Spotlight Interview: Matt James

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: 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

image (3).png

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

Screenshot 2018-11-22 at 5.22.19 PM.png

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

image1.jpeg

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: Caroline Perkins

Caroline Perkins: Collector Relations Associate, Artsy

New York City

WFU Class of 2016

Major: Art History

Minor: Math

caroline perkins.jpg

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: Molly McDonald

Molly McDonald: Assistant to CEO, Gaynor Minden

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

 

mmcd.jpg

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: Zanny Dow & Brooke Einbender of Higher Art Galleries

Zanny Dow & Brooke Einbender: Co-Founders, Higher Art Galleries

New York City

WFU Class of 2017

Zanny: Studio Art Major, Entrepreneurship Minor

Brooke: Studio Art Major, Spanish & Entrepreneurship Minor

higherartgallerieszannybrooke.jpg

Zanny Dow and Brooke Einbender are an ambitious pair whose bond was forged in the Scales painting studio. Together they've co-founded Higher Art Galleries, an online platform making the sale of student art more accessible. We spoke with the duo about their time at Wake and what’s next. We’ve certainly noted the massive potential to expand the existing relationship with OPCD in arts-related industries- the possibilities are endless!

 

DeacLink: What did you both study at Wake? How did you choose your majors?

Brooke Einbender

I was awarded the presidential scholarship for visual arts at Wake Forest. As a freshman on campus,  the scholarship gave me the confidence to pursue art seriously from the very start. I thought I only wanted to minor in art, but I soon realized that was not enough. My minor blossomed into a major, the art department faculty felt like family to me, and the painting studio was my home away from home on campus. I am so glad that I made the “brave” decision to study Studio Art with a concentration in oil painting.

In my four years, I was fortunate enough to participate in several uniquely Wake Forest art opportunities. I took a semester long class focusing on contemporary art and ended the course at the Venice Biennale, while staying at Wake Forest’s Casa Artom. Additionally, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in the Student Union Art Acquisition Committee. This experience in particular actually led to my current job working for a private art advisor/consultant.

 

Zanny Dow

My immersion into the Art Department wasn’t as immediate as Brooke’s. I came to Wake Forest as a Presidential Scholar for Music with a concentration in Harp studies. I had  every intention of  majoring in Chemistry and following the Pre-Medicine track. Art was barely on my radar and the thought of studying it seemed absurd; I hadn’t taken an art class since middle school and had no idea what I would do with a degree in art anyway. Amidst the stress of organic chemistry, I signed up for a digital art class with the idea that it would be a creative outlet for my overworked mind. This class forced me to think in ways I had never before. In doing so, I realized the value of creative thinking and it completely altered the trajectory of my Wake Forest education.

It wasn’t until second semester of my sophomore year that I had the guts to let go of my childhood dream of becoming a doctor to pursue the arts-- this was one of the most terrifying, yet rewarding things I have done. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a completely random decision, I have always loved drawing, painting and crafting, I just never saw it as a potential career.  After taking that class, amongst others, it no longer mattered to me if there was a distinct path. What mattered was that I was happy.

 

ZD & BE:  We both majored in Studio Art with concentrations in Oil Painting and minored in Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise. With all of our friends pulling all-nighters in the library, we would be in the painting studio until 3am, mixing paint, building canvases, and blasting good tunes. This is the type of education we chose!

As for entrepreneurship,  both of us always had creative side-hustles growing up. Our decisions to apply to the Entrepreneurship minor was the best decision either of us made while in school. Wake Forest’s Entrepreneurship program is absolutely amazing and we are so excited to see how it develops in the coming years! As seniors, we took full advantage of the unique opportunities and incredible resources the entrepreneurship department had to offer. Brooke applied to the first-ever Deacon Springboard program which provides seed money, access to mentors, and creates a community of passionate student entrepreneurs. She pitched the idea of a student art rental business and was selected to participate in Deacon Springboard’s culminating event DeacTank, a shark tank style event. Zanny joined up just in time to participate in the program. After spending just a few short weeks developing our idea, we pitched “Art Rentals for Students by Students” to the first-ever panel for Wake Startup Lab. We were selected, along with several other teams, to participate in the accelerator program in which “Art Rentals for Students by Students” evolved into the company that we have today called Higher Art Galleries. This class was the most rewarding and life altering class we ever took at Wake Forest and we would not be where we are now without the support of our mentors, Dan Cohen, Greg Pool, the other teams in Startup Lab, among others.

