FPA Undergraduates Learn about Opportunities in the Berkshires from MCLA Grads in Arts & Culture Positions

Last night, fine and performing arts undergraduates at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) met with faculty members and MCLA graduates to discuss arts and culture opportunities in the Berkshires.

S2pear-headed by the arts management faculty, the Positive Deviants Career Panel was designed to connect current and former MCLA students to make positive, professional connections and discover what it takes to build a creative career in the Berkshires.

The event kicked-off with a competition. The first-year students were given envelopes of fake money while the upperclassmen were instructed to give the first-years advice which they would be “paid” for based on how much their successors deemed it worth. The upperclassman with the most money at the end of the game would be awarded a Dunkin Donuts gift card but were there really any losers?

After warming up the conversation and enjoying a burrito bar provided by Hot Harry’s Fresh Burritos, the panelists settled into their seats and Diane Scott (Arts management professor) began to ask questions.

The panelists ranged in major and journey with some coming to MCLA as a transfer student while others spent all four years actively chasing a goal they would end up changing last minute senior year. Overall, the panelists gave advice and reassurance to the students sitting before them. “Taste everything,” Rebecca McBrien (Public Programs Assistant at the Mount) advised. “Even if you don’t know what you want to do, those are experiences you have in your back pocket.” McBrien spent a year and a half looking for a position before finding a job she had been eyeing for some time. As an English/Communications major, working with Edith Wharton’s works as well as producing strong programming, made McBrien a powerhouse in her field.

3Panelists detailed the application process of the current positions they hold as well as how long they were looking for a job before obtaining a position in their field.

Krystal Henriquez detailed her senior year up until finding a home at Assets for Artists, a program of MASS MoCA. Having produced North Adams first FIGMENT! as well as completing a rigorous internship with MASS MoCA’s Performing Arts (PA) Department, Henriquez was looking for two months before landing a perfect fit.

Jacob Fennel described his current career path as “a perfect storm”. Having set up positive relationships with professor Sue Killam (as well as Director of Performing Arts at MASS MoCA), Fennel was offered a position in PA to help with the work load while the director of artist services was on maternity leave.

Connections really can be a major factor in securing employment, especially in arts and culture. That is why Kayla Quinn took a similar approach and set up good relations with another MCLA professor, Laura Thompson (also director and curator of MASS MoCA’s Kidspace), and got her foot in the door as a box office associate at MoCA. From there, she worked her way up to gallery teacher and now manages the timed, registration based galleries of James Turrell and Laurie Anderson. “I changed my mind last minute,” Quinn said while explaining her jump to a focus in arts education. She continued to encourage the current student to change their path in arts management as well, “whenever you feel like it’s not the right path for you, change it. Arts management is so broad.”

And Chris Handschuh is living proof of this sentiment. Having started as a Freshgrass camping intern at MASS MoCA, Handschuh worked his way through the departments touching on PA, production, and art fabrication. Although not a full-time staff member at MoCA, he is constantly switching between departments as needed to show his willingness to work and love for the institution and all they do. 4

One of the most important pieces of advice the graduates gave to the current students was to “do it first, beg for forgiveness later” as Fennel phrased it. They emphasized that if you see someone who needs a hand or you see a job that needs to be done, just jump in and do it. Help them. Show initiative. This was a common trait that all the panelists shared despite their vastly different backgrounds and interests.

Overall, the first Positive Deviant Panel was a huge success and gave current FPA majors/minors a lot to think about as they enter their collegiate career, or, in some cases, have theirs come to a close and plan what’s next.


– Shannon Cahill, sm[ART] Commons Editor/Designer


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