Spotlight Interview: Douglas Fordham

Douglas Fordham: Educator

Charlottesville, Virginia

Associate Professor, UVA Art Department

WFU Class of 1995

Double Major: Art History & Economics

Douglas Fordham arrived at Wake Forest without any prior exposure to the arts. In the four years that followed, Douglas would realize his interest in both art history and creating in the studio. Now a professor of Art History at the University of Virginia, Douglas explains how his path has unfolded since undergrad.

 

DeacLink: Tell us about your current role at University of Virginia.

Douglas Fordham: I’ve been teaching at UVA for the past twelve years. I am an associate professor in the art department, which contains the studio and art history programs. My main field is Eighteenth Century European Art with a specialization in British art. My primary job requirement is to teach four classes a year, both undergraduate and graduate courses, and advise undergraduate and graduate theses. I’m also finishing up a book on printmaking and the British Empire in the Eighteenth Century.

 

DL: That all sounds fantastic. Could you take us through your journey to professorship since leaving undergrad at Wake?

DF: I graduated in 1995 and had no idea what I was going to do. I knew I wasn’t done learning and taking courses, and my experience in London studying art history had been particularly significant. I stayed in Winston to work in Wake Admissions for a year, and during that time I researched and applied to programs. I was grateful to have Professor Harry Titus’s guidance during this process, because I pretty much went into it blind. Looking back I believe the unique combination of my double major at Wake (Art History and Economics) helped me stand out; my undergraduate thesis combined the two and was a bit offbeat compared to the majority of applicants. Yale ended up being an obvious choice for me, given the funding opportunity and their incredible center for British Art.

The first few years at Yale were really hard, honestly. Compared to my peers my art historical background wasn’t terribly strong. However, the interdisciplinary work and research training that I received at Wake prepared me extremely well. It’s probably true for many people; you have strengths and weaknesses, and find a way to work it out.

I completed my graduate degree with Yale after seven years, and although they had career services it was still very stressful and difficult finding that first job. I applied to numerous positions. Anything that was remotely relevant. After interviewing for a few different posts, I was thrilled to accept a two-year Postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia in New York. While I was at Columbia I interviewed with UVa and received an offer to teach there.

 

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

DF: I went to London with an Art History course led by Professor Bob Knott as an undergrad student. I had taken a few other courses in Scales before this point, including sculpture, and my semester in London ultimately sold me on the field of Art History.

Equally influential were my friends at Wake, many of whom I met through Dr. Tom Phillips, the Director of Scholarships. We all came to Wake on various scholarships, and were it not for these opportunities I doubt that I would have gone the route that I did. It’s interesting how many of my friends from that period are still working in the arts, including Phil Archer, Seth Brodsky, and Jude Stewart. A number of us started a fine arts house on Polo Road which served as an extension to the creative activities we were engaging with already. We did poetry readings, created artwork, played music… Seth was a phenomenally gifted guitarist (and now a teaches Musicology at University of Chicago) and held informal music lectures for all of us. He married Jude who was involved in the English department and is now a successful freelance author.

That Polo Road space was very important for us; it was an encouraging place. I actually had zero engagement with the arts prior to Wake Forest. I was raised in Jacksonville, Florida and attended high school in the suburbs of Atlanta. Nothing about my background had exposed me to art; in fact I think I had only been to one art museum before coming to Wake!

 

DL: It’s great that you discovered your passion during undergrad. Do you feel that Wake could do more to prepare undergrads like you for your next steps when they graduate?

DF: I think that Wake’s art department has done an extremely good job hiring junior faculty. Adding new fields and continuing to bring in quality people who are really connected to their field is the number one thing they can do for the success of the students who want to go on. The Venice and London houses also made a big impression on me, and helped to prepare me for a career in the arts. It is also beneficial for graduates to see a track record of success in the arts; I don’t remember such a resource for that while I was there.

 

DL: You mentioned the difficulty of getting that first job out of Yale. What resources were there for you during this job search period?

DF: Yes, I was on the job market for two years. Yale did have some career service help, but they also had a pretty grandiose sense of themselves saying, ‘Just apply and you’ll be fine.’ They’ve now devised a much better support system, from what I understand. People with PhD’s in the arts and humanities are getting jobs in all sorts of fields now, and they’re helpings graduates find employers who look for those credentials.

I essentially searched for jobs through CAA (the College Art Association), which is the professional organization for studio art, art history, and museums in North America. Jobs are listed by academic specialization, which can be quite narrow, so you apply to whatever makes sense. The CAA has an office in NYC but hosts annual conferences, sponsors publishing and research grants, and other programs. It’s kind of like the American Medical Association… a lobby, promotional, and conference organizing group.

 

DL: Now that you’re happily stationed at UVA, how do you like living in Virginia? What is your favorite institution to visit for exhibitions?

DF: I have to say the VMFA (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts) in Richmond. I love that museum. They have an amazing permanent collection, host wonderful visiting exhibitions, and have a great team of curators. It’s such an underrated museum, and I don’t think it gets the credit it deserves. I take my classes there whenever I can schedule it.

 

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

DF: There are no guarantees in the arts. You do this job because you love the research, the writing, and mostly because you love the people involved in it. I feel incredibly lucky to be in this area where every day I’m dealing with students and faculty that simply love thinking and talking about art.

Spotlight Interview: Rudy Shepherd

Rudy Shepherd: Artist & Educator

New York City

Assistant Professor, Penn State University School of Visual Arts
WFU Class of 1998
Double Major: Studio Art & Biology

Rudy Shepherd completed a double major in Studio Art and Biology in his time at Wake Forest. Since graduation, Rudy has established himself as both an artist in New York and an educator in Pennsylvania (which is no easy feat). We recently asked Rudy about his journey since WFU, and what it takes to find balance as a practicing artist.

DeacLink: What are you up to right now?

Rudy Shepherd: I am a professor at Penn State University’s School of Visual Arts. I’ve been here since 2010, and just got tenure in 2016.


DL: Congratulations! Walk us through your path to this position since leaving WFU.

RS: I majored in Biology at Wake, and spent my first year out of undergrad doing research in Winston-Salem at a dialysis center. During this time I was researching and applying to grad school programs, and using the facilities at Scales to compile a portfolio with the help of John Pickel. 

I got into the MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a full scholarship for sculpture, and spent two amazing years there. While I was in Chicago I applied to residencies in New York and was accepted into the PS1 Contemporary Art Center’s artist in residence program. I was given studio space for a year in downtown Manhattan’s Clocktower Building. Across that year I had to piece together making work and making money, which was tough. I’d have open studios and visits to meet people.. I also worked at Starbucks, and did tours at MoMA and PS1. This was actually the year that I came into contact with Mixed Greens gallery, through fellow Wake alum Mary Leigh Cherry. She was in town from LA and brought the MG people along for a studio visit. 

After the PS1 residency I was hired by a non profit which placed artists in public schools to teach art. I taught Pre-K through 3rd grade for two years which was a definite challenge- I had no previous experience or training. Next I joined another non profit, working as the Operations Coordinator at The Drawing Center. The five years I spent there was great for building up a network and being known in the community; by working in the arts I met a ton of people like artists and curators, was at every opening, doing the installation of each show. 

During my time at both jobs I was making art, having shows, and developing my own practice. I was still having meetings with Mixed Greens approximately a year and a half since the first meeting via Mary. It took time to get to know one another, but the relationship was long-lived from that point. I had shows with them for 14 years until they closed in 2016. It was a good run, and by this juncture I was ready to go another direction.

My ultimate goal was to be a college professor, because it was a more reasonable and balanced way to maintain my artistic practice whilst working full time. I started adjunct teaching and then got a job at the Parsons School of Design as an academic advisor. I spent two years there, and kept making art and teaching at other places at the same time.

