Displaying items by tag: Professional Development

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 Michael Isaac Palmer

As students in the arts approach careers, it can be easy to become fixated on a specific path. Many film students want to become independent feature directors, many ballet dancers want to become principal dancers of a company, and many theatre students aspire  to work on Broadway. Some of them will accomplish those very things!

But for some, including me at times, options that look different than the planned path can feel like failing. Once a goal is in mind, we can become myopic in trying to achieve it. But at the end of the day, the arts are uniquely broad with possibility, and expanding your horizons is often the key to success and contentment.

To explore more on this topic, I spoke with three artists with similar education and ambitions to myself, all of whom are doing something different than they originally planned, on how they found career paths they’re satisfied with and what it took to get there. 

“When I first got my start, I worked with a professor of mine as a boom op, because he was still working in the industry. Being friendly and professional on set, actively seeking those connections, got me the next job, and it just went from there."

-Sean Weitzel

Sean Weitzel has always known he was interested in sound, he’s been building out his own gear for years. But when jobs started coming in, he left a bachelor’s degree behind to pursue them. Now, in-between gigs as a sound mixer, he’s developed several pieces of gear in beta-testing on major sets around the country, from a lighter boom pole attachment to a clapboard that syncs with cameras timecode for a fraction of the cost of current models. When I spoke with him, he’d just gotten an oscilloscope to examine the voltage of the timecode output, and when he got more technical than that I stopped being able to follow him. One of the things we talked about was the groups that he tended to work with again and again. Candlelight Media, a family friendly production company based in Orem, had used him as their sound mixer for most of their last dozen productions, and he’d flown around the world with them to do it.

“It was great, like I just stayed in a real castle for two weeks, filming a time-travel rom-com,” he said. Opportunities like that would never be possible if he hadn’t been so flexible as to what he was looking for. “When I first got my start, I worked with a professor of mine as a boom op, because he was still working in the industry. Being friendly and professional on set, actively seeking those connections, got me the next job, and it just went from there.”

Jordan Boge works in creative marketing for CNN. After graduating with a masters in film from the U Department of Film & Media Arts, he cast a wide net for jobs. But it was the internship he’d done right after undergrad that led to his current position. The CNN internship coordinator from his time there had moved to Turner Classic Movies, and was more than happy to have him back under her wing. “It was so important that I’d kept up that connection,” he said. While it wasn’t exactly what he’d gone to school for, it set him up to continue working at Warner Bros. Discovery. For Jordan, never having one “dream job” in mind was key. When I spoke with him, he was frank about needing to keep his horizons open. “While it isn’t exactly what I had in mind while I was in school, I’m really satisfied by what I do, and I get to go home and live a life outside of work.” 

Connor Rickman, a University of Utah graduate in both theatre and film, has made a feature length film. It’s awesome. (I may be slightly biased, I worked on it my freshman year.) From the outside, Connor is someone who has done what he wanted to do most. So I was surprised to hear he’s going back to school, to get his MBA from Duke. The more I talked with him, the more I understood how his path is evolving over time. He started as a Production Office Assistant, working his way up to Production Coordinator, but now works for Wrapbook, a film payroll company, as a customer support specialist. His years of experience in the offices of film companies gives him a unique insight into the needs of payroll staff, and he’s getting the MBA to pursue further opportunities at the company. He was quick to say that he had no regrets, that “while the path I was on was not the path I decided to continue, it’s way better than making the safe choice when I was younger.” He elaborated: “It’s so easy for this job to become your identity, because it’s freelance. ‘I’m a gaffer’ or ‘I’m a dolly grip,’ but no, you don’t have to be any one thing.” Flexibility was key for Connor, and it allowed him to work on a lot of different sets, way more than a lot of his colleagues, who always wanted to be just that one thing. “And the connections I made –– I sort of engineered the feature into place,” he explained. Every director will tell students “just go make movies,” but Connor focused more on the people that would get excited to work with him.

Overall, each of these people pay the bills in something related to the film world. They work on projects they’re passionate about, but they also work on projects that help them maintain financial stability. As hard as it can be to accept, you can be happy in the arts in wildly different ways than you’d expect.

ArtsForce Takeaways:

  • Don’t let yourself be defined by a skill you have.

  • Keep your connections, you never know when they’ll come back to help you.

  • Pursue your passions, but expand your horizons while doing so.

  • Always be open to the next opportunity.

Author Michael Isaac Palmer completed a degree in Mathematics, but in defiance of a desk job, stayed in school to pursue Film. He also holds minors in Theatre and French. He is an Emerging Leaders Intern with ArtsForce. 

Published in Finer Points Blog

by Kira Sincock 

In April, ArtsForce had the exciting opportunity to visit Eccles Theater for the last Career Trek of the year. During the tour, students were able to learn about the inner workings of a notable organization that is dedicated to bringing the national performing arts scene to our local community.

