Tierney Gallery and Christie’s during undergrad. The Winston-Salem native walked us through his path to NYC, including some great networking tips.

DeacLink: What did you study at Wake? Did your areas of study inform or drive your career path?

Devon Gilbert: I was an Art History and BEM double major with with a concentration in Art Markets and a minor in Studio Art. In my sophomore year, I took the Management in the Visual Arts, a class that was co-taught by faculty in the School of business and the Art Department. Part of the course was a study tour to New York and it was there that I met the director of Finance at David Zwirner, James Morrill, a Wake alum and a co-owner of a gallery in the Lower East Side. When I was looking for job senior year, Leigh Ann Hallberg helped me reconnect with James. The timing worked out perfectly as the finance team at Zwirner was expanding and they were looking for a new member at a junior level. They needed someone with some accounting and finance knowledge who was interested in the business side of art, so that ended up being a perfect fit for me.

One thing that was particularly important, in terms of learning about career paths in the art work and making connections, was networking. The Management in the Visual Arts class was more focused on the breadth of the art market, including all the facets of art industry in NY and I was able to learn about careers I’d never even been aware of. The art buying trip also allowed for good opportunities to connect and build rapport with people in the gallery industry that were not necessarily connected to Wake Forest.

DL: Those sound like amazing opportunities. So, how did you find and apply to the various positions you’ve held that led up to your position at David Zwirner? Do you have any tips or suggestions for Wake students on networking, interviewing and applying for jobs especially in the art world?

DG: The Summer before I came to Wake, I was an intern with the Registrar & Exhibitions Manager at SECCA. I grew up in Winston-Salem and had met the Registrar previously, so this connection helped, but this internship gave me my first taste of working in the arts.

The next Summer I interned at the Mint Museum in Charlotte with the Advancement department, working with clients and donors. And I had an internship at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art. Since I wanted to work my way up to an internship at the Smithsonian, the Met, or MoMA before graduation, I was looking for internships that would help prepare me. I worked 2 days a week at the Mint, dealing with affiliate groups, members programs, and working to analyze data about memberships. I was at Reynolda House the other 3 days a week, with the education department. There I was learning about the house and the art, as well as giving tours. I also completed a research project and presentation on work selected from collection and analyzing it in context of piece of literature and music from same year.

The summer between my sophomore and junior years, I interned with Cristin Tierney at her gallery in NY. I met Cristin during the Arts Management trip, but I was initially introduced to her through Allison Perkins, the Director of Reynolda House. When I was applying for that internship, she knew me and knew that I was interested in working in the arts, so my previous interactions with her definitely helped me.

My last internship was at Christie’s in the 20-21st Century Decorative Art and Design group and the sale and photographs department. When I applied, I didn’t really know any alumni at Christie’s, but Cristin did help me by making a few introductions with her contacts from her time at Christie’s.

In terms of tips for interviewing, I would say recommend that you always try to be authentic and let your genuine interest show. I think when we are preparing for an interview or deciding how to talk about ourselves, it’s easy for things to feel too rehearsed. As for networking, just go for it. In my experience, Wake alums are always interested in helping out students and fellow alums and I’ve always had great conversations with them. LinkedIn is really useful as well, for seeing what people are up to and for making that first connection.

DL: Thank you for walking us through all those amazing internships! While looking back on these internships, is there anything you think Wake could have done better to prepare students for life after graduation?

DG: The Business School requires an internship between Junior and Senior year which I think is a great thing. It would be great for the university to encourage that for everyone because it really does help you figure out what you want to do and it makes you more marketable for other internships or jobs down the road. There’s really no downside to having additional internships. Career services at Wake does the best they can with art/art history students and is still improving in this arena. Right now, art students have to make things happen for themselves which isn’t easy, but it is beneficial for the people who come out of it. But that’s part of the reason DeacLink exists, so arts alumni can help current students or recent grads.

DL: In New York, what is the most interesting thing going on in the art scene there at the moment, in your opinion?

DG: Working at Zwirner and being so plugged into the art world has given me access to an immense amount of art. New York really is the centerpiece of the global art world, so there are dozens of great shows happening at any given time. Especially if you like post-war and contemporary art, I think there really is no better place. There was a show at Pace a couple of months ago of Louise Nevelson sculptures. I am a huge fan of her work and Wake has one of her pieces in it’s collection. The Met Breuer had a phenomenal show of Edvard Munch paintings, which really displayed the breadth in his work. I also got to see Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi at Christie’s before the auction. Overall, I feel like I’ve been able to take advantage of all these amazing opportunities and I’ve gotten to see some really incredible works of art.

DL: Wow, that sounds incredible! Do you have a favorite part about working for Zwirner?

DG: There was a Richard Serra show opening earlier this year, and he (Serra) took the entire staff on a walk-through of the show. We got to talk about all the work including the sculptures and prints. Overall, it was such a rare opportunity where I was able to hear the artist talk about his work in person. I also really loved seeing the 25th anniversary show for Zwirner. I really got to see the history of the gallery and a lot of great work from all of our artists. It was amazing to see the arc of the gallery and our artists since its creation.

DL: What’s next for you?

DG: I was recently promoted to a new role within department, so I’m working on that transition. Right now I’m focused on my work at Zwirner.

DL: Do you have any advice you would like to give to the readers?

DG: Aside from internships and general networking, I would recommend getting to know your fellow students at Wake. I am still in contact with some of the Seniors from when I was a Freshman. I followed their example and they have helped me make a lot of connections. Other than that, just take advantage of all the opportunities you can at Wake!

Spotlight Interview: Max Gordon

Max Gordon: Associate Graphic Designer, RapidRatings

New York City

WFU Class of 2018

Major: Studio Art

Minor: Chemistry

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Max Gordon came to Wake with sights set on a pre-med track. However, he encountered the Art Department and fell in love! Max works at RapidRatings in NYC as a graphic designer. We recently got the full scoop on Max’s path since Winston.

DeacLink: What did you study at Wake? How much did your studies at Wake inform or drive your career path?

Max Gordon: I majored in Studio Art with a minor in Chemistry when I was at Wake. My experience at Wake had a large impact on my current career path. When I was a freshman, I intended on being pre-med, but I knew I wanted to continue with art as well. After taking my first studio at Wake, I fell in love with the art program because it was small. The size of the department allowed me to develop relationships and receive detailed feedback from the professors. Although I never took a graphic design class at Wake, I began creating my own path by experimenting and teaching myself through Wake’s free Adobe program. I also took a graphic design class when I was abroad in Copenhagen with a DIS program. Taking drawing classes taught by Leigh Ann Hallberg also granted me creative freedom as she allowed me to go in a design-based direction.

DeacLink: So how did you end up becoming a graphic designer in the city?

Max Gordon: It started when I interned at RapidRatings the summer before my senior year. I was then offered the job the following January. I began doing some online work for them and made one in-person visit to NYC for an OPCD Wake Career Trek later that semester. Now I work at RapidRatings full time!

DeacLink: How did you find and apply to RapidRatings and other design internships? Did you receive any helpful tips along the way or have any advice for students applying to internships now?

Max Gordon: I was originally planning on going out to LA for a different internship that I found out about through a Wake alum, but I applied to others including RapidRatings just by searching on my own. In terms of advice I learned that your first choice isn’t going to work out most of the time and that’s fine. Whatever you end up getting will be helpful in some way for what you want to do; it will help you get there. It also helps, especially in the art world, to take initiative and put yourself out there in the first place because people aren’t always going to come to you.

DeacLink: In your experience, do you think there is anything that Wake could have done better to prepare students for life after graduation?

Max Gordon: Wake does a great job with a certain type of student, but in my opinion more could be done for art students in particular. For instance, it would be cool to see the Art Department and the OPCD team up to provide better templates for art students to work from when beginning to search for jobs. In the end, it’s best to trust yourself and what you think is best when you are working with Wake to prepare for your future.

DeacLink: What is your favorite part of living and working in NYC? Is there anything you find interesting going on in the art scene there right now?