When the Penn State job came up, having The Drawing Center and Parsons on my CV proved very useful. The actual artwork I was producing was a factor as well. I’ve been at Penn State for seven years now and it’s been the perfect marriage of teaching and producing work. After working as much as I have explained, like three jobs at once and still trying to make art, this position allows me to balance work and artmaking so that neither is battling the other for precedent. I thrive with the extra time I have.. I can apply for grants, get the summertime off, and step back periodically to reflect and examine the work I’ve done in depth.

DL: Were you set on being an artist throughout undergrad? You double-majored in Studio and Biology…

RS: Coming into Wake I had zero designs of making art; I hadn’t even done it in high school!  I was three years into the Bio/pre-Med track before I took my first art classes. I took Dave Finn’s class my junior year and a lightbulb went off- I was like, ‘This is awesome’. Compared to the hours of cramming biology notes at the library and regurgitating information, the critiques and open discussion in art classes were incredible. I loved having an individual voice.

DL: There can be pressure for Wake students to complete majors like Biology or Business; were your parents supportive of your sudden switch to a Studio focus?

RS: They were supportive because they saw how passionate I was about it. Of course it was worrisome to leave a track that’s so well paid career-wise, to jump into the void and just go for it. 

I’d also say I got off to a pretty good start as far as artmaking and understanding that process, what it’s about. Prior to taking that class with Dave, I thought art was purely about skill and making pretty pictures. I learned it could be about something entirely different, like dealing with issues of the day and communicating with people. The small size of the art program at Wake was great because the professors were able to directly play roles in the development of my artistic direction. They were incredibly supportive. It was also great that Wake’s format requires all students to study different subjects- religion, history, science.. All of that made me more well rounded than if I had attended an art school for undergrad. The theoretical backgrounding was added during my time obtaining the MFA.

DL: How did you locate and apply to all of the various jobs, programs and residencies you’ve obtained?

RS: When I graduated in 1998 there was an internet, but things weren’t online the way they are now. For me it was teacher’s recommendations, library research and hearing things from other people. The advantage to word of mouth or inside rec’s is that they’re already vetted; for instance I tell my students, don’t apply to be in shows that require you to pay a fee. That’s a business model, not a show you want to be part of.

DL: What other advice have you got for students aspiring to be an artist in NYC?

RS: Come to town with something to do and get involved in. Showing up empty handed can be pretty tough. If you arrive for a residency or job… even an unpaid internship, you have a starting point. It begins with small things like these, and you’ll be hustling around, meeting people and forging connections with your peers who will then invite you to things, get to know you. However, the key is to juggle all that whilst still making your work. It all comes down to keeping your work at the forefront. If you meet Mary Boone and she asks to see your website, you’ll obviously want to have something to show her. 

DL: So if you could boil this down into a mantra for the readers, what would it be?

RS: The main point: stay on your game and keep the faith! There will be times when you’re making your work and wondering if it’ll come to anything, if you’ll ever get to show it to someone. If you put in the work everyday and keep the faith the right moment will come along and you’ll be ready.
 

 

Check out Rudy's artist website here

 

Spotlight Interview: William Crow

William Crow: Former Managing Educator

New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight Interview: Caroline Culp

Caroline Culp: Graduate Student

PhD in Art History, Stanford University 

WFU Class of 2013

Double Major: Art History & History (Honors)

Caroline Culp launched straight into her PhD out of undergrad, which is no small feat. With enormous amounts of research and internship experience under her belt, Caroline was accepted into Stanford's Art History PhD program upon graduation from Wake. She speaks to us now about her experience thus far.

DeacLink:  Tell us about what you’ve been doing since graduation.

Caroline Culp: I am currently in the Art History PhD program at Stanford, where I study American art and material culture of the eighteenth century. I very firmly feel that the programs, fellowships, and internships I completed at Wake allowed me to get into a PhD program without first obtaining a masters degree. During my sophomore year, I had an internship at National Portrait Gallery in DC, where I made some great contacts. The summer after my junior year, I had a research fellowship through the history department. After graduation, I worked as a curatorial research intern at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Working in the American Wing with the curator of sculpture to organize and research an upcoming exhibition, I realized this was what I wanted to do in my career--to be a curator at large arts institution. After a grueling round of applications to graduate programs (a full-time job in itself!), I began at Stanford in Fall of 2014. 

DL: What has surprised you the most about graduate school? 

CC: Graduate school is really hard. You have to be 100% sure before going into a PhD program that it is the path you want. It is taxing intellectually, psychologically, and emotionally. You’re likely to be far from my friends and family. You must be completely sure before you make that kind of a jump. But, I love what I do, and I love the program. I have grown enormously in my work, and I wouldn’t choose anything else.

DL: What advice would you give to students considering a PhD program?  

CC: Professor Jay Curley gave me some great advice. He said “Don’t pay for any art history advanced degree if you can help it. Emerging in debt and faced with a lower paying job is a sad way to spend your thirties!” But the reality is that three out of four students at Stanford come in with a masters. I would say that if a PhD in art history is what you know you need to do, take the debt or let your family help out with getting a masters degree. You will then have a better chance at acceptance to a PhD program. 

DL: So what specifically are you wanting to do after graduation? 

CC: The PhD program allows me keep my options open, and that is the best way to approach an advanced degree. I do feel that I would be best suited for a career in curation, but I will still be applying for academic positions. After teaching for the first time this quarter, I was surprised to realize I loved how fulfilling it was. 

DL: What are some of the realities of pursuing a career in the curatorial field? 

CC: The brutal reality is that the job market is very unforgiving. Positions are few and far between. When you finish your PhD, you have a 1-2 year window where you can apply for jobs. And, there are a limited number of jobs in your specialty available. I am focusing on early American art, but I will likely be applying to broad curatorial positions in American art. There are a limited number of American art positions across the country, and those that are open at the right time are an even smaller number. It takes a lot guts to go into this field. You have to have a lot of heart and get lucky. And you have to believe that it will work out. 

I’m guessing my first job won’t be glamorous. Starting at smaller institutions to start is very normal, or moving to a less-than-desirable location. You have no control in this job market. You just have to embrace the opportunities given to you. 

DL: Where would you say are the most opportunities in the curatorial field? 

CC: I would definitely say modern has the most curatorial opportunities. Also, with contemporary, you have the option to pursue curatorial positions in galleries.  

DL: What is the art scene like in Palo Alto? 

CC: The West Coast art scene seems to be (from my removed perspective) a mixture of California chill with a sense of nostalgia. Many artists are investigating questions of representation in various ways. The housing market has largely determined where artists can live. Right now, housing prices have pushed artists to Oakland and increasingly to LA. Being in Palo Alto, we are geographically disconnected. 

DL: Have you had the chance to become involved with the Cantor Center on Stanford’s campus? 

CC: At Stanford, there are various small curatorial opportunities, one of which is the highlight of my time at Stanford. Two years ago, I was able to take a class in which five PhD students in humanities disciplines worked together to conceive a show. We created a conceptually focused exhibition, implemented our vision, and produced a catalog. The class, taught by Richard Meyer and Connie Wolf, was part of a Mellon Grant that enabled Stanford and the Cantor to work together. 

Another Mellon funded initiative allows graduate students to develop and curate their own small show. After putting together a proposal, you get help from the Director of Academic Engagement at the Cantor to help make your vision a reality. 

DL: Given your interest in American Art, were you at all involved with Reynolda House as an undergrad? 

CC: Yes, I was a curatorial intern under Alison Slaby at Reynolda House, and my time there was very formative. It exposed me to a lot of canonical works of American art: the museum has a fantastic collection. My internship there has, I think, shaped the direction of my research and scholarly focus. 
 

Spotlight Interview: Ginny DeLacey

Ginny DeLacey Lewinski: Former Major Gifts Manager

Washington, DC

National Museum of Women in the Arts
WFU Class of 2012
Double Major: Art History (Honors) & French

Ginny DeLacey spent time interning for the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC throughout undergrad. Upon leaving Wake, she took a job with the same museum as Development Associate. Now serving as Major Gifts Manager, Ginny speaks to us about her new role, and how she transitioned from the Forest to fundraising.

