Career Night for the Arts Alumni Profile: Erin Dionne!

by Alexa Villareal

Leading up to Career Night for the Arts, we have prepared some alumni profiles to give you insight into the careers of our alumni attendees. Today we are focusing on Erin Dionne ’97, a children’s book writer and professor at Montserrat College of Art. She received her M.F.A from Emerson College and worked in marketing at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a publishing company. She then continued to write for papers and magazines alike, including the Boston Herald, before settling in as a teacher.


Erin studied English and Communications at Boston College. She looks back on her time fondly, most distinctly her time in the marching band. Her participation inspired parts of her novel Notes From an Accidental Band Geek. Erin’s novels have garnered recognition from Scholastic Book Fairs as well as features in state lists and major magazines. Some titles include Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies, The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet, and most recently her fourteen day mystery books Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking and Ollie and the Science of Treasure Hunting.

Tell me a little bit about your time at BC! What groups or clubs were you a part of and what are your favorite memories?

I loved being at BC! I was really active in the BC bands program, and did marching band and pep band for all 4 years. One of my favorite experiences was marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in 1995 (so much so that I memorialized it in my novel NOTES FROM AN ACCIDENTAL BAND GEEK). I also had a great time playing in the pep band during the NCAA basketball tournament. We went to Salt Lake City one year and Orlando another.


You’ve written for magazines, newspapers, and written books of your own, which is the most challenging and which is your favorite?

All types of writing are challenging for different reasons–deadlines, short turnarounds, and dealing with sources can all impact the journalism and magazine story writing processes. Writing novels involves lots of time and work to create compelling characters. Although I enjoy all of the types of writing I’ve done, I have to say that writing novels is my favorite–it’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was a little kid.


What during your time at BC do you feel was the most helpful advice or experience on your path to your career?

Taking Elizabeth Graver’s writing workshops were especially helpful to my career, because I learned to revise and edit my work–crucial in all of my endeavors.

How do you balance teaching, being a mom, and writing?

Haha. There’s no such thing as “balance.” Things are always shifting in priority. When I’m on a deadline, I have to fit everything around that. When grades are due, I have to grade. When the kids need something, they come to the front of the line. It’s a juggle, and each day is different.


How did you get inspired to write and what inspired you to write your books for teens?

I’ve wanted to write since I was a little kid, because I loved books and reading. I write for tweens and teens because those are the stories I’m most interested in telling and the voices that resonate with me.


Come meet Erin Dionne and other alumni artists at Career Night for the Arts on Thursday, November 12th! From 7:00-8:30pm in the McMullen Museum in Devlin Hall, you can come network and converse with BC alumni who have turned their creativity into a career.

Not sure how to network? Nervous about striking up conversations with new people? Come join us between 6:00 and 7:00pm right before the event in Devlin 008 for “Networking 101,” an advice session with networking tips and tricks from the BC Career Center. As a bonus, there will be snacks provided during “Networking 101” !

To see all the BC alumni artists attending Career Night for the Arts 2015, visit

Career Night for the Arts Alumni Profile: Daron Manoogian

By Estefania Szapiro Akl


DManoogian_head shot

“I am constantly looking at the world around me”

As our event Career Night for the Arts approaches, we wanted to give you a sneak peek of some of the accomplished alumni that will be joining us for the night. Today, we are talking to Daron Manoogian’98 who is currently the Director of Communications at Harvard Art Museums. He has progressed and succeeded in the Communications industry working in Public Relations, Marketing, and Communications. Join Daron and other talented alumni to get insight into their careers and lives, and take the opportunity to do some networking.

Daron Manoogian had two academic careers at BC. He had originally enrolled in CSOM in 1984, but in his junior year as he got into more classes with his major realized he had made the wrong choice. Daron immediately took a leave of absence and spent 10 years working in various jobs in retail, nightclubs, and healthcare before returning to his education. In 1995 he enrolled in the Woods College of Advancing Studies and majored in Communications. After being in the workplace for a decade, he finally knew where his interests were. Father Woods allowed him to begin where he had left off, and had all of his previous credits transferred. He spent the next 3 years working full time during the day and going to classes part time in the evening. Daron received his diploma in 1998 and was ready to join the communications industry


(Photo of a new Harvard Art Museum renovation by Renzo Piano, courtesy of The Boston Globe)

I read some of your articles published in The Heights from when you were a student here at BC. Could you discuss your involvement in it as well as your involvement in other creative BC clubs or organizations and how it impacted your career?
I think that I’ve always had an interest and knack for writing, so the Heights was a great outlet. When I was in the College for Advancing Studies, I didn’t have much time for extracurricular activities.

You have worked in the Marketing, Communications, and Public Relations departments of different institutions and have progressed. Could you describe and talk about this progress and how you got hold of your current position as the Director of Communication for the Harvard Art Museum?
I’ve always tried to be selective about what kind of organizations that I chose to work for. I don’t have the ability to put my heart into a company or product that I do not feel is important. Working for WBUR was a great experience — a quality news organization. After learning about the opening at Harvard, I thought that it could be interesting, and a place to grow. Here at Harvard for 10 years, I have grown from being the Public Relations Officer with one staff member to being the Director of Communications overseeing a staff of 15 in the areas of PR/Marketing, Design, and Editorial. The Harvard Art Museums have offered me the opportunity to really express my creative side, and we enjoy brainstorming and working as a team on a range of print and digital materials, advertising and marketing, social media, media relations, and special events.