We met Cami Munk, Marketing and PR Manager, in the lobby of Eccles Theater to kick off the tour. As trek attendees were filling in, she described the history of the building, as well as the artistry that went into its new design. The lobby itself is a living gallery, in which fixtures like the chandeliers and flooring were handcrafted by artists, specifically for the Eccles.

After admiring how much detail went into the lobby alone, Cami led us into the actual theater. We marveled at the star-like ceiling and the shimmering walls as we filled the seats near the front of the stage. She explained how the theater aimed to mimic the scenery of southern Utah. The color palette of the space consisted of warm hues to match Utah’s red rocks. The walls were sequined and the catwalks above us were covered in lights to imitate the starry night skies one might encounter in Utah’s deserts.

As we settled into our seats, Cami dove into the operations at Eccles Theater. She explained the range of shows Eccles has featured, from Hamilton to Neil deGrasse Tyson. Because Eccles Theater is partners with Broadway Across America, Utahns have the chance to connect with acclaimed Broadway performances. In terms of careers, Cami emphasized that Eccles Theater needs a diverse range of skill sets in order for it to run. Some examples of disciplines at the theater are marketing/communications, arts administration, sound/audio design, and even carpentry. This drove home the notion that there is a need for your skills in every facet of the arts, even if it is in a place where you least expect it. 

afeccles3Upon hearing the wide variety of careers at Eccles Theater, many students in the audience were curious as to how they might get the skills necessary to become a viable candidate in the future. Cami described how volunteering is a great way to get your foot in the door and make connections. Not only do you get to meet people that work at the organization you’re interested in, but you also gain exposure to the operations of the company just by being present. She also noted that regardless of getting a degree or learning on the job, it doesn’t matter how you get your experience as long as you can prove you have the knowledge. In terms of soft skills, Cami shared that being a good person to work with is just as important as your technical skills. Beyond attention to detail and good communication, it is especially important in the performing arts to be adaptable and quick at making decisions.

As we neared the end of our tour, Cami took us backstage to see the theater from the performer’s perspective. She conducted a brief lighting demonstration and touched on the elaborate sets that a show may bring with them on the road. If our time at Eccles Theater wasn’t exciting enough, Cami sealed the deal by walking us through their poster hallway that boasts murals from their past shows and performances. Abiding by a strict “no touching” rule, we were able to observe signatures from cast members, comedians, and musicians.

Our time at Eccles Theater was the perfect way to wrap up the spring semester.

We hope you have a great summer, and are looking forward to seeing you again at our Career Treks in the fall!

Author Kira Sincock is studying Game Art within the Entertainment Arts and Engineering program, and minoring in Drawing within the College of Fine Arts. She is an Emerging Leaders Intern with ArtsForce. 

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Kai Henriksen 

With my time at the University of Utah coming to a close, this year has been mostly about transitioning into the professional world and how to go about preparing for that.

As an artist, I’ve been curious about the process of building a body of work, as well as attracting an audience for it. I had the opportunity to interview Jon Bailey, a professional artist and avid mountain biker/explorer out of Durango, Colorado, to pick his brain about what that transition looked like for him.

I first met Jon Bailey when I joined a local mountain biking group that he coaches. I had the pleasure of watching him grow in the community as an artist, and seeing his work start to spring up all over town in various shops, restaurants and magazines.

When I asked him what qualities and skills he’s developed that have benefited his career, he replied that having a standard of work to which he always applies himself has helped him not only maintain the value and quality of his work, but also proudly market himself. When the topic transitioned to personal style, he said: “Your style is you; that’s your value. That doesn’t necessarily need to be one thing, it’s an energy that you’re putting into it.”

Marketing that energy and quality standard is how he knows clients really want him, and not just any artist with a similar skillset.

“Try different things and look at a lot of different avenues that could potentially inspire you; that might help create your focus or your concentration as well as your style."

Another thing Bailey mentioned was the importance of being in the moment and enjoying his work. “With art, you’ve got to be careful to not get too stuck in the ‘time is money’ mindset, because the value is what your standard is when it’s all said and done,” he explained. “You don’t want to be inefficient with your time, but you also want to be consistent with your product. The process is what you should enjoy, so you don’t want to be beating yourself up about taking longer to complete something.”

I thought this was very valuable advice as someone who tends to get stuck in an efficiency-dominant mindset. I think enjoying the process not only makes you want to create more, but allows you to enter a flow state more naturally once you’ve started.

One thing I struggle with sometimes as an artist is creative block. It can occasionally be difficult to get started on a piece or motivate myself to begin brainstorming and coming up with ideas.

On this, Bailey had some valuable wisdom. He said staying mentally and physically healthy by going outside or having some kind of daily routine is essential to his workflow. He also mentioned that going somewhere to avoid distractions and the grind of daily life allows him to be more in the moment and focus on his work.