*Since posting the article, Ginny has moved to Georgetown University where she is the Assistant Director for Board Operations.

DeacLink: Would you mind telling me about what you’re doing at the National Museum of Women in the Arts?

Ginny DeLacey: I am currently the Major Gifts Manager at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The museum is not a part of the Smithsonian system, but it is right by the White House. I started here two and a half years ago, and I interned here in college in during the summer of 2010 through the Wake Washington program. During the internship, a Wake alum at the National Gallery gave me ideas in terms of museums other museums to apply to. My initial job here as the Development Associate has evolved into Major Gifts Manager, which is much to do with fundraising. My job entails a lot of database management, creating reports, sending acknowledgements for gifts. I also work with the Board of Directors and stewards some of the committees focused on fundraising. 


DL: How did you end up on the development track? This seems to be a pretty popular career path for Art History majors. 

GD: The summer summer after I graduated, I was in New York for an art gallery internship at Bryce Wolkowitz. I had wanted to be in DC, and I had been a development intern while in college. While I was in school, I had been very much on the academic side of art history, and I thought about going to grad school. However, during my senior year, I took the Management in the Visual Arts class, and I started considering other opportunities in the art world, hence the gallery internship. Honestly, the gallery world and New York weren’t the best fit for me, so I moved back to DC. I took a part time job in development, and then also took a part time role at the Kennedy Center

Most people are attracted to curatorial positions, which are considered to be the “sexier” part of the museum world. However, Museums need money. Because of this, development teams are often bigger than curatorial ones. Because of this, there are more jobs and opportunities for advancement. I would also say there is a lot of mobility in the development field. There is a very high demand for strong development officers, especially at the higher levels. And at the end of the day, you are still supporting the mission. 


DL: When you were at the Kennedy Center, you were working in the performing as opposed to visual arts. How was that transition? 

GD: I am honestly not a performing arts person. My heart is in the visual arts. However, the Kennedy Center was a great place to learn but the staff was enormous. Now, I feel like I am on a more manageable sized team, and I am more connected with mission. I went from a team of seventy at the Kennedy Center, and I am on a team of eight now. With the smaller team, I have much more freedom and am able to make more of an impact.  Also, the Kennedy Center is such an institution. From a development perspective, there are a lot of people that give large sums of money. However, for the smaller level donors, people feel like they may be neglected in comparison, or question the value and impact of their gifts. At a smaller institution people are able to see the results of their contributions. 


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

GD: Honestly, it was a bit of a mixed bag. At Wake, I was panicking during my senior year.. Thankfully there is a strong alumni network for art history in DC. Everyone is very inclusive and helpful. Jame Anderson has created a group of about fifteen alums in the arts, and we get together for informal happy hours quarterly. Of the fifteen, ten people are normally able to attend, and we will chat about work and any issues we are facing. 

I would say the alumni network has been a better resource than the OPCD. I was able to get my internship in New York through a connection I had made during the New York trip for management in the visual arts. And while that ended up not being what I wanted to do with my career, it was still a good learning experience. 


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

GD: I would say the professors were more supportive academically, and were not focused as much on life after graduation. However, I would say Management in the Visual Arts was super helpful. It was a crash course in terms of the various aspects of the art world. Honestly, I wish I had taken it earlier on at Wake. 


DL: What would you say is the hardest part about breaking into the museum development field. 

GD: You have to be incredibly persistent. For the first ten months, I had part time roles at a consulting firm and an arts organization. You have to stick with it and get the experience where you can. The more internships and part time roles you can have, the better off you will be. 


DL: How are you liking living in DC?

GD: DC is a manageable city, but it’s very expensive. However, I have a great friend group here. When I first moved here, I lived with a girl from Wake. Now, we have this amazing group of friends that is about half Wake people. Also, in DC, there is always something to do. 

In terms of living situations, the neighborhood I am in is pretty quiet. I have a dog and a backyard. I think some people get overwhelmed with the politics in DC, but my friend group is all people working for nonprofits, so I don’t experience as much of that aspect of the city. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to get caught up in the madness of the Hill. There are some bars you will go to, and people will ask you political questions, but you can find your own scene. Things are not ubiquitous throughout the city. Also, DC has a strong hipster scene. There are a lot of dive bars and cool coffee shops. It can be more relaxed. 

The last thing I would say is that DC is very active. A lot of the time, my friends and I will go hiking on the weekends. And there are a lot of parks near the city… not just buttoned up government people running around. 


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

GD: The art scene here is definitely growing beyond just museums. However, museums are doing interesting things to engage new and younger people. Several museums have First Fridays where you can buy beer and wine. The National Gallery has started their Edge Series that is a free event with a cash bar. What’s really cool though is that people are in the galleries, not just at the bar. The scene here is not New York, but there is definitely an art scene. Also, there are a few galleries focused on emerging artists. Also, we are so close to Richmond and Baltimore which also have awesome art scenes that trickle into DC. 

DL: So what's next for you?

GD: Honestly, I am not sure. l love DC, but don’t know if I will live here here long term. My fiance wants to live abroad which would be really exciting. I exactly have a five year plan, but I know I want to stay in the arts. 

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

GD: Make all of the connections you can if you want to work in art world or museums. Also, do your best to stay up to date on what is going on in the art world.  Also, if you want to go into development at a museum, database experience is a huge difference maker, even if you have just learned those skills through an internship.  

 

 

 

Spotlight Interview: Margaret Gristina

Margaret Gristina: Senior Specialist & Head of Sale

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

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

 

DeacLink: Please tell us about your current job.

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Spotlight Interview: Katie Wolf

Katie Wolf: Gallerist

Winston-Salem, NC
         WFU Class of 2013          
Major: Studio Art with Honors
Minor: Art History

Katie Wolf plays a key role in the Wake Forest arts community as Assistant Director of Hanes Art Gallery. However, her impact and involvement isn't limited to the confines of campus. Katie talks us through her current job and all else to do with Winston's burgeoning art scene. 

 

DeacLink: Tell us about what you’re doing at the moment.

Katie Wolf: Currently, I am the Assistant Director of the Hanes Art Gallery at Wake Forest. I have many duties and responsibilities, but my favorite parts of my days are working with my student assistants and other art department majors. I also enjoy the parts of my job that require long-term strategic planning. I am also very proud to be on the board of Art Nouveau (ANWS), a group sponsored by the Arts Council of Winston-Salem to get young people more involved in the arts community.

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

KW: Since graduating in 2013, I was honored to receive a Wake Forest Fellow position as the START Gallery Manager, then I applied for and earned my current position at the Hanes Gallery.

DL: Did you always want to pursue the START fellowship? What steps did you take toward building up for the application throughout undergrad?

KW: I started working at the Hanes Gallery as a student assistant my sophomore year. Through that work, in addition to my classes in the art department, I met the gallery’s current director, Paul Bright, and START’s manager at the time, Marcus Keely. I developed a mentor/mentee relationship with both of them and decided at the end of sophomore year that the fellowship would be a great opportunity. I continued working at Hanes Gallery as well as at The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) part-time and had summer internships in various organizations to build an applicable skill base. I think setting this goal early and developing a long-term plan was crucial to my success.


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

KW: My studies completely informed and drove my path. Although I went to an arts based high school where I studied theater, I never considered studying visual art until my time at Wake Forest. I consider myself to be a product of a liberal arts education – without that kind of variety and flexibility I don’t think I would have found such a passion. I also had the opportunity to study management, which I have applied directly to my career.

DL: Prior to what you’re doing now, what other sorts of jobs have you had? How did you find and apply to them? (Internet career search engines, internal reference, agency, recruitment, Wfu resource, internship)

KW: Before Hanes Gallery and the START Gallery, I worked part-time as a student assistant at Hanes Gallery and at SECCA on the weekends. My summer internships were in the curatorial department at Greenhill Center, the education department at SECCA, and in the collections department at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum in Cleveland. I found and applied for all of those internships online without any personal connections prior.