What is it like to work in the arts? Have you always had an interest for the arts?
Yes, I’ve always been a creative person, taking art classes, and I enjoy music. I feel that the arts are a very important part of education and life. That is why I support STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ART, and Math), instead of the more popular STEM curriculum.

What are the top 3 qualities, skills, or abilities that might help a BC student succeed in your field?

Working collaboratively with others, having the right mix of thinking fast and taking the time to make the right decision, and creativity (thinking “outside of the box” as they say).

How do you incorporate creativity in your day to day and how do you manage to stay creative?
I am constantly looking at the world around me, not to copy anything necessarily, but to inspire my own ideas. Having a staff that includes younger people with fresh ideas and a better sense of what is trending.

Students Find Advice and Inspiration at Career Night for the Arts

by Cuilin Chen

Marc Franklin '12, of Bridge Repertory Theater, talks with a group of BC undergraduates

Marc Franklin ’12, of Bridge Repertory Theater, talks with a group of BC undergraduates

As the crowd started moving into McMullen museum, Career Night for the Arts began. Before long, enthusiastic conversations were weaving in the air; a penetrating sense of excitement swirled around the room.

I started the night talking to the executive director of the Lyme Art Association, Joe Newman. An art dealer, experienced businessman, and enthusiastic art appreciator, he unveiled the business side of the art world. He says that a good artist often finds a delicate balance between reality and creativity, and matures over time to create the best work. Similarly, Newman himself has sharpened his sense over the course of his career so that he knows whether a work of art is what he is looking for, at the first sight. The process of development is organic and continuous, applying to both the creative side and the business side of the art world. And passion is what guides you through.

After this fast-paced conversation, I moved around the crowd and encountered a lady elegantly dressed in pink. A mom and a businesswoman, Cathi Fournier Ianno is the assistant director of Sound and Spirit. Our conversation, however, focused more on an exchange of stories instead of a discussion of her field. As uplifting as the color she was wearing, Cathi’s story was about her love for both the business world and the artistic world. She is a wonderful pianist, yet for a career she chose to be the person who takes care of the practical aspect of things to turn more artistic endeavors into reality. She told me to locate my true passion, be definite about it, but to pave my way patiently toward it. And it does not have to be a direct path!

Driven by the same interest yet as different individuals, many of us may have come to Career Night for the Arts hoping to find a way to navigate further in the creative field. From my experience talking to alums, a general observation is that, it is not necessary to rush through confusion. In this matrix, there are multiple dimensions including various forms of talent, dedication, collaboration, interception, and time, which, adds dynamics to the whole picture.

I think, Andrew Padilla, Creative Services Manager at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, would agree with me on that. He has always wanted to create art that has meaning to it, as much as he has always been concerned with the aesthetics of marketing. Voila, working in the marketing side for a museum seems to be the perfect fit after his long search. He told me that the interesting aspect about his career is that art, here, is so similar to problem solving, because the visually appealing works his team create, will engage and inspire people in the real world, and they carry a powerful message! As a dad, Padilla is busy with family life but still tries to squeeze in time for painting and carpentry, which recharge his creativity.

There are many other intriguing conversations spinning in my head, memories from the night still fresh. I also talked to Musician and music label CEO David Altenor, who is also interested in fashion; Photographer Christopher Huang, based in Boston and often photographing on campus; Fashion Executive Jane Conway Caspe who passionately discovers local designers and fresh talents; and the meticulous and dedicated director of Studio TK, conservator T.K. McClintock.

Conservator T.K. McClintock talks with a BC student

Conservator T.K. McClintock talks with a BC student

The last person I talked to, interior designer Kurt Hakansson, was wearing stylish glasses, which I discovered later to be one of his collection of many. He told me that he always knew he loved art, but it was during his apprenticeship at Crate & Barrel when he developed his skills rapidly and significantly. And back then the company was just a start-up! I could hardly imagine Crate & Barrel, the giant in the industry, being a start-up with just a few staff. But perhaps, that explains just how powerful ideas could be. The transformation of things we could desire and expect in the creative field is, indeed, generated from imagination and often grows beyond our own imagination. Isn’t that why this world is so fascinating?

The night wrapped after two hours, yet conversations went on. New ideas have been implemented, and I saw many faces lit up. Each of us is one of the many, but uniquely so. What is the right path? It really depends, but it is always a good time to start the exploration.

To see all the 2014 alumni guests at Career Night for the Arts, visit our website.

Want to Meet a Record Label CEO? Come to Career Night for the Arts

By Cuilin Chen

David Altenor '09, CEO at Kingdomsound Music Group

David Altenor ’09, CEO at Kingdomsound Music Group

Students, Career Night for the Arts, the event that puts you in touch with professionals in a range of artistic fields, is happening tonight, 7-9 PM, at the McMullen Museum! Today, we’re talking to David Altenor ’09, CEO of music label kingdomsound. Join David, and a host of other accomplished BC alumni, for an evening of connections and conversation.

