By Linda Smith
A & E Editor
The art community of Dallas grows more prominent with each passing day, and continues to cement itself as a haven and place of work for artists. Four University of Dallas graduates have taken their art degrees into jobs in prominent Dallas art organizations. Though none of them is an artist in a strict textbook sense, they have all used experience with internships and entrepreneurial endeavors to bring their passions into the administrative side of their respective workplaces.
2014 art history graduate Rachel Hiser is an assistant at the Alan Simmons Art + Design firm in downtown Dallas. Alan Simmons is unique in that the space is both a gallery and an art consultant firm. Hiser went into the job after undertaking several internships, including positions at the Dallas Contemporary, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and D Magazine.
“The art program actually prepares you so much for art installations so there really wasn’t a stark contrast between being in the studio or being in the classroom and being in a gallery setting,” Hiser said. “It was different in that I never used Excel spreadsheets even in my art history classes. There’s enough of the art stuff that is almost exactly what I learned, as far as how to run a gallery or how to make an announcement. All of those things weren’t different, it’s just that I was adding business.”
Hiser brings her holistic UD education and experience from business-driven internships into the job world.
“As an assistant,there are many different hats that I wear, in both the business side and then in some of the more artsy stuff,” Hiser said. “You can’t just paint all the time and talk about art, you have to do the practical stuff, but you also need to have the education and the critical thinking side of that.”
However, she still finds creativity in business projects, whether it be creating Excel spreadsheets or spending the day discussing budget.
“You’re going to be doing them for an art-related project so you almost don’t realize you’re doing the business stuff all the time,” Hiser said. “It’s for something creative so that creative element still triumphs over the business stuff, the stuff you don’t always necessarily want to be doing.”
Jacques Haba, a 2009 art graduate who specialized in ceramics, works as the digital media manager at the Nasher Sculpture Center. Haba took a break in his time at UD to pursue a career as a studio ceramics artist. During that time, the Internet was taking off and Haba taught himself to create a website on which he could display his work. That creation process made him discover his passion for web development and programming, his primary focus at the Nasher.
“I could have easily gone and worked for a company that made widgets,” Haba said. “It wouldn’t have been as fun, and it wouldn’t have been as appealing. The content made all the difference. It feels rewarding to be connected to something that you know about and you enjoy.”
Ester Ippolito, a 2007 art history graduate with a printmaking concentration, is the Nasher’s manager of visitor and member relations. Ippolito has held several internships at places from galleries to the Dallas Museum of Art, but she said the Nasher staff “feels like a family” to her.
“That was a draw for the Nasher and that’s why I’ve stayed so long,” Ippolito said. “It’s nice to come to a place that you like working at. And we get to come up here when we’re stressed out.”
Ippolito compared the Nasher to UD, saying that there is no hierarchy in the staff that prevents people from talking to everyone else, and Haba drew more comparisons between the two.
“UD is a very small school, classes are intimate,” Haba said. “That’s kind of what the Nasher is. We can get a one-on-one with the chief curator. We were in a room the other day where we had the curator of education, their team, and [chief curator] Jed [Morse]. That is rare. It feels very much like a family.”
For these alumni, their UD educations contribute greatly to their jobs, in anything from writing to attending education workshops to truly understanding new exhibits at the museum. Teresa Fougerousse, a 2012 English graduate with an art history concentration, is the Nasher’s development coordinator.
“The skill sets you get in the Core like strong writing and strong speaking help when you’re trying to communicate,” Fougerousse said. “The broader knowledge of the art history world that I studied at UD gave me a background to explain things more fully and to know how to do research when trying to put together something like a solicitation for a program.”
Hiser said that the city of Dallas is in a solidifying process of establishing its arts district. She believes that employers know that UD graduates can bring creativity into great work.
“Dallas is an unbelievably great city for someone who’s graduating with a bachelor’s from a good school like UD,” Hiser said. “And people know the UD name. Dallas is a great city for art right now, especially for UD graduates because a lot of people know that UD is a good school and generally people in the art community know that we have a very good art program that is so widely known.”
All four art alumni stressed the need to get one’s name into the art world through internships. Each alumni except Haba held internships, while Haba worked in his own studio for years. In fact, Fougerousse became development coordinator after working her way up through the museum from an internship position.
While they all have seen young artists with ideas of grand jobs solely based on creation, Ippolito said that these dreams are idealized.
“Life doesn’t really work that way… [jobs in art are] not being next to the art 24/7.” However, in their administrative jobs, they can incorporate their artistic backgrounds infused with the liberal arts into providing art to the world.
“I really do think that UD, that exposure, being a free thinker, being someone who is just curious about a variety of stuff, and creating that curiosity, that’s helped me in my role, where you can get very technical but you can also get very into the humanities,” Haba said. “It’s a unique role. I do think UD’ s education is what kind of facilitated that for me.”
Hiser believes that UD artists who are passionate and ready to take on work in which they can contribute to the arts world will find success in Dallas.
“I’m not very far removed from being in school, so those fears of what I’m going to do with my life are still very real to me,” Hiser said. “But it’s exciting for me to know that it can be done, because you know, I am still an assistant and I have not conquered everything I want to do. But it can be done. UD’s art program in general holds a very dear spot in my heart. There’s a lot going for it and I hope students keep realizing that. This is a city where someone who is a hard worker and is creative, and wants to do something, absolutely can.”