Displaying items by tag: Professional Advice

by Mors Smith

Hello College of Fine Arts students! 

Arts education is an important part of the fine arts, but often overlooked. To learn more about arts education, I interviewed Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA) former K-12 Educator Golda Dopp Ovalles. Golda was responsible for UMOCA’s educational curriculum and their Traveling Art Museum. UMOCA is a non-profit organization and was founded in 1931. Since then, they have been a hub for the growing art scene in Utah, and a great place for people of all ages to learn about the arts.

The Traveling Art Museum, or Art Truck for short, is a project that aims to help bridge the gap for those in Utah who are not able to go to UMOCA. Each year,  UMOCA educators travel to K-12 schools to share a new exhibition inside the Art Truck. The project is funded by the Professional Outreach Program in Schools, or POP grants, in the state of Utah. To qualify for the funding,  UMOCA must visit each school district in Utah within 3 years. During each visit, they see about 8-10 classes, back-to-back. Students can go inside the truck for a 30-minute presentation, and then learn more with their teachers, who are prepared ahead of time with extra content and lesson plans from the Educator Manual related to the exhibition.

Another important aspect of employment in the arts, especially in an education context, is the ability to advocate for and clearly communicate the value of the arts. I asked Golda how she approaches advocating for the arts in her position.

“While at UMOCA, I have refined my ability to communicate the impact and necessity of the arts in Utah’s education system. For me, the most crucial component of advocacy is understanding my audience. I advocate for funding with the legislature, I advocate for our programming by inviting teachers to participate, and I advocate for internal innovations with our Director. Each party is compelled by different statistics and stories, so I am constantly gathering data that will strengthen my stance. I also must understand the audience I am serving by constantly learning about our student body demographic and how I can best engage them.”

Golda stressed the importance of working together with teachers to help them with the state’s education standards, so they could get the most out of their visit to UMOCA or to the Art Truck. Ultimately, the program helps all involved understand the value of the arts in education.

I asked what challenges she has had to face with pursuing a career in the arts.

“I think most of mine are specific to a non-profit. The same things that make it so wonderful are the same things that make it challenging,” she explained. “For example, I'm so passionate about what I do, and so are my colleagues. That can make it hard to strike a good work-life balance because you're so invested in it…You still need to prioritize taking care of yourself so you don't burnout.”

This sentiment is one that I see very often in the arts, and it's important to take it to heart. Finding a good work-life balance is important even when you enjoy your work.

Reflecting on her career, Golda also offered advice about searching for employment within the arts.

“Sometimes finding a job can be challenging. The way that I landed this position was interning. I think it's so important to get real world experience in your undergrad or while you're a student, because academia is way different than a full-time job.”

Being able to make connections while in school is crucial. It can make a huge difference in finding a job once you graduate. Being a student also opens you up to unique networking opportunities and mentorships. For me, being able to intern with ArtsForce has helped my professional development grow and has helped me build connections in the arts.

Outside of K-12 Education, Golda mentored interns who helped craft educational content for UMOCA. I wondered what skills she thought were most important for students.

“I think you just need to be comfortable trying things, throwing ideas at the wall, taking the initiative. If you see a project you'd be interested in –– I love when interns are like, ‘Hey, can I do this? Can I create this worksheet to go along with this manual or this exhibition?’ I love when they show that they're proactive, and that they're not afraid to make a mistake. Questions are great, but I love when they try it first.”

Golda then summarized the overall qualities that she looks for in interns.

“What I am looking for in an intern is initiative, problem-solving skills, and confidence. I am most impressed when interns identify an opportunity for growth in the education department and then present a thoughtful solution.”

Taking initiative can be kind of scary when we don’t have professors to guide us along the way. But once we hit the workforce, being able to take that first step and voice our ideas can make all the difference.

Lastly, I asked Golda for her biggest piece of advice to current fine arts students.

“I don't want it to be overwhelming to consider being hired on once you graduate, but you do have to look to that horizon. Once you do start the job search after, of course, you have interned and networked, I would focus on specific places you'd be interested in working rather than just a blanket job search on Google. Even while you're a student, be looking: ‘Okay, I'd really like to work at UMOCA. I'm going to keep an eye on their job descriptions and what kind of skills they're looking for so I can be building them now.’ Because your degree is only one checkmark on that qualification.”

As a ceramic artist, this really resonated for me. I don’t often see “traditional” jobs for ceramics. Being able to focus on my job search by organization rather than position really helped shift my worries about jobs. Find places you would enjoy working at and keep an eye on them! Don’t be afraid to reach out to organizations.

Jobs are out there in the arts, it just helps to have strategies to find them.

ArtsForce Takeaways

  • Take initiative and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

  • Start making connections and find places you want to be involved in.

  • Find a good work-life balance to avoid burnout.

Author Mors Smith is an ArtsForce Emerging Leaders intern double majoring in Studio Art with a Ceramics Emphasis, and Gender Studies.