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

KW: The hardest part was simply to decided that this was it for me. Making a plan, studying, gaining skills and experiences, networking, and applying are all wonderfully fulfilling. It was the choice itself and the confidence to be comfortable with that choice was the hardest part.

DL: How did you like living and working in Winston-Salem?  How does your current experience compare to the time you spent as a student in the city?

KW: Winston-Salem is an awesome place to live and a totally different city to the one I vaguely knew of as a student. As a board member of ANWS and a volunteer for the Arts Council I’ve been able to work with many young and enthusiastic artists and patrons in the city, and I am proud of and excited for the future of this place. As a student within a talented and motivated peer group, it’s easy to think that the only measure of success is in New York, Chicago, or Atlanta. However, the cost of living here is unbelievable low (my rent is $396 a month), and that has afforded me a stable financial life. To already have savings, investments, and a retirement plan at 25 will give me more options and flexibility throughout my career. Of course, those are all things I didn’t consider as a student so I am happy to have somewhat fallen into those benefits and opportunities.

DL: What has surprised you the most about the art scene in W-S? Do you have any advice for students wanting to move/remain there?

KW: If you’re bored in Winston-Salem then it’s your own fault. I just looked at my calendar and this week alone I have two public lectures, a concert, a museum exhibition walkthrough and two dinners with people I met outside of the Wake Forest community. There are tons of people really working to make this place better, and there are many ways to get involved yourself. Being intentional and present is important anywhere you end up, but it’s easy to do in Winston-Salem.


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

KW: Being decisive, diligent, and present are the most important qualities to cultivate. 

Spotlight Interview: Kevin Fennell

Kevin Fennell: Architect

Director of Design & Construction at 21c Museum Hotels

WFU Class of 1999

Major: Biology

Minor: Studio Art

Architect Kevin Fennell is very passionate about his hometown of Louisville. As Director of Design & Construction at 21c Museum Hotels, he is taking part in catalyzing the arts and culture wave in the American Midwest. We spoke with Kevin about how his career has unfolded since graduating from Wake Forest.

 

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

Kevin Fennell: I earned a BS in Biology at Wake, and I was actually on the premed track. However, I also had a minor in studio art. I had plans to go to med school, and when I graduated, I did medical research for two years with Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. 

As part of the studio art minor, I took an architectural history class. I was very excited about what I was learning, and thought it was something I might want to look into as a career. Instead of transitioning quickly, I wanted to continue on my path in the medical field. While in Chicago, I found a nontraditional architecture program at night. Archeworks is a socially driven architecture design school. Many of the students come from multidisciplinary backgrounds, and you work together as teams on a project that normally has a social focus. I worked on a project with an architect, business person and a product designer to develop a proposal for alternative care for alzheimer's. Other teams were working on products or things related to ADA design. It was structured so that you had year long projects with small teams, and it was a night school program so could maintain a full time job. This program convinced me to apply to architecture school. 

I applied to programs that had two degree programs. I ended up at UPenn, where I received degrees in architecture and landscape architecture. The way it worked is that you apply for one program first (landscape architecture in my case), and spend a year in that program while applying for the other degree (architecture). You spend a year just in the second program, and then your courses are combined for the rest of the program. 

After finishing my graduate degree at UPenn, I then applied to landscape and architecture firms, and I chose to pursue architecture. I worked for a firm in New York, SHoP Architects, for seven years. That was a fantastic experience and group of people, but my wife and I decided to leave and move to Louisville, where I had grown up. I took a job at an architecture firm (GBBN Architects) there, and in October of 2015 I left to join 21c Museum Hotels, which is a boutique hotel company and art museum. They are currently six properties, and we are about to open our seventh. They are a multi-venue museum with curated shows and gallery spaces. 

 

DL: Would you mind telling me more about what you do at 21c? 
KF: I am the Director of Design and Construction. For all intents and purposes, I work with the design team (architects, designers and interior designers) and I work with construction teams as we are building a project. I also work with the development team doing feasibility analyses. Since I have been in the office, we have opened Oklahoma City, and Nashville is about to open. Kansas City is currently under construction. 

 

DL: How have you found the different jobs you've had? 
KF: In the world of architecture and design, every year there is another class of people that is graduating.  One of the great things about this industry is that on job training and apprenticeship is the norm. There are always opportunities as recent graduates to find a job. Firms have a process in place for hiring people without experience and training them. Part of working as an architect is training new people. 

Design and architecture offices are always relying on interns and summer work. Firms gear up and prepare to bring people in the summer for special projects, and firms often hold competitions in the summertime when they have more staff. That’s when you do model making and renderings where students can learn a bit about the design and process of representing their ideas. 

There are not high barriers to entry for this field other than having an advanced degree. Part of the profession is to bring people on and train them. Project teams have a hierarchy, and that is driven by the fact that people are supposed to come in learn the project, and then subsequently grow into running projects of their own. 

 

DL: Architecture is not something most students think about as an undergrad. How do you think they could gain more exposure to the field while in school? 
KF: I think that is a difficult question. I would have taken a very different path if it weren’t for a class I took the last semester of my college career. I wasn’t exposed to the things I need to be exposed to until it was too late. I think that it is good to try and offer people a snapshot into where people have landed. People’s expectations in college don’t always play out. Career choices get fine tuned. 

In North Carolina, the other others schools with an architecture program are UNCC and UNC Greensboro. There’s always opportunities for partnership and independent study. Professors I had in biology and at Wake were very supportive of independent study. They helped me find the overlap between studio art and biology. Students should consider investigating ideas related to architecture, and seeing how they could leverage potential partnerships with other universities to explore these ideas. 

The other thing to think about is internships. Students should try and get into a design office or something they’re interested in. It’s good to work 9-5, get foot in the door, and see if it’s something you want to pursue. 

DL: How do you like living in Louisville? What is the art scene like there?
KF: Louisville is my hometown, and I have a great affection for it. I didn’t expect to be hack here for my career. However, it’s a boomerang town, people come back. It’s a very welcoming place. It’s also a place where you have a great lifestyle with parks, restaurants and bars. There’s great history with the different neighborhoods. Since coming back, I have met people who didn’t have any connections to Louisville who have moved here and have been blown away by it. It is a large small town or a small large city. It has a strong sense of arts and culture, and there is a broader Midwestern culture. The people here also have very different background and perspectives on things. It is a cultured city, the arts community is very supportive and active in outreach to all communities. That defines the city in a lot of ways. 

21c is also reflection of the culture here. It is a window into the activity and things we are doing here. It is a brand that is growing from here to catalyze the art scene in other places. 

 

DL: What advice do you have for students considering moving to Louisville? 
KF: Louisville is a very welcoming city, but I would recommended having a job first before moving here. Also, there are a lot of different kinds of neighbors. Historic and new neighborhoods. You can find the lifestyle and living arrangement you like. 

Louisville is also a city that is large enough that you have resources at your disposal. There are a large number of companies and businesses that are thriving. You can find a network of people to help you do what you want to do . Also the city is not so large that you are in a constant battle and squeezed out by competition. It’s the sort of city that is supportive of professional ambitions. People that have started things in Louisville have been very pleased by what they can do here because of the size of the market and the culture of business. 

 

DL: What do you think Wake arts could do to better prepare students for life after graduation?
KF: I was not aware of exposure to a lot of career opportunities. In biology, if you were pre-med, it was assumed that you were pursuing more academics and going to medical school. In the arts, it was very similar; you go on to get your MA or MFA. There was always a vision for more school. I didn't have a lot of exposure to career opportunities, and I don't recall relying on anyone at Wake to help guide me into making connections or jobs after graduation. 

 

Explore the 21c website 

WFU Students, plan your visit to the 21c Durham NC location today 
 

Spotlight Interview: Bentrice Jusu

Bentrice Jusu: Artist

New York City

WFU Class of 2013

Double Major: Film Studies & Studio Art with Honors Distinction

Artist Bentrice Jusu is best described by the word ‘passion’. Every project and venture she carries out is infused with a palpable and pure energy. Take for instance ‘Both Hands’, a non profit youth arts program which Bentrice founded in 2011 as a sophomore. Purposeful, fiery and refreshingly honest, Bentrice catches us up on all things in her world.

