Last Monday evening, some of the most artsy people at Penn gathered at the auditorium of the Institute of Contemporary Art for the "Panel for Career in the Arts," presented by SPEC Art Collective. The event featured seven arts professionals at various career stages working in auction houses, museums, online platforms, creative agencies, and nonprofit arts institutions.
Most of the panelists held a degree in the arts, which proven to be helpful in landing a job in the creative field. Alex Olsman (C'12) majored in Classical Studies and Art History and didn't want to give up what she learned in school after graduation. She had interned at both museums and e–commerce platforms, and found that her passion lies at the intersection between the academic and the commercial. Auction houses seemed like a natural fit. After graduation, she joined Christie's auction house as a Bid Coordinator. Five years later, she is now the Associate Specialist in the antiquities department, responsible for sourcing property, researching provenance, writing catalogue entries, and bringing in new businesses. She encouraged the audience not to be deterred by the hiring process of the creative industry and pointed out the key qualities to have as an auction house professional: having connoisseurship and "the eye," being a people person and being able to sell.
Erin Schuppert, who also majored in Art History, works at Christie's Corporate Finance department that oversees complex, risky and high–level deals the company handles. Although coming from a non-business background, Erin preferred her internship experience at Christie's than museums, feeling more interested in the business aspects of consignments and deals. While at Christie's, Erin was proactive in meeting with people and learning about various opportunities on the business side. She advised the audience to get in front of people as much as possible when you network rather than writing emails and making phone calls.
As Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Amanda Sroka pursued a career path working closely with living artists. Upon graduating with a degree in Art History and Studio Practice, she found her love in learning more about the materials that artists use. This passion led her to work at galleries, artist studios, and the New Museum, which helped her build up knowledge through hands-on experience. Later, she went to graduate school to focus on global conceptual art practices. Now at the PMA, Amanda works on a variety of projects, from exhibitions, acquisitions, and gallery installations, to fundraising and collector relationships development.
Other panelists included Karline Moeller the co–founder of Art Frankly, an online platform that brings arts opportunities and resources to people who need access; Maori Holmes, Director of Public Engagement at the Institute of Contemporary Art, who oversees campus and community engagement efforts, public programming, and visitor services; Griffin Lipson, Photographer at BFA Agency, who shoots and edits photos for fashion clients; and Stephanie Roach, Director of The FLAG Art Foundation.
All of the panelists emphasized the importance of cultivating relationships.This is especially important when the job search process for the creative industry can sometimes be obscure and entrepreneurial—but yes, you will find a job with an Art degree.