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Ava Crane

As a visual artist, curator, and museum professional, Nancy Rivera brings iteration, intention, and her lived experience to her work. During my conversation with the multi-talented artist and Director of Planning and Program at Utah Museum of Fine Arts, I gained many insights applicable to both new and experienced artists alike.

Rivera’s work includes "Family Portrait," a series of cross-stitched portraits based on the photographs used for her family members’ identification through the immigration process, and No Present to Remember, photographs on broadcloth made into sculptural objects using salt from the Great Salt Lake.

Rivera’s evocative works are often built out of inspiration and experimentation. The idea for "No Present to Remember" came to her after she wanted to go beyond the 2D constraints of photography and was inspired by seeing other artists bring photography into the third dimension.

“I always labeled myself as a photographer, but always saw it as a tool, not the end product…” she sFamily Portrait, 2020. Nancy Riveraaid. “It is always very one dimensional in many ways, so I wanted to push the medium into being something different.” 

The idea for the sculptural forms came to her in a dream. Once she had the idea, she experimented with different forms. “I went to the store and bought this piece of cotton,” she explained. “I started playing with it and I didn’t have any images at this point. I was just trying to see if I could make fabric sculptural in a way that was kind of unexpected.”

3 Rivera Nancy Autorretrato MexicanaFamily Portrait, 2020. Nancy Rivera

Much of Rivera’s work has been a process of experimentation and self-discovery. She completed her BFA at Weber State and later attended the University of Utah Department of Art & Art History for her master’s program. Over her career as an artist, she has continued the refinement of her artistic process. “…what you are creating then [as a student] is not representative of who you will be once your work matures,” she said. “It takes a long time to get there and really understand yourself as an artist. There is still a lot to discover about yourself as person that will inform your art.”

Rivera has a unique perspective as she has been on both sides of rejection when it comes to art. As an experienced juror and curator, she can’t overstate the importance of being able to both speak and write about your own work. “Something I see a lot is people not knowing how to write about their artwork,” she said. “Know that you have to spend a lot of time thinking about what your art is saying and learn how to speak about it concisely and smartly and in a way that will pique people’s interest.” Being able to not only describe your work in accessible terms, but to also be able to tailor it to your audience is an essential skill.

"It takes a long time to get there and really understand yourself as an artist. There is still a lot to discover about yourself as person that will inform your art.”

While feedback is essential to growth, Rivera shared that it is important to not take rejection to heart, because it isn’t always about the quality of your work. She explained that jurors for exhibitions will often be handling hundreds of works of art. “I usually start off with saying no to the things that absolutely don’t fit, but then from here you see what mixes together and what stands out,” she said. “A lot of times it is not because your artwork is bad that you get rejected, it is simply because it didn’t fit the overall idea of the project.” 

Sometimes a work isn’t selected, because of variety of factors due to the show’s vision, scale, timeliness, audience, and more. She also speaks to how willing people are to help. More often than not, reaching out to artists, professionals, jurors, or curators for feedback won’t hurt and if they have the chance, it could help to get feedback on why your work or application was rejected.

At the root of Rivera’s artistic practice is intention and being able to clearly communicate meaning whether in administrative work to building a portfolio and more. As a curator that favors concise exhibitions herself, she is conscious about finding the through line in her own work to create a sense of focus and self-awareness about her artistic goals. She recommends artists to rather than focus on being as broad as possible, to instead ensure a strong sense of artistic focus and to be selective about what does and doesn’t fit within that focus.

Her lived experience of immigration is a clear and valuable focus in both her artistic and administrative work. In her time at the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, she was able to build up the artist fellowship program. The program offers support to individual artists, but prior to Rivera, the program tended to award to mainly white and established artists. Rivera sought out local, experienced, and talented jurors of color to increase the diversity amongst fellowship recipients. As a result, the fellowships welcomed more women and people of color.

“Having that awareness really helped shape things differently and make people aware that there are artists with that are coming from different places,” she explained. “By that I mean immigrants, undocumented people who need access to the support that we offer, but we need to talk about it differently. It was really cool to see tangible change through small steps that were really intentional.”

ArtsForce Takeaways: 

  • Experimentation and iteration are important to a healthy artistic practice.

  • Learn how to write and speak about your work.

  • Don’t take rejection to heart and reach out for help from professionals.

  • Be intentional with what you want to communicate.

  • Your lived experience is valuable.

Author Ava Crane is a Film and Media Arts student with minors in Spanish and Arts Technology, and an Emerging Leaders Intern with ArtsForce.

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Laurel Smith

Hello College of Fine Arts! As I approach my 4th year in college, I’ve been wondering: how can I take my artistic passions and turn them into a career?

To answer this question, I was able to speak with Joseph Sowa, freelance composer and educator. I learned about Joseph’s career from my family. We are cousins, but due to family being spread out across the country, we haven’t had much opportunity to discuss the arts. I took this as a good opportunity to not only catch up, but to learn how Joseph was able to incorporate his musical passions in his career.

“The hardest part, I think, about an arts career is finding a good mentor."

