Spotlight Interview: Kat Shuford

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

New York City

WFU Class of 2009

Major: Studio Art

Double Minor: Spanish & Latin American Studies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Spotlight Interview: Tayllor Battle

Tayllor Battle: Designer, Mighty 8th Media

Atlanta

WFU Class of 2010

Major: Studio Art

Double Minor: Art History & Communications

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Tayllor Battle arrived at Wake Forest hoping to work in museums one day. Now based in Atlanta, Tayllor discusses her career in graphic design and what’s led her to this point since leaving Winston.

DeacLink: What did you study while you were at Wake?

Tayllor Battle: I majored in Studio Art with a concentration in oil painting. I also minored in Art History and Communications because I thought I might want to work in a museum some day.

DL: Since you’ve graduated, how has your career unfolded? Can you walk me through your path from graduation day to your current job?

TB: After graduation I got an account management internship at an Zimmerman Advertising agency in south Florida. Out of the program I was offered a job, but decided to move to Atlanta because that’s where I really wanted to live. I took another internship at BBDO Atlanta, which lead me to my first real job in media planning and buying at Ames Scullin O’Haire Advertising. I worked there for two and a half years and loved it most of the time, but eventually needed a change. So I took a job at Zenith Media to work on the Sonic fast food account. After about 6 months or so, I realized the job change wasn’t what I was looking for. What I really needed was a career change. I missed my creative roots. I got swept up in some fun jobs, but my heart wasn’t in it. I knew if I was going to work for 40 more years, it needed to be doing something fulfilling. So I quit my job and joined the circus. Okay not the literal circus, but a little portfolio school called the Creative Circus. I had never heard of portfolio school before, but I just so happened to live in the city on one of the top programs in the country. I like to think of it as a Masters in Design without the thesis-writing and test-taking. I spent two years there working harder than I’d ever worked in my life, to put together a portfolio that helped me land a design job. Which is where I am now. Working as a Brand and Marketing Designer at a small agency called Mighty 8th Media.

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

TB: They helped me realize I definitely wanted to stay in the arts. Also, the Wake Forest name carries a lot of weight. I definitely think it helped me get interviews and be seen as a serious candidate.

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

TB: Some online, some by inside references, some by networking. When you’re looking for a job, I think it’s really important to just put yourself out there in every way you can. When I was looking for the role I’m currently in, I really inserted myself into the Atlanta design community. I went to straight networking events, but I also went to designer talks, museum exhibitions, Creative Mornings, and anything else that might put me in a situation to meet the right people. I also worked my network. I reached out to alumni from both of my schools to gain perspective on the industry and what employers were looking for. It can be really difficult to put yourself in uncomfortable situations, but it will help you find the right job in the end.

DL: The design route seems to be a popular career option for art alums despite the fact we don’t have a formal design program. What advice do you have for readers interested in breaking into the field?

TB: Definitely take advantage of the resources and classes that Wake has. When I was there, I focused way more on the Fine Arts than Design. Unfortunately there just isn’t much of a market for a full time artist. I wish I would have taken more of the Graphic Design classes at Wake and engaged with that community more. But I am endlessly grateful that I got an authentic art experience at Wake and it informed my Graphic Design eye moving forward. Coming from the Wake art program though, I definitely recommend a Portfolio school or other Graduate program if you want to be a Designer. It will help you take what you learned in the Wake Arts and really focus it on the practical aspects of Design.

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

TB: In the arts specifically, I think there could have been more of an effort to push fine artists into the Graphic Design field since it’s a more practical skill in today’s job market. More practical projects to work on would have helped too. Designing for yourself and designing for a client are so very different and it’s important to learn that skill.

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

TB: Atlanta has so much to offer. It’s a big city with a small town feel. It’s got skyscrapers and trees. It has culture, community and great music. It has great design that comes from some big name brands, local brands, big agencies and small agencies. For me, the best part of the art scene are the programs being organized by the local AIGA (American Institute of the Graphic Arts) and Creative Mornings chapters. They’re really working to bring a global and local perspective to the art community here with speakers, workshops, networking and more.

DL: What is your favorite part about working for Mighty 8th Media? (Can include perks, specific experiences or anecdotes from the job)

TB: I love the wide variety of projects I get to work on at Mighty 8th. I love that every day is different. I love helping real businesses solve real business problems. I’ve worked at a couple of massive agencies and brands over the years and I really love that Mighty 8th is the opposite of that. I have autonomy, but also a great team to collaborate with. I have creative freedom and clients that value our creative expertise.