Max Gordon: Living in the city gives you tons of opportunities to see public art, especially in the summer. There are installations all over the city; you can’t escape it! The pace here is very different from Winston-Salem. Sometimes the size of Winston was limiting, but you can still make an impact because it’s so small. In NYC it’s harder to make your impact, but the city definitely makes an impact on you.

DeacLink: Could you tell me more about working for RapidRatings? What is your favorite part?

Max Gordon: I really like that it is a small company. I have a unique position since I am the only graphic designer here, so I can make a big impact which is a great feeling. I work on designs for their public-facing content, so I have a lot of responsibility. I also manage the website, infographics, and videos. I can get involved in multiple projects which is cool. I am also getting involved with the UI/UX program for user experience and user interface.

DeacLink: What and where is next for you?

Max Gordon: I was applying to Parsons and NYU for grad school before graduation, but I was offered the job at RapidRatings and accepted before I found out if I got in to either school. Turns out, I got in to both, so I’m in the process of reapplying right now. I’m going for design and technology going into web development or UI/UX.

DeacLink: Is there any advice you have for the readers?

Max Gordon: A great piece of advice I received when I was looking for jobs was “Just land. Figure it out from there.”

Spotlight Interview: Spurge Carter

Spurge Carter: Music Artist (DJ at Lot Radio + Bandmember, Barrie)

New York City

WFU Class of 2014

Major: Communications with Media focus

Triple Minor: Entrepreneurship, Film Studies, & Japanese Language and Culture

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Spurge Carter has always had music on the mind. Throughout undergrad, Spurge was constantly working at his craft- DJ’ing and hosting parties, working at Wake Radio, and utilizing the Kirby Grant to travel places like New York and LA for music-oriented work experience between semesters. We spoke to Spurge about the pursuit of his passions, from Winston-Salem all the way to NYC.

DeacLink: You were known around campus as an active DJ; did your career path begin in undergrad?

Spurge Carter: I’ve always been interested in music, and knew I wanted to work in that field. I came to Wake having already DJ’d quite a lot in high school. I continued to cultivate my abilities throughout undergrad, with the ultimate goal in mind of becoming a full-time musician making a living off of my work.

I was listening to a lot of music and immersing myself in DJ culture whilst studying at Wake. It was cool being in an environment where I could devote all my spare time- whether outside of class or in the ‘off-season’ between semesters- to growing in this regard.

Every summer I did something different, which built toward networking and gaining experience in the music industry. The summer after freshman year I interned at Atlantic Records in NYC. The following sophomore summer I went to LA with my friend Rohan, who at the time was running a small music blog with me. We interned at a digital media agency over there, and the opportunity itself was based off of the blog we had started. Junior year I studied abroad in London where I dove into active participation in the UK music scene. I was throwing parties and DJ’ing, networking and getting my foot in the door. I learned and grew a lot from my time in London. Much of this work experience I’ve mentioned was subsidized by the Kirby Grant, which I was introduced to through the Entrepreneurship Department at Wake. It was amazing to go up to New York or out to LA completing unpaid internships with the financial support of these grants.

DL: We love the Kirby Fund too! With regards to finding, applying to, and obtaining these work experience positions, how did you go about that? Were you using personal connections, leveraging the WFU network, or online search/cold call methods?

SC: So, the Atlantic Records opportunity came through a friend of my mom’s who had worked at the label. Although it wasn’t directly related to Wake, I still benefited from the support of the grant to be in the City working for free. For other opportunities I was using a lot of social resources. This is especially important in the music industry, as it’s a dense and populated environment. People are very supportive if you’re doing your own thing and working toward an ultimate goal. I definitely cold-emailed lots of places too, and after obtaining a work stint would springboard off of that for the next opportunity. The LA internship came off the back of the music blog I was running with my WFU classmate and friend, Rohan.

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

SC: Not a crazy amount in terms of musicality. I took a light music theory course in undergrad, but the most influential lessons I learned were in the Entrepreneurship program. It gave me lots of tools, which I constantly relied upon to chart a course and survive as I pursued my goals. A lot of people in music actually have great business acumen, so I’m at an advantage as an artist who can manage my own finances, visualize and create a product, and generally apply business skills to work and life. I’m also appreciative to have learned all of this in North Carolina, removed from the environment of NYC.

DL: Can you expand further on the Wake’s Entrepreneurship program? What do you pull from the experience in your current life?

SC: Honestly, it’s my entire mentality. Both my parents are entrepreneurs and business owners so I’m wired that way. But in my career since Wake, my first job was entry-level corporate which I stayed on for nine months. From there I decided to figure out the moves required on a non-traditional path toward a musician’s career. My overall scope and perspective, I have from Entrepreneurship.

One thing in particular I learned in the program, which I highly recommend, is how to look for funding. Especially as a creative of any type, there are innumerable resources to utilize in order to continue producing the work you want. However, you have to know where to locate and obtain them. Searching for and applying to grants is so important! Most of this search can be conducted online as well.

DL: What led to your current job at Lot Radio in Brooklyn?

SC: I’ll take it back a few steps from WFU and build up. So, I graduated and went home for 2-3 months knowing my end goal was to be a full-time musician. It’s important to have a goal in mind, even if the way there doesn’t seem exactly clear. I knew my artistic confidence wasn’t high enough yet to put my work out there, as I had been making lots of electronic music on my computer based on intuition and taste but didn’t have the core musical knowledge or instrumental skills yet.

I came to NYC to grow my social network, build more musical skills, and understand how the music industry actually works. Especially in the time we live in, streaming has completely altered the structure of the industry and how money is made. I wanted to understand everything from record deals, plays, downloads, and touring- where does the artist making a solid income?

I worked in reception/mailroom at CAA (one of the biggest creative agencies in the world), to start out. I quickly realized that a significant portion of income could be made from touring. I didn’t have aspirations to be a music agent so after a few months I decided to pivot with what I was doing.

I left CAA and started interning for Electric Lady Studios, Jimi Hendrix’s studio in the East Village. I stayed on for a month and a half but the treatment - no pay, 50+ hour weeks, and way superiors dealt with us- caused me to leave. I did make friends with some great people who were interning alongside me, most of which I’ve stayed connected to and are doing great things in the industry now. I learned that it’s not always about connecting with the people above you in those situations, but to solidify relationships with your peers. The Electric Lady name has opened doors for me though; even saying I worked there causes people to listen.

I left this stint seeking growth and proper pay. I understood that if you can barista at all, you can find work in a coffee shop anywhere in the world. I started doing that and met some awesome connections in the industry through this work. At the same time I was doing some work at SoundCloud rap focused studio called Black Wax Creative. It was a very loose environment with a revolving door policy of random artists coming through. Kind of an environment where lots of people hung out but didn’t always translate to work getting done. A perfect place for networking though. We did have lots of people come through who are now of the moment and pretty big- Lil Uzi Vert, Skepta, Khalid, and Playboi Carti all came through the studio.

I left for the next thing with a decent engineering foundation and the desire for more creative input. It’s not easy to transition from the admin or assistant side of things, into the person actually making the music. I learned you need to come with your creative ideas, not just hope a creative person will ask you in the background for your input. All along this time I was making music at home but not really telling anybody. I was taking piano lessons to gain further understanding of music and its structure, beyond my own natural intuition.

The next job I took on came through a Facebook status! I put up a post saying I was super broke and looking for work, to see if anyone out there might reply with leads. Sure enough a friend got in touch with what became my next gig. I can’t stress enough how important it is to put yourself out there like this, especially in a dense city like NYC- you never know who will have something for you.

My friend was managing Chromeo, and said Patrick aka PThugg (someone I grew up listening to) needed someone to water his plants and keep them alive while he was away on tour. It was wild being in someone’s apartment who I looked up to, watering their plants daily and walking around their place. When PThugg returned and saw I’d kept his beloved plants healthy, the timing worked out where he needed a new personal assistant. I stayed on as his PA which was such a fun job. I got to learn what it was like to be a professional, successful musician who lives off their music alone. Patrick was also a great mentor indirectly; he wasn’t always talking to me or telling me things but being so involved in his affairs taught me tons through osmosis. It also helped me apply the skills I already had from undergrad in real life situations.