 “The biggest thing is just starting,” he said. “And you just have to do it even if it feels terrible. You just have to start and the only loss or the only failure is just not starting.” He said that art school was helpful for him to look back on because, “you have to show up every day and you have to draw and you have to paint even if you didn’t feel good or you weren’t in it.” Being forced to create in school allowed him to become inspired by the artistic atmosphere and taught him that seeing and experiencing different things on a daily basis makes him more inspired to create.

Finally, I asked Bailey if he had any advice for current students to get the most out of their time in college. His answer was one that I wasn’t expecting.

“That’s the biggest part of education I think is the lens that you leave with and that you apply to everything you look at. You can be pretty direct and specialized in the sense of ‘I’m going to learn how to do this and then that’s my job’, but I think with art and the creative world your value is more how you interpret what you see.”

I totally agree.

ArtsForce Takeaways

  • When combating creative block, just start. Having something to push around and work with is better than waiting until you think of the “perfect” idea.

  • Maintain a standard of work for yourself. This not only allows you to display your value, but it also allows clients to be sure they want your skills.

  • Enjoy the process. Maintaining your health and producing art in a way that allows you to enjoy it is one of the best ways to support a healthy career.

Author Kai Henriksen is studying Computer Animation with a minor in Drawing, and is an Emerging Leaders Intern with ArtsForce. 

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Mors Smith

Hello College of Fine Arts!

ArtsForce had the opportunity to kick off the Spring 2023 semester with our Career Trek to the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, or UMOCA for short. We explored the museum and what careers can be found inside. Golda Dopp Ovalles, UMOCA’s K-12 Educator started the trek off by handing us a custom worksheet sheet to take notes on throughout the trek, showed us around the museum and discussed the curation process for each exhibit.

We first explored the Projects Gallery. Which is currently showing, Beyond the Margins: An Exploration of Latina Art and Identity. The Projects Gallery is reserved for Utah based artists, which can open up more opportunities for curation. The second gallery we explored was the Street Gallery, currently showing: Thomas Campbell: Making stuff to express stuff, To share stuff, So others can feel or wanna make stuff, Hopefully. This exhibit was from a California-based artist, which meant that during curation, shipping costs and size had to be considered.

Lastly, we took a peek inside the empty Main Gallery. Here, we went over each position currently in UMOCA: Curatorial, Leadership, Development, PR/Marketing/Design/Social Media, Education, and Visitor Services. These positions were written on the worksheet, and we were encouraged to write what excited us about the work involved for each one. On the other side of the sheet, Golda gave us a look at what her everyday life might look like. Being an educator for a museum involves a lot of outreach. In the morning, you might be attending legislative sessions on Capitol Hill, and for the evening you could be teaching a workshop. Who knows?  Maybe throw in teaching a group of college students in the middle of that! At a non-profit museum, there is always something for you to be doing.

Golda is three years into her career and she gave us excellent advice for students graduating soon. She urged us to take the initiative in as many networking opportunities as possible: Don’t put up barriers for yourself before you try! A way to approach networking is to have the attitude of helping each other. Being open to networking in this fashion can lead to many opportunities both for you and others. When putting yourself out there, make sure to play to your strengths. Try thinking of three words to describe yourself, and what you want to leave your audience with. Overall we were left with the impression that jobs in the Fine Arts are there and ready for the taking.

After the trek we walked to the debrief and had coffee and snacks. We shared our thoughts about the trek and networked with each other.

Up next is our 10th Annual Networking Event, on March 25th. Make sure to RSVP to celebrate 10 years of ArtsForce!

After that, our next Career Trek to Eccles Theatre in April.

Author Mors Smith is a Studio Art Major with an emphasis in Ceramics and an Emerging Leaders Intern at ArtsForce. 

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Andrea Whipple 

This semester has been one of growth for me, and a time of seeking mentors. As a film major, I’ve realized working in the art industry tends to be a mix of contracted work and freelance. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Douglas Wilson, Art & Branding Director of University of Utah Athletics. I gained a greater understanding of doing artwork as a job, and the different ways to make a living.

Although Douglas works full time in graphic design, he has also done many projects on the side, particularly with murals. Some of his most prominent work is located at Real Salt Lake Stadium. An alumnus of the University of Utah Department of Art & Art History, he is also currently serving as a Fine Arts Ambassador for the College of Fine Arts.

When I asked Douglas how he got started in graphic design, he told me he did a lot of artwork as a child, encouraged by his grandmother. He kept doing art in high school where his teachers encouraged him to pursue it as a career. However, his family hoped he’d join the military, and they wanted his career to provide financial security. Graphic design seemed like a good compromise between worlds, a blend of artwork and technology. He could keep doing art, but also earn a consistent paycheck. This let him do passion projects and not have to worry about money, though there was less time for side work conversely.