 

DeacLink: Tell us about what you’re doing right now.

Bentrice Jusu: I’m a full-time artist. Everything I do is about creatively composing ways to use my professional and educational skill set to make money, earn a salary. 

In addition to making work, I’m still Executive Director of Both Hands [founded in 2011 while at Wake], and Founder and Creative Director of the Become Club, a fashion and interactive multimedia business which incorporates fashion, music and videography. 

All three of these operations combined are definitely not sustainable, so I have to think creatively about how to be a good artist, how to work in media I excel in, and how to utilize the business mindedness I honed before and during my time at Wake. The key is applying business savviness to your artistic practice.

 

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

B: I founded Both Hands while at Wake in 2011, so coming out school that was my primary focus, keeping that going. In 2015 I went into research development for the Become Club. And throughout my time since Wake I’ve been producing artwork of my own and executing commissioned projects... I try to seek commissions all the time. I had a showing in Trenton at the New Jersey State Museum recently, which was an annual showing for my organization as well as my artwork. I also have a few potential events brewing in Philly and NYC. My website and social media accounts will announce those projects officially in the near future.


DL: Did you consider a graduate degree after Wake? 

B: I literally just hit ‘submit’ on my applications last week! I’m applying to a few MFA programs. One particular program I had my eye on, I’ve just missed the deadline for. It’s a dual MFA and MBA at NYU. Through my other research I discovered another great program- UPenn offers a Masters in Liberal Arts now. 

 

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

B: Everything revolved around Both Hands from the moment I started that business. I consciously enrolled in classes that would apply positively to building and impacting my business… I made my course load work for me.

Intentionally, I stayed true to my art. I came to Wake with my sights set on a business major but I failed. I had to retake a few classes but even then I still didn’t end up majoring in it. The intent there was to become amazing at running a non-profit. The only problem is, the Wake business major is intensive on corporate avenues and profit, and not necessarily non-profit success. But in the end I simply adjusted, shaped my brain to think about other ways to run a business.

I owe a lot to Polly Black’s tutelage in the ICE Department (Center for Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship). It allowed me to see business in an innovative and creative way… Professor Black was pivotal in bringing the educational and professional aspect to my Wake experience.

 

DL: Did Wake’s Art Department help prepare you for life as a full time artist?

B: I say this without any reserve: Wake’s Art Department DID in fact help me in my post graduate career. Shout out to Wake Forest Art Department- TEAM ART! Hallberg, Pickel, Joel, Finn, Faber… all of the professors were amazing.

We didn’t have access to a rich, popping arts culture like schools in New York does.. And you can’t blame that on the University because that’s just Winston-Salem, NC. But I say without any hesitation that Wake did expose me to different art, different practices, and to challenges which made me become my own, better type of artist without conforming to one certain medium. I felt free to explore. 


DL: Prior to what you’re doing now, what other sorts of jobs have you had? How did you find and apply to them?

B: I interned for the Shalom Project, the Diversity Immersion and Inclusion (in non-profit management), One Simple Wish in New Jersey, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF Freedom School), and was an Americorps Fellow. Some of the opportunities were from personal and internal references, while others came about from me seeing an ad posted in the pit and applying from there.


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

B: Being taken for granted. It’s easy to get exploited because your artwork is either tangible and expensable, or replicable and can be done by any and everybody… people think you’re posting your materials for free.

So yeah, the hardest part is penetrating the professional art world without starving to death- you have to do a million and three things for $2 an hour. But you need to believe in yourself enough to know your artwork is meaningful beyond your fingertips. 

You’ve also got to overcome feeling bad about being judged and criticized as capitalistic when you switch your medium from a canvas to something portable like a CD or a song. I mean, I have a background in oil painting and all of that… I know how long it takes to construct and work at a painting, or write a proposal to get into a gallery space to display that painting. If you haven’t graduated from Yale, it’s hard. 


DL: You’re still based in New Jersey, but looking to move to the City permanently soon. Have you got any advice for students looking to move to NYC?

B: Don’t be a wimp. New York is like every other place, but they’re raised to be themselves. And if you are afraid and intimidated you will not exist there. I haven’t even penetrated the NYC scene like I’m planning to in the next year, but from the time I’ve spent there… you simply can’t be a baby.


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

B: Nothing. It’s everything you’d expect from a metropolitan art scene. 


DL: So we know about grad school, but what’s next for you, art-wise?

B: I’m beginning to focus more on my performance practice. It’s still video installation, still multilateral… but much more centered around the music and performance aspect now. It’ll manifest through the Become Club website, and the actual performance and music will be good enough to reach audiences who can really feel what I’m talking about. The content is based around you becoming the artist you want to be. Viewers can purchase the song for one dollar. Five bucks buys a print, and you can become a member of the club to have access to special projects and opportunities for selected prices from $100.

I’ve also got a show coming up at START gallery, with fellow alumna Emma Hunsinger. More information on that will be showing up on the gallery’s site.


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

B: Don’t forget where you came from… don’t be afraid of your past. You cannot forget that. 
 

Visit Bentrice's website here

Follow Bentrice on Instagram and Twitter @beni_jusu

Spotlight Interview: Kristi Chan

Kristi Chan: Artist

San Francisco

WFU Class of 2015

Major: Studio Art

Minor: Art History

Artist Kristi Chan is a vivacious soul, characterized by an even balance of optimism and tenacity. The recent graduate and travel pro explains how she ended up on the opposite side of the country from her North Carolina home, pursuing what she loves most: creating.

 

DeacLink: What are you up to right now?

Kristi Chan: Right now I teach elementary and middle school art at Presidio Hill School, three days a week. I was also recently working for photographer McNair Evans in the city, which was really great. In addition to these, I do commission works on a regular basis and write/shoot for an online magazine called The Bold Italic. I have always had side projects, or ‘hustles’ going on. 

In my spare time, which I feel there’s never enough of, I’m working on personal painting and photography projects. I’ve just been accepted as a studio resident at ArtSpan, a local arts organization in the city which provides studios for applicants who have never had a space to work in before, or have been displaced from their studio. I move in the next couple weeks, and can’t wait to get started there. Prior to this, I’ve been carving out two areas in my apartment to create work- one in my room and a corner of the shared living room. Most studios I had looked at were more expensive than my apartment, so I had to make it work! 


DL: Take us through your journey since graduating from Wake.

KC: I graduated in 2015 with a teaching job lined up in Argentina for that summer teaching a high school study abroad course on photojournalism and social change. Afterward I came back to the States, but didn’t go home to Charlotte. I had applied for journalism jobs up in DC and New York, so spent time interviewing there to understand the environment and how life would be if I were to go that route. I realized I wasn’t ready for an office job, and neither city was really for me. I participated in a photography workshop in Provincetown, Cape Cod where a few friends of mine were already. Once the workshop concluded, I was beyond inspired to continue my work, but had to face the facts- I had no money, no ticket home, and no car. I caught a ride out West to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I was working on hot air balloon rigs for two months to have an income, until the opportunity to catch another ride arose. My friend picked me up on his way to see family in Montana. From there I hopped to Seattle, and trickled down the coast via train until I landed in San Francisco. I’ve been here for a year since.


DL: Did you consider a graduate degree after Wake? 

KC: Yes, and I’m still considering it. I don’t think I’m ready just yet, but with more time I’ll have a better grasp of how things work in the crazy art world, and then return to school. I want to have a few more shows and publications under my belt before applying to programs, and a more complete portfolio in general.


DL: Did your studies or Wake in general inform or drive your career path?

KC: Yes, very much so. I was encouraged by my professors to pick art as a major while at Wake, though most people were worried about a potential future in the arts, and advised against it. Despite the voices in my ear saying, ‘You won’t be able to do anything with art,’ I chose what I loved and felt all the more motivated to prove that opinion wrong. Wake’s prevalence of Business and Science, and more directly career-oriented majors can create the pressure to be boxed in, but the professors in the Art Department were so supportive that I chose something I knew I would love doing even if the path was really undetermined.