Seeing how he ran his own finances, tour managing, also self taught on instruments was enough to make think the same could work for me. When Patrick moved to LA I helped with the process but ultimately returned to NYC knowing that’s where I preferred being.

The another job I got came through a connection made while working in a coffee shop. I started assistant engineering at XL Recordings, who deal with big artists like Jungle, FKA Twigs, Adele, and The XX. Being in the studio with these people and honing my engineering ability helped me understand the creative process more fully. I was grateful to finally be in a studio where I was learning important skills daily, and being integral to getting things done.

I left in 2016 after an internal change forced me back a step to unpaid intern. (Many of these overlap in the timeline, by the way. Five jobs at once is a regular occurrence in New York) I had heard of an internet radio station that functioned much like the pirate radio spots in the UK- independently run and uninfluenced by funding or commercials with what they played. I came to Lot Radio in Brooklyn seeking that type of setup, hungry to join a community where people were making moves for themselves and not working under people constantly. Lot Radio had very recently opened when I joined- they had an independent structure funding the operation through a converted shipping container that was part bar, part coffee shop. They host tons of parties, guest DJ spots, and broadcasts so I could form a network in one place as opposed to running all over NYC hitting every party and gathering possible. It was a perfect fit- I’ve been here for two years and still greatly enjoy the team and environment.

DL: Sounds ideal! Do you see yourself staying on for a long period of time?

SC: I like that Lot Radio is a locus of activity and growth in the music community. I can grow my skill set, network, and support myself through working here. I have also been able to move my personal music career by working here. It’s similar to the studio system of the 60s and 70s, where one big artist would be in a room working on something, and another big name would pop their head in to see what was going on. It’s a close quarters community where everyone is in the same place, working on their own thing but freely collaborating and networking at the same time. It’s ideal for a creative space.

I am now part of a band called Barrie, which came about through a connection I’ve made at Lot Radio. We formed the group around an extremely talented singer-songwriter from outside Boston, that a friend associated with the radio discovered on SoundCloud. He convinced her to move to the City, and from there sourced myself and the other members (Noah, Dom & Sabine) to complete the group. We have been getting great exposure and plays, signed to a small indie label here, and played last year’s SXSW. It’s exciting to be moving this part of my career forward; we release our new EP on October 12th and can’t wait for people to enjoy it.

I’m also hosting parties and DJ’ing, with my own interview/podcast series with artist friends called ‘Basslines and Banter’. Every interview is followed by a performance and the conversation gets posted to my podcast series under the same name. I’m also moving toward starting my own label with a small group of friends that I’ve worked with, which will also aid the transition toward full-time music and living solely off of that.

DL: How hard is it to start your own music label, and what does the process itself look like?

SC: That’s something I’m still figuring out. You can register an LLC, and a lot from there is to figure out how you’ll be distributing. I personally am focusing on tapes to start, as I want a physical object to hand to people in my community and it’s more cost-effective than pressing records. From a business standpoint, it’s about breaking down the components: you need a manufacturer, the product is of course the music, then you have to find a distributor, decide which platforms are most optimal, and so forth. I’m definitely using the collective knowledge of my community as a resource: asking questions of people I know that have gone through the steps founding their own labels.

DL: That sort of community is an invaluable resource!

SC: Yes! And to us on the inside, we’re just a small collection of homies hanging out and making music. Growing up in Baltimore I used to look at similar networks with global reaches and feel it was so out of reach. Now living in the city and being part of the community I can see it’s this everyday thing, and all of us are making moves and trying to capture and convey the very moment we exist in now. Although plenty of my peers are blowing up and experiencing varying levels of fame & success now, it’s important to remember everyone is on their own track and to enjoy documenting and sharing the exact unique place you’re in as an artist.

DL: It’s interesting you say that, especially in a time where influencers on Instagram or YouTube are blowing up seemingly overnight. It’s an incredible time to be in your field considering the doors that thousands or millions of followers can open.

SC: We’re starting to see people gaining notoriety for their unique and authentic story and product. In our globalized present, specificity in storytelling is more attractive than anything else. Although for me being present in NYC is important and helps, it’s not actually mandatory to live in a major city these days. You actually see a lot of watered down, homogeneous material being produced due to everyone trying to be everywhere at once, and all on the same trend. If you stick to the uniqueness of your own story and your situation - that’s what’s really important.

DL: Considering where you’re at now and what it took to get this far, do you have any hopes for future programming and development that Wake could offer students seeking to be in the music world like you?

SC: I came to Wake understanding that although I wanted to pursue a career in music, the university is not a music industry school. I actually think that’s fine- I benefited from a liberal arts education and doing what I’ve done on my own career-wise was incredibly valuable for my personal growth.

I will say that it’d be great to have a clear and accessible list of alumni working in the same field as me. I think that what you’re working to build, [with DeacLink] for instance, would be greatly beneficial for us all. Having that transparent list could help us all connect more work, and even discuss the ways in which we have all arrived at our respective jobs. We as creatives all know what crazy things you end up doing to fund your endeavors- I’ve written essays for college kids, and even yesterday spent a few hours posting missing dog flyers. In college, I would have loved to be able to learn and trade stories like this with others who have chosen a less conventional path like me. I think it’s important.

DL: Finally, what advice do you want to leave with us today?

SC: Trust yourself. You will jump around from place to place, working multiple jobs and doing so much to gather experience and money to fund yourself. Keep your end goal at the forefront and trust yourself along the process.

You also have to understand the process and its timescale is entirely relative. It can feel like everyone around you is rising up and you’re going slower or not achieving as much, but remember that everyone’s own trajectory is individual and can’t be compared. I look at myself nearly five years out since Wake and am happy with where I’m at, especially with the sense of forward motion I keep about myself.

Lastly, present yourself as worthy of paid work. People will always take free labor. You have to be confident enough to state what your time and effort is worth, and ultimately you determine where that bar is going to be set.

Spurge and Barrie’s new EP dropped 12th October 2018- CLICK HERE to check it out!

Subscribe and watch ‘Basslines and Banter’ on YouTube featuring Spurge and numerous great musician guests.

Follow Spurge on Instagram - @sspurgee

Spotlight Interview: Kat Shuford

Kat Shuford: UI Designer + Owner/Founder of Catbat Shop

New York City

WFU Class of 2009

Major: Studio Art

Double Minor: Spanish & Latin American Studies

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Kat Shuford is a multitalented creator, leading a dual career in web design and fashion. Kat graduated from Wake with a Studio Major in 2009 and has since carved her own path in New York. She spoke with us recently to outline her journey since Winston-Salem.

DeacLink: What did you study at Wake? What was the job market like upon graduation?

Kat Shuford: I majored in Studio Art, with a concentration in Sculpture. I double-minored in Spanish & Latin American Studies.  I had been told that you can always be an art teacher at a private school the year after you graduate, but the Great Recession had hit teaching jobs hard, and my applications went unanswered.  My other idea was to teach English abroad, which I had done the previous summer, and I was accepted to a program through the Spanish government to teach in Mallorca for a year. When graduation finally came though, I was too exhausted from travelling during my years at Wake Forest (Santiago, Chile and Querétaro, Mexico) and thought that it would be hard to continue an art practice doing that.  

DL: Please walk me through your path from graduation day to your current job.

KS: I decided to move back home to Atlanta and save money to move to New York to pursue my art career. I had a number of odd jobs and internships that year, and I didn’t have much more than 3k saved. I figured that I had handled a big city before in a different language and culture, so I should be able to navigate New York. I only knew one or two people there and no close friends.  I managed to line up an internship as an artist assistant for Dustin Yellin through Craigslist (unpaid) and decided to go ahead and move since I could network better from New York than sending out more resumes from Atlanta.