Joseph Sowa graduated from Brandeis University in 2019 with a PhD in music composition and theory. His plan was to secure a university position teaching music composition. With the emerging COVID pandemic making academic employment opportunities scarce, Joseph had to figure out another way to secure income. This led to a huge change in his desired career path.

“So instead of teaching at a university, I put together my own composition course called The Wizarding School for Composers, that I've been running now for the past couple of years. So, it gives me the opportunity to teach composition, and in the way that I want to teach composition.”

The internet had opened many doors for his teaching aspirations, but it also led to another fundamental part of freelancing: commissions. Aside from the academic market, he was also interested in the commercial market for composers.

“The other market in composition is the commercial one consisting primarily of educational music and media music. So, music for bands, choirs, video games, TV, dance, that sort of stuff. Some of this is just talking to other composers and being aware of what opportunities are out there on that front,” he said.

Sowa has composed for a variety of projects, including his most recent work on a film score for a documentary. This was his first film score, and it was an exciting feat. I asked him how his education prepared him for these projects and what he wished college taught him, that he had to learn later on his own.

“Better business coaching would have been nice earlier on. But also a clear sense of what the musical possibilities are out there, rather than having professors who lean more on the aesthetically prescriptive kind of thing. Like: this is what music should do, or what it shouldn’t do,” he explained.

Like Sowa, I have also experienced really stiff constraints on what art should be, which led to difficulties finding my artistic voice. Being open to new ideas and art forms can really broaden what works we can produce. When it comes to producing art, or sometimes the lack of, Joseph said that at this point in his career he doesn’t really struggle with it. But sometimes we need to surrender to what inspiration is coming to us even if it's not exactly what we want.

Looking back on his college career, this was his advice that he would give to current college students:

“The hardest part, I think, about an arts career is finding a good mentor. And you know that you will find a good mentor if, well, first off you can feel it. And if you're feeling tense around the person, they’re probably not a good mentor for you…I forget exactly who said the quote but it was something along the lines of, ‘small people tend to put you down, but great people make you feel like you too, can be great.’ Those are the kinds of mentors that you're looking for.”

As a Fine Arts major, being able to find a good mentor can make or break your experience and growth. My goal for my education is to make each day fuel my passions, so I greet my career with excitement. Even if my career changes in unexpected ways, it can still lead to new opportunities. 

ArtsForce Takeaways:

  • Sometimes a shift in your career plans can lead to amazing opportunities.

  • It is very helpful to understand the basics of running a business, and how to market yourself.

  • Finding a good mentor in college can make all the difference.

*Author Laurel Smith is an Emerging Leaders Intern with ArtsForce, studying Studio Art with an emphasis in Ceramics.

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Kira Sincock 

Sonali Loomba had no idea what she was going to do when she moved to Utah from India in 2017.

Performing kathak at prestigious festivals across the nation and starting a dance school was certainly not what she had planned. Kathak is one of India’s 8 classical dances, composed of an amalgamation of music, dance, and drama to tell stories of epics, myths, and legends. Sonali is a kathakaar, or story teller, for these tales and does so through her dance.

Sonali had been practicing kathak in India since 2006. She initially thought she might teach yoga in Utah, as she was trained in that as well. Sonali was shocked when a Russian student approached her, seeking to be taught kathak. With this being a new country, she wasn’t sure if people would even want to learn an Indian classical art. Her excitement with a non-Indian student’s interest, paired with the opportunity to keep in touch with her art form, is what drove her to open up her dance to community members. Through offering classes and performances, the community was able to recognize her art. Sonali registered Kaladharaa Dance School in 2018, establishing herself as the first kathak school in Utah.

For me, Sonali was interesting because of the rich impact she has made on the community with her art within such a short period of time. My experience chatting with Sarah Longoria last year sparked an interest in me learning about more peripheral forms of art that aren’t typically thought of or recognized. From her, I felt I could learn about what it is like to bring an art form to a place that might not be as familiar with it, and how an artist can adapt and create opportunities to be successful while pursuing their passion.

“To bring kathak to a place where it never existed – I never imagined that would happen to me, and it continues to be very rewarding.”

Many Indian-Americans of the younger generation in Utah have never visited India, lost touch with their original culture, or know very little about where they come from. Additionally, many adults in India were never allowed to pursue the art form due to marriage, children, and caring for the family taking precedence, paired with the overall stigma around art. With an influx of people from both groups approaching her, she was motivated to not just teach her art form, but also educate them on the culture. Sonali said, “To bring kathak to a place where it never existed – I never imagined that would happen to me, and it continues to be very rewarding.” Because the culture in Utah is so different from that of India’s, she has had to adapt her teaching style. She has pivoted to make her art form easy for people to learn simply. “It is okay if you don’t perfect kathak, as long as you are performing kathak,” she said.

The importance of educating people on kathak is not limited to her specific community. Sonali says she often has to remind herself that she isn’t in India and that when she is representing an art form, she is representing a culture, and strives to do it right. The audience typically thinks kathak is just another beautiful art form on stage, and isn’t aware of the history and evolution behind it. She said that it is never the audience’s problem for not understanding the art, but rather the artist’s. It was interesting to hear her debunk that mindset, as a lot of artists will be confused when their art isn’t well received. How can positive reception be expected without the necessary context? Through educating the audience, Sonali said.