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

TB: Be engaged. If there’s one thing I regret from my time at Wake Forest is that I wasn’t as engaged in the educational process as I should’ve been. Being truly engaged goes a long way with your peers, teachers, coworkers, and employers. You really can’t fake genuine engagement and people know it when they see it.

Spotlight Interview: Claire Altizer

Claire Altizer: Registrar & Exhibitions Manager, Dedalus Foundation

New York City

WFU Class of 2009

Major: Studio Art

Minor: Art History

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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


 

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

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


 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Spotlight Interview: Emily Ortiz

Emily Ortiz Badalamente: Graduate Student [ART THERAPY]

Washington, DC

WFU Class of 2015

Double Major: Studio Art & Psychology

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

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

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

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

 

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

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


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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

DL: What will you be doing after graduation?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Spotlight Interview: Anna Raines King

Anna Raines King: Architect & Entrepreneur

Beaufort, North Carolina

WFU Class of 2010

Major: Art History

Minor: Studio Art

Anna Raines King is a fantastic example of pursuing one's passions whilst making a difference. The Co-Founder of the eco-conscious architecture firm 2Kings explains how her career has taken shape since leaving the Forest.

 

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

Anna Raines King: I graduated Cum Laude in 2010 with a major in Art History and a minor in Studio Art. At that time, I planned to complete an MFA in printmaking, so I began to apply to graduate schools; meanwhile, I worked part time as a studio assistant for Professor David Faber. However, during that year I decided on a different career path. Having worked throughout high school and college for an architecture firm, Owen Architecture, in Winston-Salem, I realized that architecture would be a good fit for my both my art history and studio art interests and abilities. I entered UNC Charlotte’s Masters in Architecture and graduated with Honors in 2014.  

During graduate school, I cast a pretty wide net. I sought out design studios taught by practicing architects. I took interdisciplinary classes in Urban Design, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and real estate development. My thesis focused on the occupation of public space and architecture; more specifically, how spatial occupation, manifested as demonstrations as acts of protest, and the appropriation of public space in contemporary protest culture, relate to and physically alter the architectural and urban environment(s).

 

DL: Would you mind telling me more about 2Kings?

AK: I met David King, who’s now my husband, in architecture school. He, too,  was working on an interdisciplinary thesis. Although by the time we graduated the economy had improved, the field of architecture was-- and still is--  experiencing a period of fluctuation. The field is navigating new relationships with technology, computing, and the licensure process. The large firms that were hiring in 2014  were not what we were looking for.  We chose to found our own design-build firm at the end of school as an intellectual exercise, and it quickly became our full time job. We have an unlimited general contractor's license as well as our real estate brokers license. Our passion is responsible coastal development - our clients are mainly high-end residential; however, we also partner with other professionals in both the public and private sectors on pocket parks, temporary installations, and redevelopment projects. Currently, we are in the midst of town approvals for our first low impact development in a neighboring town.

 

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

AK: This was an amazing time to be at Wake Forest! Students in the business world and the art world intermixed! The newly created Entrepreneurship minor was cross-listed with the Art Department, and that interdisciplinary approach facilitated, for example, the creation of the START gallery in Reynolda Village -- a student-run gallery where art classes could exhibit and sell their work. Professors like Jan Detter and Lynn Book were extremely dedicated to helping students develop their own “kit-of-parts” needed to navigate future careers in creative fields. The successful realization of an idea relies on a donor, a grant, a kick-starter or a residency program, etc and, the “kit” developed in those classes is what I relied on to navigate the practical realities of finding success in a creative field.

 

DL: Architecture and design seem to be  popular career paths for art alums despite the fact there are no real programs for this at Wake. How did you know this is what you wanted to do? What’s the hardest part about breaking into the field?

AK: To answer the first part of your question-- In addition to my work with Owen Architecture in Winston-Salem I took advantage of as many arts-related opportunities as possible at Wake Forest outside of the required curriculum. The summer of my sophomore year I interned at the Westminster Archive Center in London, England through a joint internship placement program with Wake Forest and Boston University. There I helped examine the physical condition of newly acquired documents and collections to develop basic working database for conservation and preservation. The next summer I was awarded a 10-week, $4500 stipend for a scholarly research collaboration through the Research Fellows Program with Professor Harry Titus in Paris, France.  Professor Titus helped guide my research in the advancements and problems of architectural vocabulary within revival-style church building in Second Empire Paris, as well as its significance within a broader context of modern art and architecture.  During the school year I worked for 3 to 4 Ounces, the student art and literary magazine, eventually becoming editor-in-chief. My senior year I chaired the Media Board, which oversees all seven of the student publications and media organizations. Taken as a whole, my experiences in each of these various paths during my time at Wake Forest allowed me to confidently choose a career path upon graduating.