I worked at the Dustin Yellin’s studio for several years, mainly doing collage work.  He happened to get a big commission right around the time I was going to have to stop interning there and get a paid job elsewhere. It was lucky timing. The team of assistants was up to 20 people at one point. In many ways, it was a dream job. I was doing art everyday and working alongside talented people, but it was physically taxing. I was exhausted by the time I got home.  My own art practice seemed so small in comparison.

After a few years there, I was growing restless. I wanted to have my own studio and the energy to work on my own art. I saw that working in the art world would always be a hustle. I got burnt out and quit. I started teaching myself web design with online videos and by building my own websites.  Web design appealed to me for the same reasons I liked making art: I put something out in the world, and someone on the other end would have to make sense of it without me there alongside them.

I was able to find internships by applying online, and one of those turned into steady gig. I got connected with my current job at BrightCrowd when a friend introduced me to one of his buddies from Business school at a mixer as SXSW.  I’ve been a UI designer at BrightCrowd for 4 years now. It’s a directory of helpful alumni that was started by two Stanford alumni and has spread to 20 more top universities. I do everything visually-related for them- from graphic design to front-end templating.  

And what happened to those dreams of being an artist? Once I started working as a web designer, I had enough money and time to get a small studio. I loved having a space to create in, but I didn’t like being alone in a tiny windowless room when there was the entire city of New York around me! I somehow found my way into designing capes that could be worn everyday, and it led me back out into the world, going into factories and warehouses in Brooklyn and New York, touching and learning about fabric, meeting incredible models and photographers, having an eye out for photoshoot locations. You can check out what I do at http://www.catbatshop.com/ or on Instagram @catbatshop.


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

KS: I was pushed and challenged, but it was very much within an academic context.  Some of that translated to the larger world, and some of it didn’t. There were a lot of gaps. Many people competing for the same art jobs I was came from art schools, so they had a really strong network and more technical skills.  I felt like I had a critical eye and that I understood the dialogue in the art world, but those skills didn’t translate to getting a job.


DL: How did you find and apply to the various positions you’ve held? Do you have any tips and suggestions for the student audience on networking, interviewing and applying for jobs?

KS: Craigslist… I think a lot has changed since I was an intern. First of all, interns get paid! Almost all of mine were unpaid. If you want a job from an internship, I do think you have to go above and beyond what the other interns are doing and to become friendly with people in the company. Even in the most casual work cultures, you still have to be top of mind. Even if they can’t hire you, they’ll feel confident recommending you or passing your name along if you have been helpful. I also applied through NYFA frequently, but I never had much luck with it.


DS: What could Wake have done better to prepare students for life after graduation?

KS: I remember they had a How to Interview panel, but the panelists worked in finance and sales. There wasn’t a tailored experience for students in the arts. As I mentioned before, the people I met in New York who went to art schools had big networks and the skills that put them at an advantage in getting jobs in the arts. Making sure every studio art major knows their way around the Adobe suite, specifically related to photo and video editing, would be a good step. I’m happy to talk to anyone who’s just graduated and trying to figure out what to do.


DL: What is your favorite part of living and working in New York? What is the most interesting thing going on in the art scene there at the moment, in your opinion?

KS: I was sold on New York during my first week here.  I loved being able to ride a bike most places, and I met so many interesting people it made my head spin. After 8 years, I still think it’s the people. A perfect day for me is to ride my bike into Manhattan bounce around to different cafes, bookstores, parks -- people-watching and eating.

I’m a bit out of touch with the art scene, but I saw Like Life this summer at the Met Breuer. I loved the mix of time periods. When I was younger, I only wanted to see contemporary art-- art of ideas. The Met knocked that out of me.

DL: What is your favorite part about owning a clothing line? What about web design- what are the perks of that?
KS: Designing the capes brings me in contact with new places and talented people.  It’s inherently collaborative. I get my fabric from a deadstock fabric supplier named Danny in Chelsea. Five generations of his family have been selling fabric out of the warehouse, and now he’s got a Zaha Hadid apartment building across the street and hotels all around him. It’s a remnant of an older New York.

As for web design, I like being a part of a team and knowing my creative skills have real value for the team. If you like to be constantly learning and you are happy spending the day not talking to anyone, web design is a good fit.


SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW: Meagan Hooper

Meagan Hooper: Founder & CEO of bSmartGuide.com

New York City

WFU Class of 2004

Major: Theatre

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Meagan Hooper graduated from Wake Forest with a Theater major and enormous amounts of ambition. She soon found herself balancing auditions with part-time work at a hedge fund in New York. Meagan speaks to us now as founder and CEO of bSmartGuide.com, an online platform for women to network and mentor one another. Learn how Meagan’s path since Wake led her to founding this incredible online community.

DeacLink: Can you walk me through your path from graduation day to your current job?

Meagan Hooper: When I graduated in 2004, my husband and I moved to Italy for the summer for him to teach English and music. In the Fall we moved to New York - a condition of his proposing. ;) I was an aspiring actress with a film and TV agent and manager. I had worked for a regional theater company, the Williamstown Theater Festival, that won a Tony Award and had a film reel from student projects at UNC School of the Arts. I began auditioning for anything and everything from soap operas, Netflix series, network pilots, and feature films. I auditioned for How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock, Gossip Girl, Law and Order, and High School Musical to name a few.

During this time, I had a freelance job working in finance. Through a fellow WFU Theater Major, Melissa Jones, I met a family who needed a part-time babysitter. The gentleman I babysat for ran an emerging markets equities research firm. I asked him if I could be of any help to him and his business as I was looking for extra work. Being a Wake Forest University Theater Major, I felt confident I could help edit the stock reports and create a monthly newsletter featuring emerging market sectors and stocks. I was really grateful for my liberal arts education because I could apply my versatile education to a field like finance. I worked for his firm on a freelance basis while I auditioned. I gained a tremendous education in finance that year learning on the job. I learned how to value a company, how the stock market works, how to read financial statements, and much more - I found it fascinating! Then, in 2006, I was babysitting again. This time for another Wake Forest graduate and Theater Major, Cambra Overend (key tip here - your college friends are your professional network!).

Through this babysitting job, I became acquainted with a WFU Babcock Business School graduate, who managed a hedge fund. I told him I was an actress who worked for an emerging market equities research firm. He shared that his COO could use an assistant and asked if I would be interested in the role. I accepted on the condition that I could go on auditions as they arose and he agreed. This job exposed me to investment management, which proved even more interesting, dramatic, and fabulous than any of the movies I was auditioning for (including Wall Street 2!).

I continued auditioning, but I realized more and more my heart was back at the office. I would put a stock trade in the market, run to an audition, watch the markets while auditioning for MTV or Nickelodeon, then run back to the office. I found myself really loving the office environment and the people. I was scared that if I booked a part - no matter how big, I would lose this place and the feeling it gave me. I was presented with touring theater opportunities but turned them down to stay, but stayed open to film and short-term national commercial bookings.

In 2008, my mentor and COO of the hedge fund decided to retire. I put myself forward to fill the position, and after much consideration and candidate interviews, was chosen for the role. Fortunately, I was still allowed to leave for auditions even with this increased responsibility. The hedge fund was completely supportive of my performing arts dream, which made endeared them even more to me.

During this time I was experiencing a tremendous amount of success, professionally and personally. An increasing number of people were asking me to get coffee to pick my brain about how to get a raise, a promotion, or what I had learned about personal finance. It became clear to me how mentorship and advice was in scarce supply for women in this industry. I was also noticing firsthand how few women there were in senior positions, not just in finance, but in all industries.

I decided to do something about it. I created a post-college guide - a curriculum for women on how to be successful after college. I drafted a nonfiction book proposal, conducted interviews, pitched the sample publishing houses, and got rejected. I then thought ‘Nobody can stop me online’... so I set up a website. My goal was to create a community where people could share content about how to be smart and mentor each other online.

I launched the site in 2010, providing a place for women to share their advice, watch video interviews featuring smart, successful women, participate in masterclasses, and more. The key at the heart of all this was networking online. Women needed easier access to help one another, in order to share information and increase the number of female leaders and decision makers. Men conduct business with their friends. So if women are going to get ahead professionally, we need to do business with each other.