 

DL: How did you two meet?

ZD: Wake Forest is small and Brooke was just one of those people that everyone knew or knew of-- she had the reputation for being friendly, outgoing and always covered in paint. Before meeting Brooke my Senior year, I knew who she was. The art department raved about her and my classmates were excited for her to join Advanced Painting. Brooke and I quickly bonded over our mutual love of painting and entrepreneurship. Completely coincidentally, we had the majority of our shared Major/ Minor classes together. After many late nights together in the studio, blasting music, suffering through painters' block and talking about our Entrepreneurship projects, Brooke asked me if I would be interested in starting a business with her. I jumped at the opportunity and we have been friends/ business partners since.

 

DL: What inspired you to start Higher Art Galleries?

BE: Sophomore  year I was looking for an internship, and through a friend of my sister’s, I interned at Turning Art, which is an online platform that creates prints of artists works, installs these works, and creates subscriptions with businesses. You can buy originals, but they are mainly a printing source to decorate offices. While there, I was able to see different types of art and the printing processes. I didn't think anything of the internship, but it was a good first experience. Shortly after, I realized that I didn't really know on campus what other artists were creating. The artistic process is very private, intimate. Studios are key card access only. There is not a dialogue going throughout different classes. Even non-art majors are doing really cool things in their spare time, and there was not a way to celebrate or view what people were doing on a singular platform. Zanny and I took entrepreneurship minor classes and we had this professor, Dan Cohen, who really just changed our lives. He just gave us so much knowledge about startups and how to create them. His course was a crash course in entrepreneurship and how to work your way up and build your own business. Each student had to create a business idea, pitch to the class, and then class votes. I pitched my art rental idea, but I didn’t win. But afterwards, Cohen pulled me aside and told me to try and pitch to Deacon Springboard. I was so nervous.  I walked into the OPCD and gave my one minute elevator pitch, and I got into Deacon Springboard. This all began from the need for something to celebrate art on campus, what others are doing, read about their work and their artist statement, and put a student face to artwork.

ZD: Next Brooke and I merged together. We had painting and entrepreneurship classes together, but we were in different sections. We would talk about a lot senior year. Brooke was saying to me, “I have this idea…” It originally started as art rentals for students by students, but it was very similar to  the Turning Art method of prints. One day she asked me to join, and we wound up developing our business model before pitching again to another panel, Wake startup lab. Dan Cohen had just started it with another professor.

Wake Startup Lab is a new big thing, and there were a bunch of teams pitching. We figured just do it. What did we have to lose? Our pitch was so messy and cobbled together at the last minute. It was pretty awful in hindsight, but we wound up getting a slot. It is the best experience I’ve had at Wake. Made Wake what it was.

BE: The 1-on-1 attention was amazing. They invest in your ideas and your talent. They also provided us with funding and access to mentors. They brought in guest speakers every week with such an incredibly, well-seasoned experience set in business. They also brought in lawyers. The program made an educational experience real life. It didn't feel like a class. We created something real that turned into what it is today. The program was a great stepping stone. Dan came from Cornell and created the program there, and he has been super successful in bringing it to Wake. He’s part of the revamping of the entrepreneurship department.

They even paired us with a law school student that acted as our lawyer. The free legal advice was great. She helped us create contracts with artist and establish an LLC. Any questions she had were run by the head of the law school. We also had two mentors who acted as advisers that were parents of students. One worked in nonprofits and one was the CEO of a marketing company. That connection showed us that Wake was not only willing to help students, but parents connected to Wake are really willing to give back through mentorship, advice, and coming to speak. It’s such a great community. I’m not sure other schools are like this.

 

DL: I was also an entrepreneurship minor (it was just beginning to take off when I was an undergrad). From the outside looking in, it seems to be an increasingly popular minor for students that put the “art” in liberal arts. What do you think is the catalyst for this?

BE: There is a big difference between the business major and the entrepreneurship minor. I thought I wanted to enroll in business school. I didn't get in, so I decided to minor in entrepreneurship, and I am so happy I did that instead. Entrepreneurship encapsulates all kinds of people and bring them together under one roof. There is a lot of merging of different ideas from different backgrounds. It gives you enough business and real life knowledge and a foundation that will allow you to align passion with major, which for us is art and business.

