By Cuilin Chen
Career Night for the Arts is around the corner! If you are interested in art and want to explore your options further, head to the McMullen on Thursday, November 13, 7-9PM to chat with twenty five alumni working in arts-related professions.
Joe Newman ’97, executive director of the Lyme Art Association, is one of the alums that will join us at Career Night, and here he offers insight into his rich experience in the art world. Not only interested in how Joe Newman explored his career path, we are also curious about his perspective on interns and artists as an executive director.
Shall you be an artist or art-lover, find your inspiration from the interview below!
You have worked extensively in the art world, and your career has progressed along. How would you describe this progress?
My career has been somewhat unorthodox. Shortly after leaving BC, I had the opportunity to work with a private firm that bought and sold American rare books and manuscripts. Everything about the paintings fascinated me. After leaving the firm to focus on my graduate studies, when I was ready to return to work, I wrote a letter to a respected art gallery near my hometown that specialized in 19th and early 20th paintings, inquiring whether they might have a position open. They did, and I spent four wonderful years learning everything I could about American paintings. From there, I spent some time at a large gallery in New York and an auction house, before taking time off again to explore other interests. During this last year, I had the opportunity to serve the non-profit Lyme Art Association, the nation’s oldest, as its executive director. In all, I’ve been grateful to have the opportunity to see how the art world functions from the gallery perspective, from inside an auction house, and from an institutional perspective.
We know that you are excited about new ideas and new artists, but what are some of the qualities, specifically, you seek in new artists?
When I encounter work by a new artist, I can tell within a very short period of time whether that artist interests me. Personally, a strong work of art always hints at some kind of narrative. The viewer should be aware that there might be a story behind the creation. This quality allows the viewer to lend a little of their own imagination to the experience of viewing the work, which makes the art feel more powerful and intimate.
We have many students at Boston College who are eager to test the water in the art world. Would you tell us something you seek in interns and volunteers?
The quality I most seek in interns and volunteers is the ability to communicate well. Nothing bothers me more than receiving an email from someone that is poorly written, or worse, poorly thought out and then poorly written. Whenever you write to someone—whether email, text, instant message, or whatever form you use—you’re asking that person to surrender a little bit of their time and read what you’ve sent them. Correspondence is welcome when it’s informative, thorough, and worth reading.
And last, a simple question, but a lot of us may have this question in mind: how do you stay creative?
Even though I’ve spent the bulk of my career handling fine American paintings, I am utterly incapable of drawing so much as a rainbow. To stay creative, I enjoy writing fiction and personal essays. The thought process of composing a short story or something longer is similar to composing a painting. Many times, you experience something in life or the natural world that makes you feel something. You’re not sure what, at first, but you keep thinking about it. Eventually, this feeling morphs into an idea about how to convey that feeling to an audience. You experiment with different approaches and, in doing so, realize that may you have even more to say or demonstrate than you thought. So the work becomes a little more complex, with disparate parts that relate to each other. When you’re finally finished, you’ve taken a vague, uncertain experience and translated it for your readers or viewers in a way that communicates how the experience changed or affected you. When you get that right, it’s one of the best feelings in the world.