DL: You launched your site eight years ago. It’s almost as if bSmartGuide.com was ahead of its time.

MH: It definitely was. People didn’t understand the concept of a community blog with a variety of writers, let alone know that bSmartGuide.com was a blog itself. At the time Huffington Post was the only recognizable ‘blog of blogs’ and Facebook was the only online platform people felt comfortable creating a personal profile attached to their name.

DL: Networking seems to be the fulcrum of your platform, and your journey in total. How important is networking to you?

MH: Democratized networking with easy access will be the key to increasing the number of women leaders and decision makers globally. Unfortunately, women are socialized to view networking as ‘asking for something’ or ‘being a bother to someone.’ Instead, the successful men I worked for viewed networking as looking at your circle or the people around you and asking yourself, ‘How can I be helpful to them, and how can they be helpful to me?’ That is the foundation of utilizing your network. If your circle is only comprised of people who don’t want to be helpful to you,, then you should build a new community around yourself and your goals. A woman I recently interviewed shared that you can host a meetup group, create a student group, or move to a different city, to give a few examples for creating your network. It’s very important to be proactive about your network. You can have a LinkedIn connection or a bSmart connection, but it’s only useful if those connections are utilized to help each other.

DL: What is your favorite part about being the Founder of bSmartGuide.com?

MH: I love seeing people recognize their potential, then take action towards that potential. It’s amazing to see that light go on in someone’s mind, realizing their capacity is far bigger than they thought it was. That’s the whole mission of bSmart, for us to help users realize and take steps towards their full potential in our online community and through our content.

DL: Have you got a kernel or two of advice for theatre majors?

MH: I cite my Wake Forest Theatre Major as one of the most influential factors of my success. I was able to capitalize on opportunities by applying the myriad skills I obtained in Theater. I learned how speak with a mantra while performing, how to understand and enact the concept of status, to identify my objective and try different tactics to achieve it, leverage a high emotional intelligence, and developed the ability to make choices with my body and my voice based on the professional role I enacted. All of these things were the cornerstone to crafting the person I wanted to be as a professional.

When I entered the world of New York finance there were very few women leaders, so I borrowed the mindset, characteristics, and behaviors of the men that were successful. Through my ability to play with status in real life situation, identifying my objective whilst trying different tactics within the office environment, I was able to navigate the waters quickly and create the reputation I wanted. I essentially cast myself in the role. Now corporations bring me in to train their associates and managers on the same strategy. I call it “Acting for Success.”

As a theatre major, you have every opportunity and option available to create the life you want. You will always have to learn on the job - even if it’s accounting or finance like me - so don’t limit your vision!

At the conclusion of our interview, Meagan imparted a special message to all female students and alumnae, inviting YOU to join the bSmart movement:

bSmart women utilize our platform for mentorship and networking and have told me they view it as ‘LinkedIn for women.’ We’re flattered by that comparison and to make mentorship and networking even more accessible, we’ve just launched our app for Apple and Android. We’d love for the women of Wake Forest to join us as members or apply to be Campus Ambassadors. If you do join, be sure to say hello and connect with me on bSmart here and join my mentorship group here.

Spotlight Interview: Bradley Singleton

Bradley Singleton: Associate Producer, Early Today and MSNBC News

New York City

WFU Class of 2017

Major: Communication and Media Studies

Minor: Journalism

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When Bradley Singleton received an offer at NBC, he packed his bags and moved to New York within that month! We interviewed Bradley about this transition and working at NBC.

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

Bradley Singleton: At Wake, I studied Communication with a concentration in Media Studies and a minor in Journalism. After I graduated in 2017, I stayed in Winston Salem for the summer and worked at the Intercultural Center doing communication and social media work. My next position was at the Wake Forest Office of Diversity and Inclusion as a communication specialist, where I worked the following fall. This was a very creative position, and I focused on social media campaigns, communication strategies, and worked overall to broaden the office’s outreach. I was applying for jobs while working at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and around the end of October I landed two interviews at NBC. I received an offer shortly after these interviews, and within a month I had packed my bags, moved to New York, and begun a job as a production assistant at the Early Today Show at MSNBC!

DL: Can you talk a little about working for the Early Today Show?

BS: I was recruited as a part of the YOH Program at NBC. NBC likes to give new employees who are recent college graduates the chance to explore the company and the news industry by rotating shows and positions until we find our niche. Through this program I happened to be assigned to the Early Today Show on a very small team, which I enjoy because I get a very hands-on experience. For my first three months at the Early Today Show I was a Graphics PA, where I worked as a liaison between the producers and the artists who make the visuals for the show. I knew, however, that I wanted to eventually transition into a writing role, and so I tried to perfect my writing skills by working on scripts on the side. I studied the show to see what I could contribute to make a positive impact and noticed that there was a lack of sports/entertainment. I sent my sample scripts to my producer, and eventually was assigned some small stories! I worked non-stop and those story assignments started multiplying and becoming more serious. Now I work as a sports writer for the show and write breaking news stories.

DL: What is your favorite part about working at the Early Today Show?

BS: At the Early Today Show I am able to give voices to people who wouldn’t necessarily get the attention that they deserve, which is really powerful and rewarding. I also really enjoy writing about sports as well! I feel that I bring a certain trendy vernacular that the show has begun to use and embrace.

DL: How did your studies and general experience at Wake Forest drive your career path and affect your current position?

BS: The most important thing that I learned at Wake was the ability to write – for sure. The Journalism department in particular taught me the fundamentals and drove home the importance of writing. I also learned how to work with hard deadlines and how to juggle multiple projects at once. There are days in my current position where I have to write 6-7 stories in three hours, and I feel calm and confident doing so because of my time at Wake. On top that, I think that Wake gives you a certain confidence and swag that is unmatched. You know that you can handle whatever is coming at you, and you know that you can outwork the next person. The naturally competitive environment and mindset that you develop at Wake sticks with you and encourages you to always do something extra to set yourself apart.

DL: On the other hand, what do you think that Wake could have done better to prepare its students for life after graduation?

BS: Sometimes I felt that there was a certain passiveness to the Communication department. The classes within the department taught rhetoric, science and theory, but I was craving more out of the department. I wanted to learn some more practical skills, like how to work a camera. I ended up having to teach myself a lot of the fine skills and the language of the industry when I was on the job. I would love to see the department grow and serve students who want to do something outside of the norm, but don’t have the same opportunities as their peers.

DL: Can you talk to me about your experiences finding and applying to the various positions you have held?

BS: I held quite a few internships – paid and unpaid – during my time at Wake Forest. I’m from South Carolina, so my first position was at a local station in Columbia, South Carolina. My experience there helped me get a paid position at a local station the next summer, where I got a more hands-on experience and was able to practice my craft. On campus I worked at Wake Radio and Wake TV and was able to then get an internship at a radio station in my hometown the following summer. Networking was really essential in getting my position at NBC. The Director of Talent Recruitment was from my hometown, and I was able to meet him through the girlfriend of a family friend! I built a relationship with him during my early years at Wake and worked hard to continue networking and maintaining that relationship throughout college. When I graduated, he put my resume into a smaller, company pool and definitely played a role in getting my application seen.

DL: What is your favorite part about living in New York?

BS: Living in New York City is like being on a vacation every day! It is such a dope place to live and work. You can travel two train stops away and emerge into a whole new world. There are so many types of people and so many places to explore…. it’s an adventure every time you step outside your door. And in terms of the arts, there are so many opportunities here all condensed into one small area!

DL: What is next for you in your career?

BS: I see myself staying at NBC for a while and exploring some of the other shows. I want to try to do something on air at some point, and I can see myself maybe becoming a producer down the line. I can also see myself moving into the digital sphere, which is an area that is always changing and growing.

DL: What is one piece of advice that you wish you had been told as a student interested in pursuing a career in media?