ZD: The entrepreneurship minor is one of the most practical minors at Wake.  They are teaching you actual usable skills to move forward with a business. Often I felt that you were learning information  in classes that was important but not practical. Entrepreneurship is hands on and practical. You can actually use things like a cash flow spreadsheet. The minor and the department give students with different majors a way to move forward with their careers. It adds practicality to their major. It’s amazing.

 

DL: How many artists are you representing right now, and how have you been adding new artists to your stable?

BE: We have 15 artists. It’s hard because right now we are not on campus. We have 2-3 interns and they act as our student liaisons. They also create content around Wake and Winston-Salem art events. They help us access new artists. For Zanny and I, the larger plan is to expand to other universities. We want to become the destination to see student art and emerging talent nationwide. We just sent an email to five North Carolina Universities' Art Department heads. We are scheduling info interviews to pick their brains about student and art department needs. We want feedback on Higher Art Galleries to see what else people need with this platform. We are still in the building process. Other school’s departments have much better access to students than us to see how we can bring on more artists.

ZD: We are hoping that they say, 'We support this'. We know Wake and all its facets, and have gotten great feedback from them, but part of that could be biased since we know everyone. There are a few people that are a few degrees of separation that are involved, but most are friends. Right now we are at a point where we need to test to see if this is the case with people that don’t know us. That’s where we're at right now.

We had an exciting conversation with the new head of art department at Wake, Dr. Bernadine Barnes. She reached out to one of our interns to learn more about Higher Art Galleries and loved the idea.

At Higher Art Galleries, we are commissioning our artists to create Wake Forest-inspired artwork. This serves as a visual way to show where the artist is coming from and their art education. We hope wake Forest inspired commissions will help parents, alumni, students and faculty realize the talent on campus. If the viewer doesn’t understand abstract or conceptual art, this is a piece that helps them understand the talent that exists. We hope to expand to other universities and to have students create work about their university

Our next two places to expand to are North Carolina, near Wake and with similar demographic, and then we are also planning at looking into some New York universities. We just launched on November 15th [2017] so we're still super fresh, in the testing stage. We will iterate as time goes on.  

 

DL: I know this is a national project, but what do you think will be the long term impact on the Wake Arts community?

ZD: Our ultimate goal is to create and foster an art community on campus, one that is bringing the arts outside of the studio. We want to create a place for people to explore the arts and what is happening on campus.

BE: These interns that reached out to us understood that there's a lack of a visible, vocal art scene on campus compared to something like WFU style. There is a community for that and a network, system, building blog, Instagram, and events. Our interns are really bringing to light what is going on on campus art wise and broadly in Winston. They’ve written about some of the sculptures on campus - explaining what, who, and why. They’ve been featuring students having shows at START gallery, the buying trip exhibition, people’s final projects in public art class. They are bringing to light what is going on in the arts, and that will impact department as a whole. The department’s website is not up and coming. I was talking to Zanny, and she didnt feel at home until the end of her time in the department… 

ZD: Brooke and I had very different experiences. Brooke was a Presidential Scholar so she went right in, but for me it wasn't so immediate. It wasn’t on my radar at all. It was also hard to get into classes. I couldn't get in until I was a sophomore. Junior year got involved in painting and it clicked then. Once you are in, it’s gold, but it’s not so immediate. It would be helped if there was a way to talk about art and involve people at Wake that aren't art majors. People that just enjoy it, but don't study it. Neither of our interns are studio art majors or minors, but they are interested in the arts. That’s exciting for us, and it validated our idea by showing there was a broad interest.

DL: Are you focusing on the blog full time? Or are you working in NYC as well? If so, what are your day jobs? And how did you land those roles?

ZD & BE: No, we actually have two amazing WFU interns that reached out to us wanting to get involved in supporting Higher Art’s missions; they run our blog! Our interns, Maggie and Abby, are sophomores who produce art related content specific to Wake Forest and Winston-Salem. Now that we are in  New York, Abby and Maggie are our connection to Wake and keep us up to date with the WFU art community.  While they focus on creating content, we spend early mornings, late evenings and weekends continually developing our business model and online platform. One thing that we have learned from working in the Entrepreneurship department at Wake is that startups are an ever-evolving process. As for our “day jobs,” Zanny co-manages a wine bar in Union Square and Brooke is an assistant to a private art advisor and art dealer. Although this is what pays the rent at the moment, we are counting down the days to focusing our full energy on Higher Art Galleries.