To create a more engaging performance, Sonali will give a brief introduction on kathak to discuss India, its history, and heritage. This illustrates the effort put into what is being performed for the audience. To take engagement even further, Sonali will have a portion where she makes the audience dance and teaches them footwork to further give them a sense of the many hours it takes to perform kathak. When the audience is left thinking more deeply about kathak, they will be more inclined to seek out more information about it. This curiosity increases tolerance, Sonali said. Her goal is to get people more involved because then, there is an exchange of culture. “If it is just Indians learning kathak, it isn’t going anywhere.” 

Education isn’t limited to the performers or audience. Sonali also said education is key in grantwriting. Currently serving on the Salt Lake City Arts Council board, she now has dual perspectives of both a grant applicant and reviewer. Educating the board on what you do and why it will benefit the community is essential, especially when the board might not have any background information on your craft. The more you can illustrate how your work will engage the community and present diversity and inclusivity will serve to be a stronger application.

kira sonali af asksSonali Loomba with Kira Sincock | Courtesy Kira Sincock

Through the different ways Sonali goes about educating people on kathak, I quickly learned how adaptable of a person she was. This flexibility is key in the success she has had, and she illustrated how vital of a skill that was for artists. Because Sonali is the only one actively teaching kathak in Utah, it is easy for her to run out of ideas. Collaboration has not only helped her grow as an artist, but has also served as a venue to make kathak appealing to foreign audiences and younger generations. On that note, getting involved in the local community to seek out those collaborations and connections has helped her flourish. Opportunities have come to her through those efforts, and she has been able to bring opportunity to those she has connected with. It is a two way street. Sonali said, “It is always important to show up and support your friends and community, even if you aren’t actively participating.”

Why should students care about making an impact on the community? Why should students educate the audience on their art? Sonali recounted her experience performing at the Living Traditions Festival. With so many artists performing, it is easy to blend in and just be one amongst the artists. “What is your intention going on stage, what are you trying to communicate to the audience through your act, why are you amongst the 10 dancers on stage trying to perform?” Sonali said. If you want to make an impact, you must get inclusive and include the community in your art form.

ArtsForce Takeaways:

  • Every individual has something unique to bring to their community, and the community gets stronger through this diversity.

  • There are innumerable art forms that exist beyond the specific boxes we know as art.

  • Be intentional with why you do art to create a more meaningful experience for not only your audience, but also yourself.

Author Kira Sincock is an Emerging Leaders Intern with ArtsForce. She is studying Game Art within the Entertainment Arts and Engineering program, with a minor in Drawing in the Department of Art & Art History. 

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Cayden Turnbow

This past month, I was able to speak with commercial director and Department of Film & Media Arts alumna Sage Bennett. Sage recently completed a sunscreen commercial for EltaMD that was shot in Salt Lake. I remember seeing Sage’s capstone film “The End” in one of the first classes I ever took at the U. I remember being blown away by the quality, and it really set a precedent for what I should be striving for by the time I get to my capstone class.

As a film student myself, I really wanted to get an idea of what it was going to be like post-graduation, and Sage was more than willing to give her take on that transition. 

As art students, it’s important to remember that our career will most likely take many unexpected turns, and our expectations change as we learn more about what we like to do – plus balancing all that with being able to afford rent. Being able to see how other artists have established their careers, and how much their vision has shifted can be beneficial because there really isn’t one way to succeed. “I make a living as a commercial filmmaker [...] but I guess from my education I thought that my paths were limited. Either I’m going to become a famous director of feature films immediately, or not,” Sage said. “There are so many paths in between where you can still do film and make a living.”

Sage credits her internship at St. Cloud, now Namesake, as the experience that best prepared her for her career as a commercial director. “I think that was instrumental in my career. I wouldn't know what I would be doing if I hadn't done that internship,“ she said. She started out as a production assistant and climbed up the ladder into eventually getting signed as a director at Namesake. This proves that internships provide valuable networks and experiences for those starting out. Who knows, your internship could lead directly to a more permanent position at the company later on. Sage’s experience made me remember: make sure you put 100% of your energy into creating a positive experience for whatever internship you can get a hold of.

“There is this narrative that if you want to work in any sort of art it's going to be really, really hard and I'm not saying it's not hard – but there are ways to do it where if you are passionate about it, and it's what you really love, I think you can be far more successful in that than in something that you don't care about.”

Beyond building a professional reel for film and production work, Sage also built a solid community while she was in college. “I think the biggest thing is community and finding people that you can align yourself with that also want to succeed,” she said. For a lot of people, community starts in college. Whether it be getting involved with different internships or joining a club, being able to team up and work with a variety of people is a skill that continues beyond campus life. There are so many resources on campus for students to utilize. It's just a matter of if you are willing to take the time to try it out. “Filmmaking is just a giant group project. [...] Learning how to work with other people, especially people that maybe you don't agree with, or you wouldn't think you would work together well, learning how to do those kinds of projects with my peers really helped me to prepare.”