To answer the second part of your question-- In architecture, one of the most difficult challenges to breaking into the field is that you need life experience. Architecture professors will say “Architecture is an old man’s game.” An accumulation of knowledge --building codes, materials, budget timelines, best practices and public/private partnerships- is necessary in the field.  And that takes a lot of time to learn.  For recent graduates, this can be frustrating. Additionally, architecture has been primarily a “man’s game” and so there is that aspect of being a female architect and outside the norm.  

 

DL: How do you like living in North Carolina? What advice do you have for students considering pursuing a career outside of a major arts hub?

AK: There are pluses and minuses. Because we live in a coastal area, with a small year round population, access to resources such as print labs and fabricators is challenging. On the positive side, we are influencing and changing the built environment in a way we couldn't in a larger city. Fortunately, we have the fastest internet in our town, and with cloud-based technology we can connect to a larger community via the internet.

David and I are passionate about climate change and sea level rise, and what it is going to mean to live on the coast in 10-100 years.  Few coastal communities have the architects and other resources like those available to the coasts of New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. On a personal level, it is important to us to know that we will be here in this community and will be able to help with the imminent climate effects.

 

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

AK: The existence of cross disciplinary experiences is good. However, the school needs to continue to provide a variety of experiences beyond the classroom.Taking advantage of off-campus opportunities in Winston-Salem and in Europe made a big difference for me. Having the ability to take risks, especially formative ones in a low risk environment, in college is so important. The arts world can be harsh. Having that confidence gained through experience and support through people that believe in you is something that you can draw on when times are tough.

 

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

AK: In the greater world, the arts field tends to be undervalued. This shows up in the idea that creatives should intern or work for free for years or charge less for the service they provide. This type of thinking undercuts the importance of the art field. So my best advice would be to value yourself and your abilities. Recognize that what you offer is as important as other fields. You can’t expect others to value you if you don’t value yourself.

 

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Spotlight Interview: Molly Griffith

Molly Griffith: Development

Atlanta

Senior Director of Development, College of Arts & Sciences, Emory University
WFU Class of 2002
Major: Studio Art

Molly Griffith graduated from Wake with a Studio Art major, and a desire to work with non profits. Now as Senior Director of Development at Emory University's College of Arts and Sciences, Molly gives us insight to her path since undergrad and what has motivated her along the way.

 

DeacLink: I know you were a studio art major at Wake. Tell me a bit more about that. How has your career unfolded since? 
Molly Griffith: When I was a student, the concept of development was not as professionalized as it is today. Now, there more academic programs in place for professionals interested in the development track. I remember being a student and thinking that I was not cut out for a corporate job. Wake was great at helping people get jobs at banks, but I felt a bit lost. I was offered a teacher assistantship in France following graduation, but I felt that I wanted to be working with nonprofits in some way. It wasn’t that I was intimidated by the private sector, but instead nonprofits felt more in line with my ethos and personality. Also, it tied back into the culture at Wake of pro humanitate. Nonprofits felt like the right place for me to be. 

I knew I wanted to be in Atlanta after graduation, and I started blanketing nonprofits with low-level job requests. I eventually landed a role as a receptionist for The Nature Conservancy. I was able to get the job because of a personal connection with the state director, going to show that who you know can pay off. Like it is for many development professionals, my personality allowed me to gravitate to a role in this field. I didn’t pick it, but it picked me. I worked closed with the Director of the Nature Conservancy and the Director of Development, and enjoyed it immensely. However, I wanted to get back into the museum world. Next I went on to be the Assistant to the Director of Museum Development at the High Museum of Art. This role really allowed me to touch a lot of things and learn more broadly about Development. Over the years, I have held every position you can in development, from behind the scenes work to face to face time. I changed roles a few more times, and ended up in higher education, where I feel the most connected.  

DL: Would you mind telling me about what you're doing at Emory?
MG: At Emory, I am the Senior Director of Development for College of Arts and Sciences. This means that I have a portfolio of donors, and I manage a group of development officers. My portfolio is mostly Atlanta based, and I am getting to work with the best candidates for support for the institution. 

DL: What surprised you the most about going back to work for the school? 
MG: It was a fantastic experience, and I loved working for my alma mater. One of the best things about switching from arts to high ed is that I found it to be an easier sell. I truly believed in the mission. But then to be able to represent your own school, that was really special. I did make a conscious effort to try and be sure that I could keep my alumni and student experiences separate from my professional one. It wasn’t always going to be the perfect job every day, so I wanted to keep those things separate. My career was wonderful there. Also, making the case to donors couldn’t be easier when you are representing your alma mater. Because you have years of memories to draw on, you never feel unprepared. That kind of authenticity doesn’t come with every position.  