BS: Learn how to write!! Know the fundamentals of writing and always work to perfect that skill. Also, be independent. Learn how to do stuff on your own and be proactive. Always look to make someone else’s job easier – it will pay off in the long run. If you are a senior heading towards graduation, don’t get stressed out if you don’t have a job quite yet. Positions in media are always opening and closing, and you’ll get there! And lastly, don’t let anyone deter you from your dream career. A lot of times at Wake, I felt that other people were trying to influence and change my career path. Follow your passion, and don’t allow people to try and push you towards a more “traditional” job.

SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW: CAROLINE NELSON

Caroline Nelson: Executive Director's Assistant and Researcher, The Estate of David Smith

New York City

WFU Class of 2013 

Major: Art History

Minor: Psychology

 

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Caroline Nelson graduated Wake Forest University with a major in Art History and minor in Psychology. After graduation she found herself interning at the Bruce Museum. She later pursued her Master's at the Courtauld  Institute of Art in London. Caroline is now based in New York City doing wonderful things at the Estate of David Smith. We recently spoke to Caroline about her love for the arts, her career path, and  her advice to young art history majors. 

 

Note: Since conducting the interview, the Estate of David Smith has seen a number of changes, including Caroline being promoted to Exhibition Manager, in addition to remaining a researcher for the Catalogue Raisonné.

 

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

Caroline Nelson: I was an Art History major. I was initially pre-med, but by the end of Sophomore year, it had become pretty clear to me that my heart wasn’t really in it. My whole family is very science oriented. Veering off this path was not without its challenges, but certainly worth it in the end. I distinctly remember emailing Morna O’Neill from my bed in Piccolo my second year, desperately trying to get into what would eventually be the first Art History class I took at Wake - except it had begun weeks before. After some discussion, she let me in the class, and her support has proved incredibly influential ever since. After doing an independent study with her my junior year on 18th and 19th-century art, which also tied in with an exhibition mounted at the Reynolda House, I decided to pursue an honors thesis on John Constable prints. Because Morna was on sabbatical, though, I ended up working with Jay Curley as my advisor. His own interests and modernist insights led to new sources in my research and pushed me to think in ways I hadn’t before.

Despite all of this, I really had no idea what I wanted to do once I graduated. I wasn’t ready to go directly on to grad school. Looking back, I think I got pretty lucky. I didn’t apply to very many jobs, didn’t have a very strong sense of direction, but ended up landing a 9-month residence internship at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT. It was a broad role, maybe a little more directed toward curatorial type stuff. It was paid so was more like a job than an internship. It was a great experience. Just being up north, I was able to go to New York on the weekends and get further immersed in art. I am from West Virginia and have always been attracted to the city, but that hasn’t been my background.

Once I was “in” the art world, I realized that I wanted, as well as needed, another degree. That fall, I applied to a number of different Master's programs and a few PhD programs. I eventually chose to attend the Courtauld because they had a class specifically on late 18th / early 19th century British Art. I had studied abroad in London and fallen in love with it. It wasn’t a difficult decision to go back. I was a one year program as opposed to two, which ended up being a love-hate thing in a way. It was incredibly difficult and demanding. The Courtauld is sort of like Wake in that it prioritizes interacting and discussion based classes over lecture, but also required a lot of independent study, especially since everything was being consolidated into a shorter time frame. But I have absolutely no regrets about it.

What I ideally wanted to do was stay in London and try to find a job relating to the early modern British art I had been immersed in for almost a year. But I wasn’t able to balance looking for jobs while I was still in school, so I waited until after I turned in my dissertation, which left me with very little time to find something before my visa expired. It was a difficult market to break into anyway, especially for an American. So I moved back home to West Virginia, and I tried to make the most of it. I was there for about six months, and I got a job working as a secretary for a state senator. This was not entirely in line with anything I had done up until that point, but a lot of the skills that I sharpened there are completely applicable to any job, and definitely my job now. There is also a small museum in Charleston called the Clay Center, and as far as art goes, that’s pretty much it. I emailed the curator, Arif Khan, and worked with him a bit in addition to my job at the capitol. Most of it was exhibition research and I wrote some wall text. I got a stipend which was nice. Arif was a very positive influence and the opportunity helped to keep me motivated to continue applying to art jobs.

DL: Would you mind telling me more about what you're doing at the Estate of David Smith?

CN: All of this time, I never thought I wanted to be in New York. But I realized that if I wasn’t going to be in London, and if I wanted to truly take a stab at the art world, it’s where I really needed to be. It’s where the jobs are. On the NYFA website, I found this position at the Estate of David Smith, which is half administrative (I am the Executive Director’s assistant) and half research-based.

Working with modern sculpture is a huge jump from 18th/19th century British painting. I have learned so much since I started, though, and I have been here a little over a year now. I do a lot of outreach. We are represented by the gallery Hauser and Wirth. We have a big exhibition opening next month, and that’s been taking up a lot of my time. The other part of my job is geared toward an updated catalogue raisonne on Smith’s sculpture, which is projected to be released in full in 2021 I think, but our first deadline is also next month.

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

CN: I got an internship at the Weatherspoon in Greensboro the summer before my senior year. But I really think Morna and Jay were the biggest influences for me as mentors. They were always encouraging but at the same time very realistic about this field. The relationship I had and continue to have with them is why I wanted to go somewhere like Wake Forest. My friends at bigger schools never had these kinds of interactions with professors - especially beyond graduation. Both have written me recommendations and given me a wealth of advice. It’s something I am continuously thankful for.

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

CN: I found my current job on NYFA. That seems to be the way to go. When I was looking, that was the best source. In terms of Wake, the career center helped me tweak my CV, but there wasn’t anything specific set up as far as helping students go about navigating the art world. There was really no way to know about all of the different niches and things you can do with an art history degree.

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

CN: It was definitely an adjustment. And there are still times where I can’t believe I live here. It is a nonstop place. But you have so much right at your fingertips. It’s almost the opposite problem of a small town like home: it can be a little too much at times. Still, I feel like for someone in the arts in their 20s this is an amazing place. Networking is important and I’d even say essential for finding a job here. My advice to anyone thinking of moving here would be: It doesn't hurt to reach out. Most people were in your same position when they first moved here. Keep pushing yourself to meet and connect with new people. Most people are really receptive.

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

CN: Maybe a new class or even a whole career center for the arts. Something that allows you to feel a little more supported. I think it was my junior or senior year, Jay organized an arts field trip to Richmond one weekend. Things like that get you excited. Wake can be a bubble, and students need to get out and see art in the real world. Students should be encouraged to look beyond the gates of campus. It might make more people feel like a career in the arts is actually doable. Art can be boring when you’re just looking at it in a book or on a projector. Seeing things in person can make a huge difference.

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

CN: Something I struggled with in my transition to art from the pre-med path I had assumed I would follow was acceptance, both inner and outer. A big part of me found it difficult to seriously consider an academic pursuit (let alone a future career) focused on a subject I not only genuinely enjoyed, but one that many others also seemed to believe to be for enjoyment only. While this is something I admit I still occasionally wrestle with, I think much of this doubt is based in mere stereotype. This is a field that can be both extremely fun and extremely rigorous. Not everyone will understand what exactly it is that you're doing, but some will occasionally give you the opportunity to show them. I really do believe that if you are invested in what you're doing, the rest will follow.

 

 

 

Spotlight Interview: Caroline Perkins

Caroline Perkins: Collector Relations Associate, Artsy

New York City

WFU Class of 2016

Major: Art History

Minor: Math

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DL: What and where is next for you?

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

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

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

Spotlight Interview: Andrew Gristina

Andrew Gristina: VP, Navigators Management

New York City

WFU Class of 1990

Major: Art History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DL: How small is the art insurance world?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight Interview: Molly McDonald

Molly McDonald: Assistant to CEO, Gaynor Minden

New York City
WFU Class of 2014
 Double Major: Dance & English, Summa Cum Laude

 

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Molly McDonald majored in Dance and English at Wake Forest. She has since gone on to NYC where she serves as Assistant to the CEO at legendary dancewear brand Gaynor Minden. We spoke with Molly to learn about her path to working with pointe's most prestigious supplier.