So test yourself. Try something new.

As Sage said, “You'll never know unless you do, and now is such a good time to try stuff out.”

Regardless of if you choose to apply for an internship, focus on creating a cohesive reel, or build up a community, make sure to ground yourself and enjoy where you are at the moment. “I have kind of realized that every time I accomplish something, I want to accomplish something else, so I might as well just be happy where I am […] Enjoy where you are in your journey and make the most of that.”


Artsforce Takeaways

  • Really experiment and discover what you enjoy creating while you are in college.

  • Get involved in a community that shares your passions and ambitions.

  • Find your niche. Start to build up a portfolio that showcases your skills.

If you are interested or want to learn more about ArtsForce, join here.  

Author Cayden Turnbow is an Emerging Leaders Intern at ArtsForce, the Film Production Club President and a Commercial Director in Student Media. He is majoring in Film and Media Arts.

Published in Finer Points Blog

MAKING ART WORK is a series that taps into the knowledge and experience of seasoned creatives from our community and beyond for the benefit of our students.

Looking back on your undergraduate years in the Department of Film & Media Arts, what are some of your favorite memories?

A lot of great memories for me were made on the graduate students’ film sets — I was really lucky to have such great friends in the graduate program. I loved helping out on their extremely welcoming sets, I learned so much from them.

Of course I have to talk about the Animation Treks — both the Career Treks hosted by the CFA, FMAD, and Career Center, as well as the student-led trips to CTN Animation eXpo. It was really cool to nerd out with everyone! Those trips really inspired me and encouraged me to find community and to pursue the arts more.

Finally, I loved our screenwriting courses taught by Paul Larsen. He cultivates a welcoming space in his classrooms. He really influenced a lot of where I wanted to go with my career.

Did you have any professionals that positively influenced your pursuits as an artist? And when did your passion for Film & Media Arts develop?

One of my top inspirations is the film Swiss Army Man (2016) directed by The Daniels. I am also starting to get more into the music video scene - it’s definitely the most commercialized version of experimental film. Recently, the director Emerald Fennell — the style in which she made Promising Young Woman (2020) was incredible.

I’m kind of a late bloomer when thinking about where my passion for film began. Everything goes back to storytelling for me. I was fully immersed in Theatre growing up and when I got to college, I knew I wanted to do something different. I stumbled upon animation and really enjoyed it. Later in my degree, I started pursuing opportunities with live-action film as opportunities presented themselves. Live-action film is one of the most exciting forms of storytelling for me - the collaboration and perseverance that occurs to get a film out the door is huge!

How has your relationship with Film & Media Arts changed over the years?

I feel like my interests have shifted drastically, to be honest. I’m going to be a Director, I really like camera, back to animation, what about audio, I really like screenwriting (still doing it). But again, it always comes back to storytelling. I love telling stories and hearing stories. How I’ve settled into editing - my current job, and obsession — I see it as the final step in the story. You have a lot of influence over the final project and get to take all this great material to piece it together. In the end, you encompass the original intent and vision through all this collaboration, and adding in your skill to make it your own.

Film can be extremely high-paced. I need to constantly remind myself that this is a marathon and not a sprint -— I need to be aware of where I can realistically be in 5 years, 10 years, 15 years. My artistic skills and abilities will continue to grow. Film has such a transient nature, like other arts. Just enjoy your opportunities while you have them, and be sure to acknowledge your inevitable growth by consistently doing your art. I won’t, and shouldn’t be, at the top of my career in the next couple years.

What advice would you give to current students and even recent alums to set themselves up for success as an artist?

Always advocate for yourself. Also, have a good grasp on humility, as you will constantly be learning. Graduating is a humbling experience in realizing how much further you have to go, but it’s still so exciting. If you’re anxious about getting out in the world and getting where you want to be, turn that anxiousness into action - create, start those projects, meet your community. When you have material that you’re excited about and working on things where your passion is present, that will lead you to your opportunities.

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Bennett Blake

Hello College of Fine Arts! A couple weeks ago I had the chance to speak with David Dee about how young people can set themselves up for successful and sustainable career in the arts. David owns David Dee Fine Arts, a local gallery specializing in American Western painting, and he was previously the Director of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA).

One insight from my conversation with David was the importance of specialization, especially in art. It is natural to be curious about all aspects of your field, but David explained, “One is well served to focus on an area that you feel passion about and develop expertise.”

David’s specialization in Japanese Woodblock prints he described as “incredibly meaningful” and was also his entrance to the UMFA as an Assistant Curator of Japanese Art.

The idea of setting yourself up for success long-term was a highlight of our conversation. Having lofty career goals is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is not the only way to build a fulfilling career. Becoming the Director of the UMFA and owning a gallery was not what David had in mind when he started as an Assistant Curator, it was a role he grew into.

He told me that “most people’s leadership abilities emerge during the course of doing their work.”