The best skill I acquired while in undergrad was the process by which I learned to make artistic decisions. Having to make and defend the reasoning of my decisions with each image and painting I produced helped create a process that taught me to consider the intention and impact of each of those decisions, a process that carried over into my life. It's also probably a big reason behind why I like to travel, and have worked for opportunities that allow me to do so. I learned to be comfortable with the constant ambiguity in an art career or while traveling, which I've learned is a pretty valuable transferable skill! I apply the same process I use when painting to navigate the extreme uncertainty of life as an artist now. There is no one to tell you how to make decisions in painting, and life is the same- both are very open and up to the individual. I feel extremely free and capable to take the steps I need to, and time my decisions with confidence.


DL: Do you think Wake’s art program prepared you for life as an artist in the real world?

KC: While there are many wonderful things about our art program, I don't think it's really designed to train career artists. It’s pretty uncommon for Studio majors to graduate on to careers as artists. I loved my classes, and while I acquired a great amount of studio skills, I didn’t learn enough business skills to know what it would take to be, say, a small business owner or sole proprietor. As an artist you have to be your own business, which of course requires business skills- something I felt that I was lacking in. I had a little knowledge of budgeting and business basics, because I took entrepreneurship classes, but if you look at how Business majors are prepared across their time with resume reviews, internships, mock interviews, etc... you'll realize where there are some potential gaps in our program. The closest simulation to networking I had was gallery openings where the artist would visit, and you try to get a moment with them. 


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

KC: I think it’s really easy to see how big the art world is. It’s hard to avoid comparing yourself to other artists, and equally difficult to devote the required time, money and space to create work you believe in.

It can be discouraging when you’re producing work that no one is seeing or buying. But you have to wholeheartedly believe that what you’re doing is worthwhile, and pick yourself up by the bootstraps. It’s already been a year in this city, and I understand that I have a far way to go. But I know this is what I should be doing, and that keeps me going.


DL: How do you like living and working in San Francisco? Do you have any advice for students wanting to move there?

KC: I love living in San Francisco. The Bay Area is really vibrant culturally, and there’s a rich history in the arts here. While a lot has changed with the growth of the tech industry and many artists have been pushed out of the city, there remains a creative, can-do spirit that I draw a lot of motivation from. I meet artists, makers, and creators everywhere I go, and the arts are something that people really value here.  The outdoors are also a big part of my life, and so being able to climb, surf, and backpack on any given weekend is a huge plus. SF has surprisingly good surf, and I can be on a trail outside the city within a 30 min drive.


As far as advice for students wanting to move here--it is a really challenging city to live in. They say it takes about a year to feel like you live here. This isn’t news to anyone, but it is extremely expensive. I feel like I won the lottery with my housing situation, but for the most part average rent for a room in an apartment with roommates is about 1200-1600. A lot of artists have moved to Oakland across the bay, but even that area has gotten really expensive. Some days I think to myself half-jokingly that I probably picked the worst city to decide to be a “starving artist” in, but most of the time I couldn’t be happier to be where I am now.


DL: What piece of advice do you currently go by, that you can leave with us?

KC: Say yes to every opportunity until you can’t… if you aren’t challenging yourself then you’re just making excuses. No one’s gonna do it for you.
 

Visit Kristi's website here

Follow her on Instagram @kristi_chan

Spotlight Interview: Robert Cox

Robert Cox: Former Architect, Robert A.M. Stern Architects

New York City

WFU Class of 2009

Major: Art History

Minor: Studio Art

North Carolina native Robert Cox made a point of pursuing architecture from his first year at Wake Forest. Building a strong foundation in historical knowledge, Robert honed his creative style through Studio courses and summers abroad on architecture-focused Richter Scholarship travels. We spoke with Robert to learn more about his path into architecture.

*At the time of the interview (02/2017), Cox was with Robert A.M. Stern Architects in New York.

 

DeacLink: What are you currently doing at work?

Robert Cox: I have been working at a firm called Robert A.M. Stern Architects  for almost four years now. It’s a medium-size office with a broad scope of residential, commercial, and institutional buildings (including the new business school at Wake Forest). I worked for two years on a multi-family residential project in New York, and then transitioned about a year ago to another part of the office, focusing on single family homes.

 

DL: Take us through your journey to your current occupation since graduating from Wake.

RC: I graduted from Wake in 2009 with an Art History major and a Studio Art minor, then took a year off in my hometown of Asheboro, NC to work on my portfolio and apply to grad schools. I was accepted to Columbia's architecture program, and moved to New York in the fall of 2010. After three years of school and a summer of job hunting, I started by current job at RAMSA.

 

DL: Was Columbia your primary focus while selecting a graduate program?

RC: I actually cast a wide net. Because I didn’t have any previous architecture experience, I compiled a portfolio of drawing, photography, and even a little creative writing. I tried to make it speak to my interests and creative pursuits, and hoped that that would resonate with the right school.

 

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

RC: I had always thought I’d go into architecture, but Wake Forest was a place where I could get a liberal arts education first, before getting into this very specialized discipline. I think my time at Wake studying architectural history helped confirm for me what I wanted. Spending that time broadening my base knowledge was definitely worthwhile.

 

DL: oming out of your artistic training at Wake, did you feel prepared for life after graduation?

RC: I think, specifically for architecture, I probably could’ve gotten better at digital design tools before starting school. Learning more about 3D modeling, for example, would’ve been a great head start. My first year of architecture school, I was trying to design buildings and learn software at the same time, when I should’ve just been focusing on design. So my advice to anyone going into architecture school: download or find school resources for software, and practice! 

 

DL: rior to what you’re doing now, what other sorts of jobs have you had? How did you find and apply to them?

RC: or better or worse, I spent my summers exploring. I took advantage of being a young college student, rather than piling on office experience. The summer of 2008, between my junior and senior year, I studied (with Wake’s help!) in Jamaica and in Italy through two different programs. In Jamaica, I joined UVA’s architecture school in their historic preservation field school, which was very cool. After that, I traveled to Rome on the Richter grant, completing an individual study of contemporary religious architecture in Italy.

 

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

RC: I was applying for jobs during the lingering aftermath of 2008, so hiring was just beginning to pick back up in the architecture world. There were more architects than there were positions, so it took me a while. Having a degree from a well-known program like Columbia helped for sure, but it was also an expensive degree -- which doesn’t always compare well with an architect’s salary. So, coming from a good school is great for getting hired, but you have to be willing to pay for it (or hustle hard for that scholarship).

 

DL: How do you like living and working in NYC? Do you have any advice for students wanting to move there?

RC: I’ve been here six years. I was never one of those people completely enthralled by the city, but I wasn’t hating every minute, either. You meet both types here. The best advice I have is to show up ready for things to be different from just about anywhere else in the US. Be ready to go with the frenetic flow, and try to love New York even when it’s not loving you back.

 

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

RC: I actually live very close to the West Chelsea gallery streets, so I often walk down there on Saturday mornings to get coffee and check things out. It’s been one of the most specifically New York things that I’ve gotten to experience here. There’s a constant rotation of new and exciting art, free and open to the public.

 

DL: What and where is next for you?

RC: I’ll stay at my current job for the time being. I still have lots to learn, and I’m enjoying my work. The biggest thing for me next is the completion of a book I’m writing/illustrating… that’s coming down the line, hopefully soon.

 

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

RC: I have the tendency to get pretty zoomed in on my work and stay there. And I think one thing I’ve learned that’s worthwhile: periodically take a step back and look at the big picture, and see how everything fits together. 