He started as a junior designer doing a lot of home décor, then worked as a sales director. This led him to a contract opportunity at the U and other colleges. Soon, he moved in-house full-time for Utah Athletics, where he eventually became the art director.

As for his mural work, he got involved in high school painting window art and other little projects—mostly for free, just enjoying it. Then the fitness center he worked in contracted him to do a giant painting on a wall in their pool area. He got contracted for other projects, mostly just from word-of-mouth.

This has been where his consistent graphic design paycheck has been helpful. “There were a lot of projects—I was doing them for dirt cheap, or for free. And that helped my name get out there,” he explained. “I know a lot of artists don’t like to hear that because they don’t want to work for free…but I was doing it as a passion-type thing. As I was doing all this freelance work, my name started getting out there more. I’ve been constantly going out there and putting myself out there.”

“Be open, be able to talk and socialize. Learn to put yourself out there, be open."

Douglas has met many people with whom he disagreed — but if he had turned them away, his network would have been smaller. His experience showed me the importance of being open to new ideas, and experimenting with new styles. Part of working with people is learning to compromise. If you disagree with what a client wants, you can either walk away, compromise, or persuade. “You have to be somewhat of a salesman as an artist,” he said.

Smiling, being encouraging, being kind — these go a long way. When he hired his assistant, he was looking not so much for talent but for the person who was most excited, the most willing to learn. He interviewed great artists, but they didn’t feel excited to learn. “I hope they don’t struggle, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they struggle with their careers,” he said. To grow, Douglas would pull himself out of his comfort zone again and again.

We talked about how fun it is to see people light up when they talk about something they’re passionate about. This has been great for him to see in a mentor position—but even, too, with strangers on the street. “When you get people on that subject they love, they light up,” he said. Be curious and be genuine.

Our interview ended with the question: how to get inspired after burnout? Douglas admitted he was just coming out of a period of burnout. He tries to step away from the art mindset. He goes to the gym, goes for a run, plays basketball with friends — and eventually it pushes him back into the art scene. Find something brand new, he suggested.

Try a completely different style, use colors you never use. For his murals, he recently went to Blick for spray paints for the first time and found stuff he’d never tried before. Search for new things: new Instagram accounts, DeviantArt, museums. Some of the most successful Utah Athletic campaigns came after looking in different art industries for inspiration. Lately, Douglas has researched Japanese watercolor paintings. Although they weren’t used in his work directly, it got him fired up and out of burnout.

At the end he gave me some great advice. Keep pursuing, don’t get discouraged. He graduated in 2009 in the recession, and had a terrible starting job, but it eventually led to great opportunities. Keep pushing. Don’t stop learning. He explained, “I think when I get into some of my biggest ruts—my biggest burnout moments—my biggest moments of artist’s block—are the moments when I stop learning, when I just kind of cruise, and don’t push myself anymore.”

ArtsForce Takeaways:

  • Put your name out there—some cheap side passion work may get you out there via word-of-mouth.

  • Keep learning, keep growing. Experiment with new mediums; explore different styles.

  • Work with the company’s desires; be willing to compromise and persuade.

Author Andrea Whipple is a Film major with an Animation emphasis 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 Cayden Turnbow 

A few weeks ago, ArtsForce led a Career Trek offering a behind-the-scenes look at the one and only Impatient Cow Productions! The largest career trek to date went as follows; an overview of what Inpatient Cow Productions is and what they do, a deep dive into the post production workflow for a typical client, a tour of the production spaces available there, and then a debrief at Publik Coffee.

Getting to see what the day-to-day actually looks like in a production house gives students an idea of what to expect post graduation.

The goal of this trek was to instill in students the importance of internships especially within in the arts and the give them an up close look at the day to day of a production studio. “[Internships] in film can teach you a lot of important things that aren't always taught in the classroom,” said Jackie Bohn, one of the students who attended the trek. While going to school can provide you with opportunities to develop your craft and meet like minded people, internships like the ones provided at ICP give students real world experience that cannot be replicated in a classroom.

Getting to see what the day to day actually looks like in a production house gives students an idea of what to expect post graduation. One of Kyle Pflieger’s takeaways from the trek had to do with “the breadth of work they engage in, and the ‘jack-of-all-trades' nature most of the employees have.” This seemed like a typical expectation of employees at a production house like ICP.

“This was my first time being in a film production studio and I liked how cozy and fun the atmosphere was,” said Sandy Detweiler. Not all of the students who attended this trek were film majors, a variety of arts students were able to discover the multitude of possibilities that come with a career in film.

Overall, ICP was a memorable experience to say the least, if there is one thing you should take away from our visit it should be “work hard and take advantage of internships!” noted Lana Ballenot.

We hope you can join ArtsForce for our career treks, and the 9th Annual Networking Event in the spring.
Stay tuned for more information about those events!

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
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