Put this into practice in your work life by cultivating your passion and becoming comfortable with being a leader in an area you might be an expert in. The skills that you develop you will then be able to take to future opportunities.

COIVD-19 has been devastating for the arts, so one topic I made sure to touch on was how I could do my part to help my local art community. A lot of college students like me might not have a lot of disposable-income or the space to start an art collection. This shouldn’t be a barrier for people like us to become more involved. Museums and other non-profit arts organizations depend heavily on foot-traffic for funding so by just showing up you are doing your part!

In addition to showing up, David pointed out to me that his and many other local galleries offer works on paper or prints that are much more accessible to a student. Being around art is an enriching experience whether you are building your career around it, collecting it, or just enjoying it.

To summarize this article here are some core takeaways from my conversation with David:

  • Specialize on a specific niche of your field that you are really passionate about
  • Search for leadership opportunities and realize that by gaining experience you will naturally be more prepared for future opportunities
  • One of the best and easiest ways to support your local art community is by showing up

Join us for the second of two Arts Watch events on March 26 from 2-3P on @uofufinearts’s Instagram! RSVP here.

Published in Finer Points Blog

MAKING ART WORK is a series that taps into the knowledge and experience of seasoned creatives from our community and beyond for the benefit of our students.

Liz (Lizzy) Ivkovich hails from rural Michigan. She is the Development Director for UtahPresents, the multidisciplinary arts presenter at the University of Utah. In that role she oversees all fundraising initiatives and contributes to programming, advocating for equity, diversity, and inclusion as a member of APAP’s Emerging Leaders Institute and the UU College of Fine Arts Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. Liz publishes on dance + environment + justice with articles in the Journal of Environmental Studies & Sciences, Local Environment, loveDANCEmore, and Performance Research. She has taught at the UU and Salt Lake Community College and directed La Fuerza at Omaha South and Afro-Nation Dance Crew at the Center for Science and Mathematics Education, two high school dance companies. Liz received her BS in Sustainable Business & International Studies (Aquinas ‘07), MFA in Modern Dance (Utah ’16), Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Sustainability (Utah ’21), and certification in Laban-Bartenieff Movement Analysis (Integrated Movement Studies ‘14). Liz has produced large scale outdoor shows such as "The Mists" at Red Butte Gardens and "Those With Wings" on the Jordan River, and performed with NOW-ID, Maya Taylor Dance, and UNO's The Moving Company. Formative teachers in her dance lineage include Lori Ladwig, Judy Rice, Mary Waugh-Taylor, Ananya Chatterjea, Juan Carlos Claudio, Sharee Lane, and A’Keitha Carey.

Picture1Ivkovich (far right) sits with friends in a dance classTell me about your early relationship with dance. What did you love for the arts begin?

I grew up in a rural community in Michigan. My family was very religious and we spent Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening and sometimes entire weekends at church. In these white, fundamental Baptist communities, dance was very risqué. But my mom, a piano educator and graduate of Michigan State’s School of Music, valued high quality arts education so she supported my love of dance, sometimes driving an hour or more so I could take classes. It was a huge commitment. My training took me to the University of Michigan’s dance department in middle and junior high school. I remember in a showing of graduate work, an MFA candidate had a piece with a Black woman as Christ carrying the cross, topless. It was so beautiful and compelling. Here was an image of divinity that I wouldn’t see in Sunday School. I think from that time, studio became a space that I could try on new possibilities.

What made you want to begin your journey to obtain an MFA from the University of Utah?

Thinking back to my experience being very young around older dancers getting their BFA and MFA, I always knew about dance in higher education and thought it seemed like a magical, progressive space where difference was valued. Earning my MFA was a personal goal for a long time. While I have built my career off the skills I gained from my undergraduate degree in Sustainable Business & International Studies, my MFA helped me integrate my passion for sustainability and social justice with the arts. I’ve never been interested in being located in an urban center like New York City. I love small, mid-sized and rural places and their arts. I felt like Salt Lake City was that perfect place.

To you, what are some of the proudest moments you had as a student?

Upon arriving at the UU’s School of Dance I had to pretty quickly reorient what my MFA experience would be. I realized that I was more curious about other people’s creative process than my own and I was drawn to writing and ideas about dance, versus the act of doing it. I joined two interdisciplinary co-horts: the Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Sustainability and the TA Scholars at the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence. Seeing what my peers across campus did with their research inspired me. I received a competitive Graduate Research Fellowship from the Graduate School and did an ethnographic study with Ananya Dance Theatre, which I presented and published in various outlets. For my thesis, I built a large scale show called “The Mists” at Red Butte Gardens with my friend Alysia Ramos, a fellow mom and recent graduate of the modern dance program. We embedded it into Red Butte’s hugely successful Garden After Dark event with 7000+ attendees and dozens of performers. So fun and so much coordination! I was glad of my non-profit admin experience. I’m proud that I was able to find my own path, albeit a windy and complicated one.

How did you find yourself in the Advancement space? What are some of your favorite connections that you’ve made?