 

 

 

Spotlight Interview: Laurel McLaughlin

Laurel McLaughlin: Ridgway Curatorial Fellow in Special Collections, Bryn Mawr College

Philadelphia

WFU Class of 2013

Presidential Scholar of Voice

Double Major: Art History & English

Minor: Linguistics

 

To call Laurel McLaughlin multitalented would be a severe understatement. While at Wake Forest, she was a double major, Presidential Scholar of Voice, and a selected member of the 2013 Student Union Art Acquisitions Committee (formerly known as the ‘New York Art Buying Trip’). Since the interview, Laurel has completed graduate school and become the Ridgway Curatorial Fellow in Special Collections at Bryn Mawr College.


 

DeacLink: Tell us about your current job, and any other projects going on outside of work.

Laurel: I am currently a graduate student in the doctoral program at Bryn Mawr College with a focus on contemporary performance art and theories of embodiment, in addition to working as a Curatorial Assistant at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where I’ve collaborated on exhibitions ranging from Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis to World War I and American Art. I am also currently co-chairing the Bryn Mawr College Graduate Group Symposium, which will take place in the Fall of 2017, and co-curating two upcoming exhibitions, one with the University of Pennsylvania's Incubation Series, entitled Passages, at Fjord Gallery, Philadelphia, and the other at both Bryn Mawr College and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts entitled, Beyond Boundaries: Feminine Forms, which will be accompanied by programming and an exhibition catalog.

 

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

LM: I graduated from Wake Forest University in 2013 and had the opportunity to do an internship in the Contemporary department at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, after which I stayed on as a Research Assistant for a year working on exhibitions ranging from International Pop to Allora & Calzadilla: Intervals. I then moved to London in 2014 where I completed a Masters with Distinction entitled, “Corporeality within Globalised Migratory Aesthetics According to Nine Female Artists: Mona Hatoum, Doris Salcedo, Milica Tomić, Oreet Ashery, Tania Bruguera, Tímea Oravecz, Meriç Algün Ringborg, and Teresa Margolles,” at The Courtauld Institute of Art in Global Conceptualism with Dr. Sarah Wilson. In 2015 I returned to Philadelphia where I began graduate coursework at Bryn Mawr College.


 

DL: What are your biggest incentives and motivations in the job you’re doing now?

LM: My love for museum institutions and the public knowledge that they engender is a major motivation for my current graduate studies as I hope to join the ranks of a curatorial team.


 

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

LM: I am profoundly grateful for the work ethic that the liberal arts education at Wake Forest promoted. Every semester I would petition the Dean to take more classes than perhaps encouraged, and each semester became more of a challenge and an incredible adventure. The opportunity to study in such an interdisciplinary environment has continued to reinvigorate my studies with a multifaceted perspective throughout graduate school.

I would also be extremely remiss if I did not acknowledge the wonderful mentors that guided me throughout my time at Wake Forest. Professor Jay Curley is one such professor whose professionalism, scholarship, and dedication to his field first inspired me to pursue graduate studies and a curatorial career; and he remains a valued mentor and wonderful interlocutor to this day. I am also grateful for Professors Barry Maine, Bernadine Barnes, Teresa Radomski, and Herman Rapaport whose teaching abilities, class discussions, and vocal exercises never ceased to amaze me.

 

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

LM: Looking back, it would have been helpful to speak with recent Wake alumni who had continued with graduate studies in Art History.

 

DL:  Prior to what you’re doing now, what other sorts of jobs have you had? How did you find and apply to them?

LM: I’ve held a variety of internships and fellowship positions at The Reynolda House Museum, Wake Forest University Special Collections, The Barnes Foundation, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Sadie Coles HQ (London), Hales Gallery (London), The Slought Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. I found most of these opportunities on museum websites and art-related search engines, such as the New York Foundation for the Arts, and The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.

 

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

LM: One of the most challenging aspects of academia is the constant multitasking. While Wake Forest certainly introduced me to this lifestyle, graduate school increased that tenfold. Between applications for external opportunities, research papers, language exams, readings, jobs, classes, and this enigma called “life,” I’ve found a strange balance -- but it certainly took some time.



 

DL: How do you like living and working in Philadelphia?

LM: I’ve enjoyed my time living, working, and studying in Philadelphia tremendously. I enjoy my short commute to the suburbs for classes and the resources at Bryn Mawr that all remain close to the city. Philadelphia itself is a charming place to live with numerous neighborhoods and diverse communities. Its art scene ranges from contemporary museums such as The Fabric Workshop Museum and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, to hybrid social activist platforms such as the Slought Foundation, to encyclopaedic institutions such as the PMA and PaFA, with some quirky haunts like the Mutter Museum and the Eastern State Penitentiary. The city teems with history. And its close proximity to New York, Washington, and Boston are an added bonus.

 

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

LM: I have been surprised by the opportunities to partake in the Philadelphia art scene at such a young stage in my career. Unlike neighboring cities, which seem to have established hierarchies for their art scenes, Philadelphia remains fairly open and eager for collaboration and new activities.


 

DL: What and where is next for you?

LM: I will remain in Philadelphia to finish my second year in Bryn Mawr’s graduate program. Next year I hope to undertake a curatorial fellowship while writing my dissertation proposal.


 

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

LM: Be creative. While other students spent time at networking events or seminars on LinkedIn during the summers, I spent time in museum archives, which eventually led to current jobs and curatorial opportunities. Our art field, although seemingly corporate at times, operates a bit differently and requires some out-of-the-box thinking. Never be afraid to write an unusual proposal or make known the fact that you’re curious.

Spotlight Interview: Caitlin Berry

Caitlin Berry: Gallerist

Washington, DC

WFU Class of 2009

Major: Communications

Double Minor: Art History & Studio Art

Photo taken by Albert Ting at Smithsonian American Art Museum  

Photo taken by Albert Ting at Smithsonian American Art Museum 


Caitlin Berry graduated at a time when the economy was less than promising for job seekers, but embraced the opportunity to get creative with how she pursued her aspirations. Springboarding from the inaugural management role at Wake’s START Gallery, Caitlin went on to break into the New York and DC art scenes.  We’ve caught up with Caitlin to learn about her career path, and what’s next for art in DC.

 

DeacLink: What are you up to right now, both in and outside of work?

Caitlin Berry: Right now I’m the Associate Director at Hemphill Fine Arts, one of the oldest operating galleries in DC. Founded in 1993, we represent twenty-eight contemporary artists and two artist’s estates. We hold regular exhibitions here and curate two other locations in town which are more experimental. Additionally, we have a healthy secondary market program, with expertise and academic knowledge of Post-War American art and the Washington Color School. This historical side of the secondary market was my main strength when joining Hemphill. I continue to develop that program here.

My role, as it is in any small gallery, requires me to wear many hats. I do sales, a bit of artist development… which right now has consumed my last year and a half, working on a show with the newest artist to our stable, Hedieh Javanshir Ilchi. She’s been receiving great press, and rightly so, including a recent writeup from Hyperallergic. I’ve also been focused on an upcoming Washington Color School exhibition which opens at the beginning of February. We’ve been working with collectors across DC to pull that together.

Outside of work I co-chair the Communications Committee for the Art Table DC chapter, which does annual rapid-fire discussion based presentations for movers and shakers in the DC art scene- gallerists, politicians, artists, and so forth. It’s called ‘State of the Art’, and the next edition will be in the Fall.
 

DL: Take us through your journey from Wake to your current occupation.

CB: I graduated in 2009, right after the economy tanked. I remember Joe Biden speaking at our graduation, saying ‘I really envy you guys, you have this great opportunity to succeed in the face of adversity.’ At the time we all thought, ‘Yeah sure Joe.. we can’t find jobs’... but looking back he was right. Everyone I graduated with did struggle but we were all better for it. The conditions required us to get creative with how we proceeded, and in my case that rang true. By graduation I already had plans in place to move to NYC for an internship under Cristin Tierney at her gallery. Little did I know, she had been in touch with Gordon McCray from the business school (and leader of the Managements in Visual Arts course). They had earmarked me as a candidate for the inaugural position of gallery manager at START Gallery, which was still a rather nebulous concept at the time. When they approached me it was perfect timing, and after a rigorous interview process I was offered the position. The basic agreement was, I could go up to New York to work for Cristin but I had to come back to do START. I couldn’t have anticipated how great the experience was going to be… it was essentially myself and Paul Bright working with the Provost Office and a few others to bring START to life. Through the process I learned enormous amounts about what it’s like to run a gallery; it laid foundations for my understanding of professional organizations in the art world.

