Spotlight Interview: Devon Gilbert

Devon Gilbert: Associate, David Zwirner

New York City

WFU Class of 2017

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

Minor: Studio Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DL: What’s next for you?

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

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

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

Spotlight Interview: Katy Reis

Katy Reis: Co-Founder, Reis Leahy Art Advisors

Columbus, Ohio

WFU Class of 2004

Major: Spanish

Double Minor: Art History & Studio Art

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Katy Reis (pictured left) is the co-founder of Reis Leahy Art Advisors in Columbus, Ohio. Katy recently walked us through her path from Winston-Salem to the burgeoning Midwestern art scene.

DeacLink: Please walk us through your path from graduation day to your current job.

Katy Reis: Once I graduated, I began with an unpaid academic-year internship at the Corcoran Gallery of Art working for the Curator of Prints and Drawings. I simultaneously worked full-time at the National Gallery of Art in the gift shop during that time. Once that internship was completed, I took on two part-time roles at the Corcoran, one in the traveling exhibitions department and the other as membership director for Washington Project for the Arts which at that time was still part of the Corcoran (they are now an independent arts non-profit organization). Eventually, I took my final role at the Corcoran as Exhibitions Officer working with the Exhibitions Director on every exhibition from Old Masters to Contemporary Art. After doing that for a couple of years, I decided to join my husband in Columbus. I took a job in the Exhibitions department at the Wexner Center for the Arts and remained in curatorial most of my time there. My last few years at the Wex, I moved over to the Development Office working as Senior Development Officer in Individual Giving. Before I knew it, we had two children and I took a few years off to be with them before founding Reis Leahy Art Advisors with my partner Lauren Yen Leahy.

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

KR: As much as I may have disregarded its importance as an incoming freshman, the core curriculum requirements unsurprisingly served their purpose. The subjects I postponed taking until I was a senior are now my favorite reading and research topics. Early in my college career, I enjoyed science, math and foreign languages. After realizing that I didn’t want to go to medical school, I chose to major in Spanish partially because the deadline was upon me and partially because I knew I wanted to go abroad and would complete most of the courses for the major while I was there. I enjoyed classes with my Spanish professors, but it wasn’t my passion. While I was studying abroad, I found myself perpetually in art museums and loving every minute of it. I had always taken studio art classes for my own personal enjoyment, but never thought I could make a career of them. It (finally!) occurred to me to take an art history class upon returning to Wake the following semester. That was the pivotal moment. I realized I loved studying art. I loved studio art critiques because I found myself thoughtfully analyzing the art of my peers and seeing the visual vocabulary from art history that informed their work. I was hooked. I didn’t know enough about the field to know what my next step would be, but I knew I wanted to do something related to art history.

DL: How did you find and apply to the various positions you’ve held -online, inside reference, networking in person, WFU resources, other avenues? Do you have tips or suggestions for the student audience on networking, interviewing and applying for jobs?

KR: Dr. Barnes and David Faber were both instrumental in guiding me towards career opportunities that might be a good fit for me.

Ultimately, I took the internship with the Corcoran Gallery of Art and just kept jumping at every opportunity that came my way. I was fortunate enough to always work under supportive leadership who let me move into new roles as my interests grew and changed. It helped give me the experience I needed to do what I am doing today. Once you have your foot in the door, if you work hard, practice patience and work well with others, there are always colleagues who will help you get to where you want to go.

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

KR: Truthfully, after reading DeacLink, I wish that resource had been around when I was a student. Though I know career services did a phenomenal job for many of my classmates, I always left my meetings there feeling like the opportunities were all geared towards the business school and communications majors, working with recruiters from major companies and corporations.

Though they probably had options for students looking for careers in the arts, it was challenging to sift through everything else to find that. Deaclink seems like a great way for students to make their own future and network in a way that is necessary for a job in the arts. It gives information that someone like me was eager to find as a student. I didn’t know what art history majors did beyond being a professor. I knew museum curators and auction specialists existed, but I had no idea what a regular day was like for them. Having that information at your fingertips and then also having the opportunity to contact that person directly would have been enormously helpful in finding my current role in a little more efficient way.

DL: What is your favorite part of living and working in Columbus?

KR: It’s such an open and supportive city.

DL: What is the most interesting thing going on in the art scene there at the moment, in your opinion?

KR: I may be biased as a former employee, but I continue to be amazed by the quality of arts programming at the Wexner Center. And, they are in good company, the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus College of Art and Design and Franklin Park Conservatory all have phenomenal programs too. They all bring in world-class artists who otherwise would not have reason to come here. I am fortunate to have quality art programming and still enjoy all the benefits of living in a smaller city.

DL: What is your favorite part about working for yourself?

KR: Flexibility and working with clients. No two collection objectives are the same which keeps research interesting and fun.

DL: What and where is next for you?

KR: At this point, this is it. I get to do what I love and work with wonderful people. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.

DL: Do you have a kernel of advice you’d like to impart to the readers?

KR: Be open to anything. You’ll surprise yourself. Be patient. I never thought I could or would start my own business when it first occurred to me 10 years ago to do so. But, when the time is right, you will know.