One of my first jobs was running administration for an international community development organization. There I fundraised my own salary and wrote and managed annual appeals for five years because we didn’t have any dedicated development staff. Since fundraising defaulted into my purview, I had to think a lot about it. What is it? How do you do it with integrity? How can it be fun? To me, philanthropy is energy work. Money is just a kind of energy. As a dancer, I create and share energy with other dancers and the audience. Philanthropy is the same thing. As a fundraiser, I facilitate pathways and connections so that people can create and share energy. I like doing this as part of a bigger institution because one has the feeling that you don’t need to know it all. Someone on campus has the answer! I love being involved in big projects across campus and learning from other disciplines and fundraisers. Each area has a different approach which expands my mind, helps me to strategize, and build great friendships along the way.

What piece of advice would you give current students to set themselves up for success when they graduate?

Claim your power. You have power within the system. We are taught as dancers that our power lies in pleasing the person at the front of the studio or in the big office downstairs. Turn that on its head. What is the power of not being the star student in the department? Maybe that power is in organizing. What can you build in the collective? What momentum for change can you create with others? Dance is a system and it was not built to serve dancers, so finding your power and allies within that system is essential.

Published in Finer Points Blog

MAKING ART WORK is a series that taps into the knowledge and experience of seasoned creatives from our community and beyond for the benefit of our students.

Matthew Robertson is a music educator at the Waterford School. An alumnus of the University of Utah, Robertson rigorously pursued music throughout his undergraduate studies, but ended up graduating in Human Development and Family Studies. He went on to earn a Master’s degree in Child Development at Wheelock College, and returned to the U many years later to earn his Master’s in Choral Conducting from the School of Music. He was previously a member of the music faculty at The Madeleine Choir School, where he was the Director of the St. Nicholas Choir and the MCS Chamber Orchestra. He remains an active professional musician throughout the Wasatch Front, where he is a section leader for Utah Chamber Artists, sings and records frequently with groups ranging from the Utah Symphony Chorus to The Piano Guys, has played the double-bass for the Orchestra at Temple Square, and serves as Associate Director of the Amavi Chorale.

How did you get your start in music? You come from quite the musical family!  (Matthew is the grandson of the legendary composer and educator, Leroy Robertson, who was a former Chair of the U School of Music.) 

I grew up knowing I came from a musical family. My grandpa Leroy actually died when I was only about 18 months old, but I grew up hearing all these stories about how he was my favorite person as a baby. I preferred going to him rather than going to my mom, and I preferred my mom to anyone else.  Any connection that I had with music felt like a connection to my grandpa. That made it very special for me, and made me feel like I wanted music to be part of my life.  Whenever times were difficult for our family, music was kind of a refuge for me. 

I grew up doing lessons with the wonderful woman around the corner. Barlow Bradford, before he was Dr. Bradford, was then finishing his undergrad in piano performance. I met him because he married my cousin Jean. He offered to teach me piano lessons, and when I started with him when I was 14, I just took off like a rocket with music. Over the course of two years, I got to where I was ready to audition for and become a student of Gladys Gladstone Rosenberg, and she was then my piano teacher through my time at the University of Utah.

I was also a bassist. I played the bass all through high school, and I studied with David Yavornitsky, who was also on the faculty at the U— he is absolutely world class.  So, I became a pretty good bassist, and a pretty good pianist, and then went to the U as a performance major going back and forth between the bass and the piano.

Especially as I started working with students from a lot of different backgrounds, I have grown to see so much value in stretching the horizons of music. Music comes from how many places, from how many traditions — and how can we use that as a way of teaching music and music principles? My students come from places all over the world. I want them to see themselves in the music that we're doing, and see their own traditions. We have a couple class mottos: Music comes from everywhere. And music is for everyone. 

How did your career path shift to child development, and then business? 

When I got married, I needed a job and began working in a child care center with really young kids. It was a university-sponsored child care center.  I became interested in child development and actually graduated not in music, but in Human Development and Family Studies — but if you look at my transcript it doesn't look that way, it looks like I was clearly a music major!

I ended up doing a Master's in child development, and then from there I worked as the director of a child care center. But I didn't enjoy it at all because I didn't have any contact with children…there was no teaching. It was a lot of administration and business, working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. I took a job in the insurance industry and ended up working in business for about 15 years. Eventually, I got a job helping to manage a warehouse for a giant retailer. The money was really good but I was miserable..

I talked to my wife about getting an MBA. She said in a very kind way, “You’ve never liked this, but you light up when you teach and when you play music. Maybe look into that?”

So you ended up going back to music at the U, for your Master's in Choral Conducting?

So, I was looking at going back for a second Bachelor’s and a teaching certificate. Over the years, I became fascinated with choral music. It was something I really loved and wanted to do and I had this vision of teaching high school choir. I called Dr. Bradford, because he was a longtime friend, and at that point he was doing choral music at the U. I said, “I really want to get your honest opinion on this. Here’s my current life situation, this is what I'm thinking about. Am I nuts?”