*Update: As of 2018, Molly’s new title at Gaynor Minden is Business Operations Manager. Congrats, Molly!

 

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

Molly McDonald: At Wake I majored in English and minored in Dance. After graduating from Wake Forest I moved to New York City to pursue my masters in Arts Administration at Columbia University. While in grad school, I interned with The George Balanchine Trust and the New York Choreographic Institute at New York City Ballet, and The Joyce Theater. I then simultaneously worked as the Managing Director of Cornfield Dance and the Administrative Associate of John Jasperse Projects. After doing a year of Christian mission work overseas, I returned to New York City and began working for Gaynor Minden.

 

DL: Would you mind telling us a bit more about Gaynor Minden and what you are doing there?

MM: Gaynor Minden is a global dancewear brand, primarily known for being the first brand to successfully modernize pointe shoes. While traditional pointe shoes are essentially made of paper and paste, Gaynor Minden offers pointe shoes with a modernized interior that is proven to offer these athletes better support and protection. Gaynor Minden pointe shoes are used at almost every major ballet company in the world, covering 85 countries at last count.

I am currently the Assistant to the CEO, which is a constantly expanding and shifting role. I manage Human Resources across the seven states and five countries where we have employees, I assist the CEO with budgeting, I research international markets to aid our expansion, and I utilize marketing analytics tools to report trends and shape our future marketing efforts. As Assistant to the CEO, I truly assist the CEO with whatever is needed. If a problem or idea arises that requires considerable background research, I am often the person to do the initial legwork to move the project forward.

 

DL: I would love to hear more about the program you completed at Columbia. What led you to enroll, and what’s the biggest benefit of the program?

MM: I decided to pursue my masters degree in Arts Administration because I wanted to gain some more business knowledge before launching my career. Having a masters degree in Arts Administration definitely opens more doors to higher level positions at dance companies, and I wanted to be equipped with some more tangible business skills beyond the skills I gained through a liberal arts education at Wake. I considered doing a MBA program, but I found that the Arts Administration degree offered the benefits of the MBA while keeping all of the projects and examples focused on the arts world. I specifically decided to go to Columbia because this program offered the opportunity to spend two years networking with the best dance companies in New York City.

My experience at Columbia was invaluable. Academically, it was amazing to be able to take classes with the Columbia MBA students and simultaneously work with professors in the Arts Administration program who were still working day jobs at some of New York’s top arts organizations. However, the largest benefit of the program was spending an intensive two years with the other students in my cohort. Each year, Columbia selects between 25 to 30 students for the Arts Administration program, carefully picking students to give each class a range of interests in the arts. It was an incredibly collaborative environment, as we were all learning the same general skills while pursuing our own unique niches in the arts world. Everyone was interning at arts organizations during the program, so class discussions included the added depth of what everyone was seeing and experiencing at New York’s top arts organizations. Rather than competing with one another for our dream jobs, we were able to share ideas from our roles at New York City Ballet, MoMA, The Metropolitan Opera, Christie’s, and many other organizations. My cohort still gets together almost monthly—this is a network that lasts far beyond graduation.

 

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

MM: Definitely a combination of both! I found my internships at Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and Dayton Performing Arts Alliance through family connections in my hometown. While at Wake, I interned with Winston-Salem Symphony, which was arranged as a part of an independent study with a professor. My internships at Boston Ballet and New York City Ballet came about through simply applying online, and then my boss at New York City Ballet helped me get my next internship with The Joyce Theater. One of my professors at Columbia referred me to the choreographer Ellen Cornfield who ended up hiring me as Cornfield Dance’s Managing Director during my last semester of grad school, and I found my job at John Jasperse Projects through a simple Dance/NYC posting.

My current job at Gaynor Minden came about through consistently staying in touch with the CEO. I met the CEO while I was still in grad school and stayed in touch for almost two years before he offered me a position.

 

DL: What advice do you you have for students interested in pursuing a career on the corporate side of the dance world?

MM: Go to every dance-related event you can, and constantly read about what is happening in the field. Working on the business side of the field does not mean that you are removed from the art—it means you need to understand what is happening artistically and find a way to engage audiences, donors, and/or customers in these artistic directions within the context of the field at large.

Go to performances and events for a wide range of dance styles and see how those companies/artists did with engaging you. Did they contact you before the event? Really read the marketing materials and analyze the design. How did you hear about the event, and how did you get tickets? Did they do something creative at the event? What type of venue was chosen for the event? What kind of language are they using to talk about the art? Did you keep thinking about the event days and weeks later? Why? Go to panels and discussions about both dance history and the future of the field. Watch documentaries about dancers, choreographers, and dance companies. Read previews and reviews. The more you can absorb as a dance enthusiast, the more you will understand what needs to happen from a business perspective to get the general public just as interested in the art as you are. Business knowledge can always be researched as needed for specific tasks, but an overall understanding of the dance field needs to be cultivated consistently over time. And any organization in the dance industry wants to hire people who can talk the artistic talk. Gaynor Minden only hires former dancers, and expects that all employees are passionate about ballet. Working for a non-profit dance company, you need to be able to understand where that dance company stands in the field and why the art being produced is significant. Basically, keep your passion for the art alive, but start bringing a critical eye to the strategic business decisions that companies and artists are making. Always be on the lookout for better ways to do things.

 

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

MM: New York City is the best. The opportunities to learn about the dance industry are endless, and extremely accessible. I truly think that if you are at all interested in pursuing a career in the city, you should just move here and give it a try. Even if the city is not for you, attending dance events and networking with people in the dance industry in New York will only be beneficial. Also, keep an open mind about how to start your career in the city. It is okay to not get a full-time job immediately—I have plenty of friends who piece together several part-time jobs and gain incredible experience. When I was working for both Ellen Cornfield and John Jasperse’s modern dance companies at the same time, I was able to get the experiences of two different roles simultaneously. I would do grant writing and studio space scheduling for John Jasperse in the mornings, and then I would spend my afternoons working on branding and website design with Ellen Cornfield. It was like being in marketing and development at the same time, allowing me to learn even more than I would have if I had held one position in one department.   

 

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

MM: I think Wake should offer an arts administration course for performing arts students. Even if students do not actually want to become arts administrators, a general understanding of how arts businesses are run is extremely beneficial. Choreographers, dance school owners, and freelance artists all need to understand basic marketing, fundraising, and finance. I think that a course that goes over the basics would give all graduates more confidence in their artistic endeavors after graduation.

 

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

MM: Walk humbly and seek to serve. Going into a career in the arts is all about building communities and supporting the artists that are pulling communities together through the presentation of ideas and beauty. Go in with a servant mindset-- how can you find ways to serve both artists and the communities they live and work in? How can you serve your co-workers who are also trying to support artists and communities? Accept every opportunity with gratitude, even if it seems mundane at first. There is always more to learn, and there are always more opportunities to better support the people around you.


 

Spotlight Interview: Claire Altizer

Claire Altizer: Registrar & Exhibitions Manager, Dedalus Foundation

New York City

WFU Class of 2009

Major: Studio Art

Minor: Art History

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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


 

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

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


 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Spotlight Interview: Emma Hungsinger

Emma Hungsinger: Artist

New York City

Freelance Cartoonist
WFU Class of 2013
Double Major :Studio Art & Communication

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Emma Hunsinger is a dynamo: ambitious, wickedly funny, and mega talented in the artistic department. While at Wake, Hunsinger was a member of the Lilting Banshees and a selected member of the 2013 Student Union Art Acquisition trip. We caught up with her recently to learn what it's like to be a freelance cartoonist in NYC. The resulting conversation is as informative as it is hilarious.

DeacLink: What are you up to these days, Emma?

Emma Hunsinger: Currently, I’m a freelance cartoonist making work such as gag cartoons, comics, and cards. At the moment, I have been mainly working on online comics to pitch to different websites.


DL: How did your path unfold since WFU?

