Alum returns with hope for students pursuing art world

Beyond Taylor and the Loeb, outside of New Hackensack and Doubleday, where are art students going after Vassar? After spending four years honing their craft and increasing their love for the arts, what options are available to those who choose to pursue the arts after graduation? Next Monday, April 27, a conversation to address these concerns will take place in the Jade Parlor of Main Building.

Hosted by David V. Griffin ‘99, Senior Associate at Thomas & Associates, this conversation will focus on ways for entry level and pre-grad candidates to transition into meaningful employment in the arts, including everything from resume and interview tips to a breakdown of how the art world works and what its stipulations are.

Griffin holds a BA in Art History and English from Vassar College. During his seven years with Thomas & Associates, Inc., he has worked to provide staffing, collections management and exhibitions services for the firm’s clients, from The New-York Historical Society to the MetLife Collection.

During Ms. Thomas’ Interim Directorship at Lyndhurst, he served as Adjunct Special Events Coordinator. His writing on art and architecture has been published in Metropolis, Dwell and the National Trust’s Preservation website, among other titles.

He is a member of Independent Curators International and is currently developing the firm’s Fine Arts Subscription, a unique service for New York City-based collectors, which incorporates museum and gallery visits, auction previews, lectures and exclusive tours into a monthly schedule.

However, Griffin’s artistic career probably started earlier than college. “My mother is an artist and my siblings and I have docented at museums since we were children; I also owned a gallery for several years and still curate shows.  Arts management, recruitment and development are the underpinnings of every cultural experience one has,” he wrote about his reasons for choosing the career path in an email statement.

This will not be Griffin’s first visit back at his alma mater to have a conversation with Vassar students. Associate Director for Employer Relations at Vassar’s Career Development Office, Susan Smith, said that Griffin’s visits started in 2007.

“Mr. Griffin hosted a career conversation on campus in April 2007. He returned to campus in Spring 2013, and is scheduled to host another conversation on April 27, 2015. In the years between his visits, Mr. Griffin has hired Vassar students for summer internships. One intern was hired full time in 2011,” she said.

Griffin wanted to come back to share his professional experiences as a result of his student years studying and working at Vassar. “As an Art History major at Vassar, I’ve always been interested in how students can explore ways to enter the art world as a career. I’d worked with the Career Services department while I was a student and feel it’s only right to contribute to the dialogue as an alum,” he explained.

The conversation will include basic job searching skills including resume building, presentation and interviewing. Griffin will also give advice about what to expect from an arts-related career “We’ll be going over the basics—presentation, communication and how to interview—but also talk about expectations.  What is it that people want from a career in the arts?  How can they make this a realistic goal?”

Expectations are especially important for anyone hoping to pursue a career in the arts. This comes not only from the expectations that students may have for future careers but also from what future employers could expect from recent grads. Griffin explained his goal for this visit, “I hope to give students an idea of what is expected of them as candidates in the arts & culture profession. Often people starting out can be frustrated by how difficult it is to find what they consider a ‘creative’ role.”

Professor of Art on the Sarah G. Blanding Chair, Susan Kuretsky also spoke about her experiences as an art historian, and gave advice to students hoping to pursue a career in the same field.

Once a student at Vassar, Kuretsky’s career in arts started with ART105. “My career in the art world began with taking Art 105 at Vassar, which completely changed my perspective, knowledge and opened my eyes in ways I had never expected or anticipated. It would have enriched any career path I might have taken, but it gave me extremely solid grounding for further study and graduate school in art history.”

She continued to give advice to any Vassar students hoping to have an art-related profession, “Do NOT graduate from Vassar without Art105!”

She finally decided to pursue the art history path because she finds working in the discipline rewarding and inspiring. She explained, “Art history, fascinating in itself, also connects with almost every other field of study in both the humanities and the sciences. Its visual and intellectual training constantly opens doors, and more doors throughout your life. Teaching it lets me try to give back what I have been given.”

Professor of Art, Molly Nesbit, pointed to the many career-related events hosted by the Art Department as a resource for students. Nesbit said, “Last year, for example, we had two conservators come to speak about their recent work and then form a panel to discuss the field of conservation generally. We regularly organize special internships and fieldwork opportunities for the students in our courses.”

She continued, “And late last fall, the FLLAC had a panel of recent graduates come to discuss ‘The Art World’ —they work at art magazines, in development departments, at major museums and in curatorial depts in major museums.”

As for this time, the Career Development Office (CDO) collaborated with various departments to organize the conversation. “The CDO often collaborates with the Office of Alumnae/i Affairs and Development, student organizations and academic departments to organize alumnae/i career events. In this instance, Mr. Griffin contacted me to arrange a date and time for his visit. I reserved the room and the CDO will promote his visit through our e-newsletter and other channels,” Smith explained.

The CDO has also worked to bring to campus career events in a variety of industries. Smith said, “The most direct benefit is the opportunity for students to meet alumnae/i who are working in a particular career field and learn about the industry, their path since leaving Vassar, and tips for breaking into that field. Often, students will follow up directly and continue the conversation via phone or in person meeting.”

Ultimately, Griffin hopes to provide insight and skills necessary for students to transition from an academic environment to the professional world, while at the same time enjoying his time at Vassar.

He pointed out the challenges and central skills necessary for a further pursuit in the arts. “The art world can be an incredibly demanding environment in terms of employer expectations both prior to and after finding a job and I think the more students entering that world know about how to present themselves, establish a career path and communicate their skills, the better.”

He concluded, “I’m always delighted to spend an afternoon at my alma mater.”

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