 

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

ZD & BE: The thing is, pursuing a career in the arts is often not as straightforward as other career paths like business or science. As a result, it is challenging to have a set protocol to prepare students for entering the “art world” post graduation. The art department does a good job bringing alumni and guests to campus to speak about their art related careers, which is one step to alleviating the negative stigma associated with studying and pursuing a profession in art. That being said, there is still a lot more that Wake Forest OPCD and Art Department could be doing to support their art students. One thing that we LOVE about DeacLink is that it creates a singular platform to learn about the Wake Forest Art Alumni network. This is a resource that would be invaluable to Wake Art students and something that OPCD could use as a tool to further help support the students looking for careers in the arts. Additionally, we would have loved to have a course available to teach us how to pursue a career in the arts. It would have been helpful to learn how to apply for art grants, research for grad schools, build an art website, photograph your artwork etc.. The “art world” is such a broad term that encompasses infinite job opportunities. Art Students need help demystifying the art world by learning about the different types of art jobs.

DL: The commercial sales/gallery route is a popular career option for art alums. What advice do you have for readers interested in breaking into the field?

ZD & BE: Our advice for recent art grads who are interested in commercial sales/ galleries is to do informational interviews. Reach out to older alumni, recent grads, and family friends who work in similar fields that interest you and then pick their brain. This is also a great way to create a professional relationship with people who can potentially help you get a job in the future. Contact these people early on so that you can reach out to them once again when you are job hunting. Especially in the art world, it helps to have a contact who can help you get a foot in the door.

 

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

BE: I was not planning to come to New York. It wasn’t for me. Zanny is from Garrison NY, and loves New York so much. She said I had to move. I said it was “too high key, there was no nature,” but she said I had to come, so I took the leap. For the sake of Higher Art, it will be better for us to be in the same vicinity. I love it. It’s so expensive. I am living with my grandma, so I am not paying rent which is a blessing. There is so much going on, so much culture, so many art events. It is so inspiring and energizing. We went to this WeWork event. We had applied for this grant as they were giving away $20M to fund ideas around the world. We didn’t get the money but went to the award ceremony, and it was awesome. There were thousands of young people, who were all passionate about ideas. We sat through the awards ceremony. It was at a warehouse with a DJ, open bar, free food.

ZD: The WeWork event was a really cool experience. I don't think you get that in other places. So exciting to go there with thousands of other people our age. It was cool to have the community for a moment.

As Brooke said, I am NY’s number one fan at Wake. When we were figuring out our plan, I talked her into coming to New York. I grew up outside the city and went to school right outside the city. Living here has been so amazing. It’s just so much culture, and there’s always something to do. It’s a lot fun and really inspiring. Everyone is working really hard, there’s somewhere they’re going, something they’re going to do. The energy is inspiration to keep working harder. It is hard to be motivated to do double work, but we are passionate, so it doesn't feel like work often, but it’s time consuming. It’s good to be in a place that inspires us. In terms of advice, save money before you come.

BE: A lot of friends of ours came here not knowing their exact route since they knew they wanted to be here. I wasn’t going to move here unless I had a job in hand. When I came, I did. I think that informational interviews and doing a lot of backend work before actually coming here was crucial. You need to set up appointments to meet with people fact to face.  That is really important for getting your foot in the door anywhere in New York. Here,  sending resumes and waiting passively doesn’t work. You have to take action. Zanny went through a job recruiter.

ZD: I think taking action is so important. People are worried about badgering future employers, but in New York, that’s the way. Send follow up emails, call them. In NY, it’s one of those places where every man is for themselves. When it comes to jobs, it’s a matter of getting your foot in the door. You need to decide what you want to do and go for it. You can’t be passive in this city.

 

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

ZD & BE: Take risks, listen to your gut, and do things that align with your passion. Wake Forest is generally a risk averse community in which people tend to follow careers with concrete futures. This is all well and good but for those of us who weren’t placed on this earth to be Doctors or Accountants, it can be overwhelming. The things that excite you are connected to your purpose, so have the courage to follow them. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the things you are drawn to just because the don’t follow a set path. It’s not necessarily your job to know where you are going, it’s your job to take action on the things that pique your curiosity and the rest will follow!

 

Spotlight Interview: Claire Altizer

Claire Altizer: Registrar & Exhibitions Manager, Dedalus Foundation

New York City

WFU Class of 2009

Major: Studio Art

Minor: Art History

caltizer.jpeg

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

emma hunsinger - Edited.png

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: 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.