EH: After I graduated I moved back home for 6 months just job hunting. I was working in retail when I was offered a position at The New Yorker in the business department. After working there for 2 years and holding 3 positions, I left to pursue art. Which brings me to wear I am now: freelancing in art & doing some small self publishing. To subsidize my art, I also work as a cook at a local restaurant. 

DL: What was the main draw at the New Yorker, and how was your experience there?

EH: My primary goal after leaving college was not to pursue art, rather it was to become financially independent. It was important for me to get experience living on my own and get a taste of what my life budget would be like. The position I was offered at the New Yorker was an assistant position to ad sales-people. The job was entry level and I learned a lot of about office life & business decorum which is great knowledge to have when it comes to selling yourself. I was promoted 2 times while at the company, and decided it was time to leave when I felt like I had gone as far as I wanted to go in the advertising world and had a good sense of what it took to live in the city and accumulated some savings. While at the New Yorker I had met some people in the cartoons department and had gone in for some critiques and felt I had a plan to improve my art.

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

EH: I knew I wanted to something creative after school, but when I graduated I was mostly focused on earning a living. Thus, I ended up taking an office job after school as in assistant. However, the encouragement and attention I got at Wake from my professors definitely helped me understand what skills I should nurture for a creative career post-grad. 

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

EH: I think more information on a freelancer's lifestyle would’ve helped me a lot before graduation. I didn’t really learn about how to balance work and art outside of a traditional “career” setting. Learning about the sort of entrepreneurial side of being an artist would have emboldened me to try my hand at an art career right after I got out of school. 

DL:  Prior to going freelance, how were you locating and applying to job opportunities?

EH: With the New Yorker job, it went like this: In June 2013 my dad set me up with an HR person in Conde Nast, and for the following 6 months I interviewed for 2 positions at CN (for one job they picked someone who had interned there over me and the second I didn’t have the right experience). Then in February 2014 I interviewed for the position at The New Yorker and was offered the position. 

I know you hate hearing it, but the best way to get the job you want is meeting people who can get you closer to it. I have ZERO success with applying to stuff online. Sometime Craigslist works, but you're not going to get your dream job on Craigslist. 

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

EH: Being patient! When I left my office job I expected to be making a living off of art right away, but the truth is it doesn’t happen so fast for anyone. It has been almost a year since I left my job and I still spend most of my time practicing instead of creating finalized artworks. 

DL: How did you like living and working in NYC? Do you find it conducive to your larger goals?

EH: I think this answer is … Too depressing…

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

EH: I’m more in the indie comics/media scene than the fine art scene to be honest. The indie comics people are amazing: people are very supportive of each other. I think the community is mostly on social media but also at events like TCAF, MOCCA, CAKE, MICE, SPX, and CAB (all are independent comics festivals). Editors of publications are usually very receptive and giving if they’re interested in your work which is great.

I cannot speak to the fine arts scene but I do know it involves a lot of looking cool & hot on Thursday in Chelsea. 

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

EH: Read and look at as much work but other artist as you can. Always keep tabs of what kind of thing inspires you. For example, one of the things that gets me most excited to work on something is watching cartoons like Adventure Time or Clarence. If you have a favorite artist, learn as much as you can about their process; a good way to figure this info out is by following the artist on social media. Piggy-backing off of that, don’t be freaked out by how other people do things; just focus on what is the best way for you to do it. It always helps me to see what materials another artist uses and how they get textures that I like. Practice as much as you can! 

DL: What and where is next for you? 

EH: As for now, I think I’ll keep going at in the Big Apple. That is, of course, if the apocalypse doesn’t hit. 

If the end of the world IS nigh, then my plan is to briefly move back to my hometown, learn from the pastor’s wife how to keep bees, then move into the woods in upstate NY and keep many, many bees. My plan is two pronged: in a post-apocalyptic world in which current currency has no meaning and the economy has failed and all trade along with it, the world will be devoid of sweetness except for my bee’s honey. I will cheer the depressed world with the gift my beloved bees create. The second prong is I will love my bees so much and make them so happy that they will repopulate the Earth and solve our current bee crisis. 

 

Spotlight Interview: Thaddeus Stephens

Thaddeus Stephens: Artist & Entrepreneur

New York City

Founder, Brady Brothers Lumber
WFU Class of 2010
Double Major: Studio Art & Economics

Artist and entrepreneur Thaddeus Stephens is a true hustler, having developed myriad skills across his time at and after Wake Forest. Currently running his own business in Brooklyn, Thad was kind enough to walk us through his story and impart some very good advice.

 

DeacLink: What are you up to right now?

Thaddeus Stephens: I work in fabrication making custom products in wood, metal, glass, plastics and whatever other materials are needed. I also have my own small business (Brady Brothers Lumber) making sculpturally inspired bags and home goods mainly from leather and textiles. Finally, I try to make sculptures and collages, when there is time left over.

DL: Take us through your journey from Wake to where you are now.

TS: I worked in restaurants both during and after my time at Wake Forest doing everything from cooking on the line to tending bar and waiting tables. Having that kind of experience gave me confidence in my ability to find work wherever I decided to go; there are restaurants everywhere. I bounced around a little bit and ended up in NYC. I got tired of working nights and weekends and decided that I didn’t want to stay in the restaurant business. I got some event production/set building work, did a little art handling, and ended up going to work in custom fabrication. I worked making custom designed chandeliers and lighting for about three years learning brass, aluminum,and glass skills. I just recently moved to a larger production shop. I want to continue making custom furniture and high end products but this current shop is a good place for me to get experience on some bigger tools and CNC tools that I have never used before. 


DL: Who was your primary mentor/influencing professor while at WFU? 

TS: Leigh Ann Hallberg, Paul Bright, and John Pickel. I’m still close with them and we always manage to get together when they’re in the city.


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

TS: The art department taught me how to put a design into action and how to design an object, sculptural or otherwise, intentionally. 


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

TS: Wake arts could emphasis the the need to become an expert in hard skills that can be applied outside of an artistic context. Making art is great but you also need to pay the bills! For example, if I had concentrated on becoming a journeyman level carpenter while I had unlimited access to a great shop at Wake, it would have been easier to find work after I left. The same could be applied to things like photography and Photoshop. If students get really good at one of these things then they’ll have some skills to shop around. It’s a lot easier to find work if you can say and show that you are a Photoshop wizard, or a technically expert photographer who can shoot weddings, for example.

DL: How have you found and applied to the jobs you've had? 

TS: I have mostly found jobs through the internet (NYFA, Craigslist) and people I know. A lot of the stuff I do is gig based and you can find your way in through freelance or temporary positions. 


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

TS: Having the hard skills to shop around. You can BS all you want to in an interview but if you get in the shop and can’t do what you have said you can it is apparent pretty quickly. 

 

DL: How did you like living and working in NYC? Do you find it conducive to your larger goals?

TS: I don’t want to live anywhere else. Living is hard here and you have to get tough but it’s exactly where I want to live, work, and raise a kid. It’s a city of hustlers, everyone is working hard and getting things done. 

 

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

TS: For people who want to move here: just do it. Get a couple thousand dollars together, find an apartment with a hundred roommates, and just move. You’ll be able to find work right away. It might not be exactly what you want to be doing but you can find a way to pay the bills while you get your feet on the ground. 


DL: What and where is next for you? 

TS: Staying in New York, working, and raising a baby. 


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

TS: I think Wake students often obsess over getting a “Job” as an almost mystical end unto itself. Don’t worry so much! Also don’t get scared away from doing what you want to do by parents or anyone else who are worried that it’s not a “stable career path.” You’re an adult and if you’re a capable, competent person you can land on your feet. If you’re already making compromises for the stake of stability at age 22, it’s not going to be any easier to do what you really want to at age 32. Just try to figure out how you want to live life and concentrate more on that and less on a stable income. Competence will out!
 

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: 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: 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. 

Spotlight Interview: Margaret Gristina

Margaret Gristina: Senior Specialist & Head of Sale

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

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

 

DeacLink: Please tell us about your current job.

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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