Learning how to build a career in the arts.

MHC faculty and alumnae shared how they built careers in the arts. Photo by Ben Barnhart.

By Emily Harrison Weir

Students who dream of a career in the arts heard from Mount Holyoke College alumnae who have made that dream come true for themselves at the fifth annual Crafting a Life in the Arts event on February 7.

Bonsuk Awani ’15, an English major from Atlanta, hopes to build a career in communications for arts organizations. Awani said she was impressed by the alumnae panelists’ internationality and diverse range of professional experiences.

“Though the path to finding your passion is not linear, this event gave me the confidence to step out into the world post-graduation and immerse myself in activities that I otherwise would have been afraid to do,” Awani said.

The event opened with a keynote address by Kristen Collins '93, a specialist in early medieval and Romanesque manuscript illumination. Her career journey began with the study of art history and French at Mount Holyoke, which eventually led to her current role as associate curator of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

The keynote speech was followed by three small-group breakout sessions. Students had the chance to ask alumnae questions specific to their area of interest—visual arts, performing arts, or creative writing and film. Alumnae working in the fields of architecture, studio art, art history, creative writing, dance, film, music, museums, and theatre were represented.

Architectural designer Zhanina Boyadzhieva ‘10 particularly impressed Rand Abu Al-Sha’r of Jordan, who—although a first-year student—is already thinking about graduate study in architecture. Networking with Boyadzhieva “was incredible because she gave advice on graduate school programs, internships, and ways of approaching architecture as a career,” said Abu Al-Sha'r. Boyadzhieva also shared her undergraduate and graduate portfolios with Abu Al-Sha'r, and inspired her to pursue an internship in the field as early as this summer.

“This was a great opportunity for students to hear from alumnae about the varied paths you can forge to create a career in the arts,” said Ellen Alvord ’89, coordinator of academic affairs at the Art Museum and cochair of the InterArts Council, a cosponsor of the event. “Alumnae are eager to connect with current students and share their stories and advice. There was a real feeling of MHC sisterhood at the event.”

A networking reception gave students time to chat with alumnae in more depth, one to one. Awani said she left the event “feeling extremely inspired and motivated to reach out to more alums through the Mount Holyoke alumnae network.”

The event was part of Mount Holyoke’s Lynk experience, which connects students’ academic interests with career possibilities throughout their four years on campus.

"It was exciting to learn how the panelists’ paths evolved, to envision the many ways a Mount Holyoke education can catalyze a life in the arts, and to have such a great community together for the day,” said Liz Lierman, Career Development Center director.

This event is sponsored by the InterArts Council (representing Architectural StudiesArt History, the Art MuseumFilm StudiesTheatre ArtsDanceCreative WritingArt Studio,Music), the Career Development Center, and the Offices of the Dean of the College and the Dean of the Faculty, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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