Spotlight Interview: Jame Anderson

Jame Anderson: Architect

Washington, DC

WFU Class of 1993

Double Major: Art History & Studio Art

Jame Anderson has quite possibly the coolest job in our nation’s capital. As an architect for SmithGroupJJR in their Cultural Studio practice, Jame works to bring cultural institutions to life. From designing museums of all types and shapes, converting archaeological sites into museums, to planning collections and object based research facilities for universities, Jame tells us what it takes to succeed as an architect.

DeacLink: Tell us about what you’re doing right now.. Are there any particularly exciting projects going on for you?

Jamie Anderson: I’m currently based in DC working as an architect for SmithGroupJJR, in the Cultural studio practice. We deal with museums, historic preservation, performing arts centers, and collaborate often with higher education for things like art on campus. I’ve worked on cultural institutions for my entire career since Wake.

Our latest project at SmithGroupJJR is deciding what will become of a site in Richmond newly discovered to be a slave auction house, jail, and business from the 17 and 1800s. The project has been titled the ‘Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site’, but was known colloquially as ‘The Devil’s Half-Acre’ in its time. Everyone knew this area in Richmond had these sort of sites but there had been no prior documentation of it until now; an archaeological dig recently revealed the site’s buildings and artifacts.

The most interesting part of this project follows the story of human progress in our country. The owner Robert Lumpkin willed this property to the woman who bore his children, who was an enslaved African American owned by Robert Lumpkin. When he died she donated it to what has become the Virginia Union University, the first historically black university in the state of Virginia, which was then just starting up.

When deciding what will become of the site, it’s very important to listen to the surrounding community throughout the process. Before we can bring our design to the Lumpkin’s Slave Jail Site, it’s crucial to allow those who will be surrounded and touched by the project to speak and react first. From this point we can begin to make decisions, the biggest being what the site should be. Should it be a museum, a memorial.. Something else? In the next nine months we hope to produce a concept design of the entity that will exist there.

This is the only project I’m able to speak publicly about.. But there are some other extremely cool projects going on that have to remain private for now.

 

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

JA: I graduated from Wake in 1993 and decided to move to the city with the most museums, because I knew that’s where I wanted to work. I had done a bunch of internships prior to graduation from Wake.. my mindset was to get into any museum that would take me.

From ‘93 to ‘95 I did a series of odd jobs for the Smithsonian. I was in the Office of Exhibits Central (OEC), responsible for fabricating components of exhibitions. We did matting and framing, silkscreening, clay modelling.. There was even a taxidermist on the team. It was a very wonderful, crazy place to be. I fabricated and painted items for dioramas at first, but I found that I really wanted to design the dioramas themselves.

I looked into grad schools and at the time there weren’t many Exhibition Design masters degrees. I decided to go back to architecture school at Rhode Island School of Design. I had no idea what I was getting into at the time.. The program was truly above and beyond. During the completion of my thesis, my advisor Mikyoung Kim recommended I try working for a firm after graduation to see what I thought of it. I took her advice, and landed at a forty-person firm in the suburbs of Washington who had just been hired as a joint partner on the National Museum of the American Indian. I worked on that project for five years, after which I moved to the National Gallery as an architect and exhibition designer.

There we were in charge of everything that the art touched, and everything the visitor saw. This ranged from information desks and little cafes, to picking the wall colors and designing pedestals for the exhibitions, to gutting complete portions of the building to show collections. We worked closely with the curators throughout the installation process as well. You don’t get to touch a Picasso everyday.. With gloves of course!

All of my colleagues were the top in their field, it was a professional and beautiful place to work. We worked on more than a hundred special exhibitions and projects. Last year, almost a year to the day, I left the National gallery after thirteen years there. I returned to SmithGroupJJR ready for a different type of museum.



DL: Would you say your studies at Wake informed or drove your career path?

JA: Yeah, I think so. Double majoring in Art History and Studio Art allowed me to look and think critically and develop my writing skills, whilst developing a sense of aesthetics and my own brand or style in the studio. The combination was really good, although it did need to be layered over with a design education for the career I was pursuing. That’s of course where RISD came in, where they consider design to be an artform. I went into RISD agreeing with that, and left there disagreeing.

 

DL: Do you think Wake arts could have done to better prepare students for life after graduation?

JA: Probably… the thing is, Wake’s career services (at the time) worked really well for other majors, but not necessarily for those in arts concentrations. Career and internship information for students focused on Art History or Studio Art comes basically from the professors. And this of course isn’t a knock against Wake professors, but a lot of times when you’re in an academic institution, you don’t know about all of the opportunities out there because in the academic environment your focus isn’t on that. Grades and growth are the main focus.

The biggest lack of connection was preparing students for portfolio review, and for critiques that weren’t to other students and professors, but to people you’re trying to sell work, or yourself, to. To me it’s the professional practice aspect that was missing. The Buying Trip and Management in the Arts course were very helpful but those experiences aside, it’s challenging. The best way for students to understand what opportunities are out there, is connecting them with alumni. There’s a need for arts-focused career days, either on campus or at a host city. That would be great for Wake’s art department and its students.

In fact, I started something in DC because I noticed there were lots of women there in the art field who graduated from Wake. I decided to pull everyone together during a summer when we had three Wake interns working in the area for various museums. The goal was to have them meet as many of these professional women as possible. Since that initial gathering, we all get together two or three times a year and network with each other. Now there’s a DC rep for WFU, Jennifer Richwine, who we inform about our meetings so more alumnae can get involved. We need to get together again soon, sometimes it's hard... but we will and it's great to have that network.

 

DL: What advice have you got for students in the process of applying to jobs and internships?

JA: I’m a Generation X’er so in the summer of 1990 when I obtained my first internship, nothing was computerized yet in the museum and academic world. I sent typed letters to every museum in DC and heard back from just one. This initial experience taught me to cast a wide net and really put myself out there; you have to if you want to get anywhere. I take that into the present day too, even though emails and online applications are in place to expedite the process; if you don’t ask the question, send the email, you’ll never hear a yes. You have to raise your hand and go for it.

Specific to DC, students wanting to work here should go on usajobs.com and get their profile set up. Most museums are federally run, so you have to fill out a federal application. Secondly, they should speak to the people whose job they want. Whether it’s the job you want now or in ten, twenty years... Talk to them about how to get started. Chances are that something within conversation will remind them of someone they know, and they’ll put you in touch with them. And yes, I mean on the phone or even in person! Be ready to talk, to have very clear questions, and be professional.

 

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

JA: Architecture takes a lot of follow-through. You have to go to school for a long time, take a lot of exams, and it’s one of those disciplines that’s notorious for its long hours and relatively low pay. You have to love what you’re doing and want to change and build environments. So, I would say the hardest thing is perseverance- you have to be a little stubborn.

 

DL: What kernel of advice would you like to leave with the readers?  

JA: Figure out what you love to do, then figure out how to do it.

 

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: 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.