Of course, after START I wanted to get back up to New York- I had caught the bug while interning for Cristin. And speaking of Cristin, she is the biggest mentor in my life- we stayed in close touch after my internship, and she would frequently send me job postings and inform me of conversations she had with people looking for help. The pickings were still slim at this point… it was the Fall of 2010 and people were still trying to get out of the recession.

One day Cristin sent an email, saying to send my resume straight away to Eykyn Maclean, a gallery which was hiring help for a museum-quality exhibition of Alberto Giacometti’s oeuvre. This wasn’t just sculpture, but works on paper, paintings, writings… and this opportunity got me back to New York, but talk about baptism by fire. Throughout my time with Eykyn Maclean, there were plenty of surreal and amazing experiences, and I worked Wall Street hours; but I enjoyed every minute there.

One weekend in April 2012 I went down to DC for a visit with Wake friends, where I met the man I’m about to marry. I moved to Washington in 2013 and found a job with a 19th-Century gallery, where I spent a short spell. I was networking a lot in the DC art scene, and was part of The Philips Collection Contemporaries Steering Committee, through which I made a friend who is my now-predecessor. She was leaving for St. Louis and recommended that I apply for her job at Hemphill. I jumped into the opportunity, and here I am three years later- very happy and wanting to stay for as long as I can.
 

DL: Did you consider a graduate degree after Wake?

CB: I’ve always considered going to grad school; I love the scholarly aspect of working with secondary market objects. I love nothing more than sitting in archives all day, going through catalogues raisonne and figuring out where works fit within an artist’s oeuvre. So while I’m happy where I am now, I would certainly consider grad school if it gelled into the right timing and allowed me to continue work.

I think it should be said, that grad school shouldn’t be a prerequisite for success. It can be good for some people but it’s certainly not for everyone.. People can succeed without it.
 

DL: Did your time at Wake have a big impact on your career path?

CB:  I did have a sorority sister who was working at Gagosian… I remember thinking, ‘I want to do what she’s doing,’ so I asked her exactly how I could. She gave me some great advice, essentially laid out key guidelines for things I needed to do, in order to work in the art world. Two things she said were vital- taking the Management in Visual Arts course and to read any and everything I could about what was  going on in the art world. ArtNews, Art Forum, you name it- I was constantly reading on the latest, and the pace of change was rapid. But employers in the art world expect you to be aware of everything that’s going on.

 

DL: Do you think Wake’s art department prepared you for life after graduation?

CB:  I really think without the Management in Visual Arts class I would’ve been totally adrift in terms of having the tools to break into the art world, which can be a tough nut to crack. The best advice I got at the time was, be willing to work for free. Basically you have to understand, nobody is going to be making six figures right off the bat. But all Art History and Studio students should have to take an art marketing course. There’s an academic bias not to commoditize artwork, but artists can’t subsist without being able to do this, and galleries are so essential to the overall health of the market. Wake art students would benefit massively from developing a business sensibility.
 

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

CB: Realizing that you’re not entitled to success. I think being hard working, having a good attitude and being accountable is the perfect recipe for success in any field. But those three attributes are increasingly rare in the art world, and a person who comes into this ready to work is going to be an asset to any company, gallery, or museum they end up with. Networking has helped me massively with breaking into my field as well. Keeping up good relationships and not being a jerk frankly, are very important.
 

DL: How do you like living and working in DC? Do you have any advice for students wanting to move there?

CB: I would say- if you want to work in art world in DC, you should be focused on working institutionally or with a non-profit. That’s not to say you can’t be successful  in a commercial gallery here, but for all aspiring gallerists, I’d say please move here immediately and open your gallery. We need healthy competition and more variety in our art scene.

I’m also a huge advocate of working whilst going to grad school, which will help you get a job in a museum especially if you’re curating. Grad degrees aren’t necessary for the development side of things, so one could obtain a grad degree for curating while still working in development at a museum.
 

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

CB: The number of hugely talented artists who live and work in the area… not all great artists are in Brooklyn. The artists here are just as inventive and powerful, but don’t get nearly the same credit as those up in New York. There is a big opportunity to champion the local artists here.. So yet again- gallerists, come to DC and open your gallery!
 

DL: What’s the best piece of advice you can leave our readers with?

CB:  Have a positive attitude.

 

 

Spotlight Interview: Nick Gray

Nick Gray: Founder and Owner, Museum Hack

New York City

WFU Class of 2004

Major: Business with Marketing focus

 

Nick Gray is a hacker. And no, not of the data breach variety. He’s the dynamic founder and owner of the wildly popular tour company ‘Museum Hack’ in NYC. We spoke with Nick to learn about his journey from Wake student to successful entrepreneur.

*At the time of the interview, Nick was Founder and CEO of Museum Hack. He has since stepped out of the CEO role to focus on other things.

 

DeacLink: Tell us what you’re up to right now at Museum Hack.

Nick: We are hiring very fast, and a lot. We are making some key new hires, including an audience development team member, sales manager, and more tour guides. Along this process, we cast as wide a net as possible- posting to LinkedIn, Indeed.com, Craigslist, Facebook, local job sites, and arts pages- to get as many applicants as we can. We’re also increasing our focus on ‘team building’ as a key aspect of our service. We recently did a team building event with Facebook in San Francisco which was a really great experience. About eighty Facebook employees explored a museum together under our guidance, completing different fun tasks. We’re looking forward to doing more of these bookings in the future.

 

DL: What happened between graduation and the founding of your company?

NG:  Prior to leaving Wake I had been running a software project on campus for two years, which I wanted to turn into a company after graduation. In 2004 there was no venture capital, so I went to India with my savings to hire programmers there. It was an amazing, funny, but ultimately unsuccessful experience. After India I moved back home to Georgia and helped my parents out in the family business. We were operating out of the basement of the house, with one employee. A couple weeks turned into a couple months, and then a couple years. By then we were a seventy-employee operation. I moved to New York in 2007 to handle sales and marketing for our business up there. It was during this time that I began doing renegade tours of museums on the weekends. It was just for fun then, something different to do with my friends. They would come, hang out, and experience a place I had grown to love.

 

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

NG: The business school was huge of course, but the time I spent helping my parents was crucial to preparing me for setting up my own business.  During undergrad I wasn’t always at Calloway though, I spent some time in Scales. I was part of the Lilting Banshees as well as the inaugural class of Gordon McCray’s Arts Leadship Course. At the time, it wasn’t competitive to get into... I just took it because it sounded cool.

 

DL: Do you think Wake adequately prepared you for life after graduation?

NG: I’m so thankful for the friends I made at wake who became business models and mentors for me. The people I met there are my best friends who I keep in touch with still today.   

 

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

NG:  People try and fail in this market because they become too heady and get way ahead of themselves. We have a very simple product, and we keep it simple- we do live museum tours. We got really good at our tours, generated demand, and kept the growth slow. From that process we have created a multi million dollar business.

 

DL: How do you like living and working in NYC? What made you choose this city to set up your company?

NG: I love the spontaneity of a big city, and the freedom and flexibility it affords me.  New things happen every day.. my schedule is crazy. I meet amazing people all the time, and each day is a new adventure.

 

DL: What and where is next for you?

NG: We are growing Museum Hack very slowly on purpose, being careful about it. However, with that said, we would like to expand to other cities in the future. For now though, the biggest aim moving forward is to emphasize our team building experiences, and make ourselves known for that aspect of our service.

 

DL: Do you have a top tip to pass on to our readers?

NG:  Cash is king.

 

 

Follow & reach out to Nick on his Twitter @nickgraynews or website
Visit the Museum Hack website

Book a team building event with Museum Hack