DL: Do you think networking plays a key role for development roles? 
MG: I will say though that at the lower level, entry positions in Atlanta, you have to move around to advance. That is pretty pretty common though. Normally, people last eighteen months in a role before moving on. That leads to high levels of turnover among development staff, and that’s expensive for a nonprofit to deal with. The high turnover also opens up a lot more opportunities - there are lots of open development positions across various nonprofits at any given time. Instead of networking, people get in a position, realize they’ve hit a ceiling, and then start looking around. Sadly, there aren’t a lot of growth opportunities in most departments. Also, I would say the application process is much more common for getting a role than networking. I got my position at Emory through the HR website. 


DL: The development track seems to very popular with art alums. What do you think is the hardest part about breaking into the development field? 
MG: I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s challenging to break into the development field, but you do need to start at the bottom. Also, nonprofit work is not known for producing highly compensated individuals. You have to start pretty low on the totem pole, and that’s expensive. My first salary was $22K a year, and that was in 2002. I tutored and babysat on top of it so I could get by. Once you are in at a lower level, the next challenge is getting face to face fundraising experience, which can be really hard to do. One of the coolest programs is what Wake does with their advancement fellows. The recent graduates are able to start having those conversations early. If you are interested in development, consider a fellowship as a first step. There are very few nonprofit roles where people with little to no experience are able to represent the institution. The liberal arts background prepares the fellows really well. Most students are terrific communicators that can adapt in any situation. They also have a broad basis of education that can hold up to whomever they are speaking with. 

There has to be a willingness to bite the bullet early on from a salary standpoint, but then scrap to get the face to face experience. At my entry level role at at The Nature Conservancy, I was a liaison with the Board of Directors. If you are being trusted to communicate with biggest supporters of the institution, but can spin that to showing you can be trusted with important relationships. 

DL: What surprises you the most about the arts/cultural institution scene here in Atlanta? 
MG: I have been outside of the arts and culture arena for some time. However, I did spend five years on the board of Atlanta Celebrates Photography. I rolled off two years ago when couldn’t commit the time. I think there are two different art scenes in Atlanta. The first is the dominant Woodruff Arts Center/High Museum of Art scene. This is the traditional museum base that has a higher capacity donor base. It is the old guard scene for arts. Then there is this entirely fun, burgeoning, underground art scene at places like The Goat Farm Art Center and Art Papers. However, these groups are not supported in the same way. They have to be more creative about how they make their case for funding, and I like that part of it. Not to be negative about the High and other long standing institutions, but they don’t have the same dynamism at smaller nonprofits. 

I think many people are quick to dismiss the art scene here because it’s just the High Museum. The High also doesn’t have a well known permanent collection. If people don't know about Atlanta Celebrates Photography, smaller theaters and galleries, the Museum of Contemporary Art, people think there’s just one cultural behemoth, and Atlanta is much more dynamic than that. Think about Art on the BeltLine which speak to the growth of Atlanta. Like a lot of places, where artists go, growth happens. When you get creative young minds, you will see activity artistically and economically.  

DL: What advice do you have for students considering moving beyond the arts arena? 
MG: I have worked in places where I haven’t felt a connection to the emission, and it does make it harder to be successful from a fundraising standpoint. It is much easier to do when you truly believe what you are doing. One of the things I have really enjoyed is keeping a toe in the art world from an avocational instead of vocational standpoint. I have been able to engage the arts outside of my career, while still advancing my career. 

DL: What do you think Wake arts could do to better prepare students for life after graduation?
MG: I love the art department at Wake. I think one of the things that needs to happen is the introduction of graphic and digital programs, and a general design pace. I was a painting and photography student, but it was analog photos and oil painting. And let’s be honest, it is incredibly difficult to make a career out of those two things. Thankfully my family told me to study what I loved. It worked out in the end, but it is not the most responsible way to think about an education. The school should be thinking about ways to connect artistic people to careers like design or architecture. 

Also, I think it would be good for the school to bring the arts out of scales. Things are very sequestered, and should be further integrated into the broader curriculum. There is the one Management in the Visual Arts class in the business school, but that’s not enough. 

DL: What's the best kernel of advice you can think to pass on to current students and recent alums?
MG: Find someone that can serve in a mentor capacity. I think that a lot of students graduate and think they have done the hard part by figuring out what they want to study and then getting a job. But there might be a point down the road where you question the path you are on. As a result, it is important to find those mentors from a career building standpoint who can help guide you along the way.