He said, “Yes, you are nuts, AND I think you might be really good at it.” I knew him well enough that when it came to music he’s always going to give it to you straight. He suggested I come to the U, that it might be possible to go into a Master’s program because I had so much music background. I was accepted into the Masters of Choral Conducting program as long as I did a few refreshers and some courses I had missed. A few weeks later we were packing up our home in Oregon and moving back to Utah. My family was unbelievably supportive. 

Over many years of teaching, how has your philosophy evolved? 

Especially as I started working with students from a lot of different backgrounds, I have grown to see so much value in stretching the horizons of music. Music comes from how many places, from how many traditions — and how can we use that as a way of teaching music and music principles? My students come from places all over the world. I want them to see themselves in the music we're doing, and see their own traditions. We have a couple class mottos: Music comes from everywhere. And music belongs to everyone.   

Another thing I consider a lot is: Who should I encourage to pursue performance as a career? On the track that I was on, I wasn’t going to become a professional, world-class symphony bassist. I wasn't going to get a job on a piano teaching faculty of a University. I feel like if you're going to do piano or bass, those are kind of two of the big paths you might take.  When I came back to music later, I definitely came with the mindset of needing to be ready to teach. The good news for me was I loved it, I didn't see it as an also-ran kind of career.  If people are going to go into teaching I think you have to love teaching, you can't just love music. I love teaching and music happens to be my area, versus I love music and I'm finding a way that I might make money doing it.

What were the most meaningful people or experiences throughout your time at the U?

One of the most important aspects of my graduate experience was my peer group. I went through the choral conducting program together with Sonja Poulter and Eric Schmidt who were both working on their DMAs. So much of what I learned happened in little conversations after rehearsals or in "the class after the class" when we would go to lunch and debrief what we were learning. Even though they had so much more experience than I did, they always treated me as an equal. And I feel the same thing now that they are both off teaching at Universities. If I ever want to bounce an idea off of someone they are two of the first people I call. 

One of the most meaningful courses to me was Music Theory with Tully Cathey. He had a way of teaching music theory where I could see the connections to performance, I could see the connections of how music is put together, and what makes music great. I started looking at music theory as the undergirding of everything that I was doing, instead of seeing it as a separate intellectual pursuit. When I was an undergrad, I had Roger Miller for Music History, and that was the first time that I remember starting to see any kind of history as this active living breathing thing, influenced by people’s choices instead of being this thing that just happens. I also learned conducting not only from Barlow, but Robert Baldwin and that was invaluable as well.

If people are going to go into teaching I think you have to love teaching, you can't just love music. I love teaching and music happens to be my area, versus I love music and I'm finding a way that I might make money doing it.

What advice do you have for students? 

The first thing I would say is that having music be its own pursuit, just as something that is part of your life and not necessarily a vocation is 100% legitimate. That's really okay.  I know people who did music as a bachelor's degree and then went on and were fabulous pianists who became doctors in medicine, or went on to engineering, or lots of other fields. To do performance as a vocation, you have to be realistic about how ultra-competitive it is. Very few people really make it in the performance world, and so thinking of yourself as someone who is going to play in community orchestras, or sing in community choirs, and have it be something you're doing on the side is totally legitimate. 

And if you don't love, love, love education I wouldn't do it.  Teach because you love teaching and then become absolutely as good as you can at music, because you can't be a great music teacher if you're not a terrific musician.

Published in Finer Points Blog

This is a series dedicated to highlighting the insights our students gained during their internships.

Name: Emina Tatarevic, Department of Art & Art History 
Internship: 
 Emerging Leaders Ambassador for the CFA in 2017-2018

What responsibilities did you have as an intern? What new skills/knowledge did you gain from your internship?

I had a few different responsibilities in this role. I wrote for the CFA's The Finer Points blog and I worked various CFA and university-wide events. The biggest part of my internship was working directly with my coordinator, Jenn McLaurin, to update the college’s major sheets. For my internship project, I pitched a system of linked Microsoft Excel documents that would streamline editing, locating, and seamlessly utilizing these forms to aid students in navigating their education. This modernization project challenged me in unexpected ways as it called for technical skills and area-specific knowledge I didn’t possess. It was a great opportunity to be creative with a new medium while learning practical skills.

What connections did you make and how do you think those connections may help you in your career?

In writing for The Finer Points blog, I met and interviewed students outside of my college. This challenged me to be unafraid and outgoing. Additionally, I made important connections with faculty and staff throughout the CFA, some of which I ended up asking to be my recommenders on grad school applications. This internship helped me foster relationships with people I may not have otherwise even known and I feel like the experience of doing it before will help me to do it again and again in grad school and in my career.

What advice would you give other students who are interested in a similar internship?

If you’re interested, do it! You don’t know how much you can learn until you have the experience. College is more than your classes and this is a way for you to have experiences you can draw from when pursuing jobs beyond college or in applying to graduate programs.

How did your internship compliment your arts education?

I was an Art History major so this internship gave me an opportunity to learn skills I wasn’t exposed to in my major classes.

Published in Finer Points Blog
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