What is “spiritual” music, and what are the ideas behind it? Discover in David Altenor’s story. A Boston College Alum, David Altenor earned a degree in Theology in 2009, which turns out to have significant influence on his career as an artist. A multi-award winning artist, producer and songwriter, he is dedicated to creating music that carries the message of God, love and inspiration. He has worked with artists extensively and has appeared on television, the Apollo Theater and various national music tours. In 2012, he launched a record label, Kingdomsound Music Group, in the hope of effecting positive social changes.

We could see that your music is closely related to your studies in theology. How has your education at BC helped you find inspiration and become a successful musician?

I love creating positive and meaningful art. My experience at BC opened my eyes to the global issues and put everything in perspective, and enabled me to specifically focus on creating inspirational music. I felt a spirit of “change” the first time I stepped on this campus, and that feeling has never left since.

What is something fun and something frustrating about starting your own company? 

One fun thing is doing what I love most and being able to wake up in the morning and make music (whether producing, arranging, writing, or teaching) everyday for a living. One frustration I have is one with the music industry in general. Some aspects of the music industry could be far from ideal and thus challenging: for examples, bad deals, and lack of support for some music projects for various reasons.

As a dedicated artist, it must be a rather natural and habitual thing for you to stay creative. But when it comes to moments of creative blocks, how do you cope with it?

I usually step out of the studio for a bit and try to go for a drive or walk. My creative process is very spiritual. I’ve always found that the closer I am to God, whether in prayer or in reading the Bible, the more creative I am.

From an artist’s perspective, how would you describe your music; what are the impacts you wish to make with your work?

I create music with the hope that it will inspire and uplift others. I really try to use my gifts to make positive music that focuses on God, love and social issues. I believe that we should strive to inspire the next generation of artists to become a positive force in their local communities and abroad.

Connect with the Executive Director of ITVFest at Career Night for the Arts Tomorrow

By Lydia Ahern

Philip Gilpin, Jr '03 is the Executive Director of the Independent Television Festival

Philip Gilpin, Jr ’03 is the Executive Director of the Independent Television Festival

As part of our interview series with alumni who are enjoying successful careers in the arts, it is our pleasure to introduce Philip Gilpin, Jr., Boston College Class of 2003, who will be attending Career Night for the Arts tomorrow from 7-9pm in McMullen Museum. Career Night for the Arts is an excellent way for students interested in pursuing a career in the arts to speak with Boston College graduates who have already paved the way. Students from all majors are welcome!

Philip Gilpin Jr. began his career in entertainment as a Business Affairs Analyst at HBO until 2008, and has since ascended to the title of Executive Director of the renowned ITVFest. Philip was responsible for bringing the LA-born event to Dover, Vermont in September 2013, and its marked success has ensured its stay there through at least 2017. In his interview, he gives insight into the roots of his creativity, as well as the industries changing independent TV and the web scene. Philip describes his industry as, “the wild west:” here’s your chance to find out why.

As a Physics and Mathematics major at BC, did you see yourself ultimately working in entertainment? How has your major helped you in your field?

I had no idea that I would end up in entertainment. I have always enjoyed the arts and took a few courses at Robsham but it was not a long-term career thought at the time. Physics and mathematics are very creative fields, especially at the higher levels. They are both rooted in using logic to solve problems. That’s also the core of the entertainment industry – creating pieces of art through massive production processes that require a high level of problem solving skills.

How has the independent TV and web scene changed since you began working at HBO in 2003, and how might this affect students attempting to enter the field?

The independent TV and web scene has been forging its own path over the last decade. YouTube didn’t exist until 2005. The digital video revolution is only 8 years old. If one thing is clear to me after being involved with the digital industry at a high level, it is that we are all still making this up as we go along. That’s not a negative thing. That should be inspiring and encouraging to students because it means they are able to define the field as they see fit. There is a lot of space out there – a lot of unanswered questions about this industry- that current students should have a passion to solve. Those that find the best solutions will find themselves leading the industry.

What are the top three qualities, abilities, or skills might help a BC student succeed in the independent TV and web scene?

To succeed in the independent TV and web world you must have an unquenchable passion for storytelling, you must be willing to take risks that could mean personal financial ruin and you must love problem solving on the fly. This is an industry with no safety net. There is no “normal” professional progression (entry level, manager, director, executive, etc.). This is the Wild West. Gear up and be prepared when you step into town.

Chat with Art Executive Joe Newman ’97 at Career Night for the Arts 2014

By Cuilin Chen

Joe Newman '97, Executive Director of the Lyme Art Association,

Joe Newman ’97, Executive Director of the Lyme Art Association,

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.

Music Therapist Alison Davitt: “Everyone Has The Potential to Create Music Within Themselves”

Career Night for the Arts is this Thursday, Nov. 7th, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. in McMullen Museum. Join the Arts Council and the Career Center in welcoming BC alumni with successful careers in the arts for an evening of networking and conversation. Talk to professionals working in fashion, photography, music, theatre, writing, visual art, and arts administration; ask the questions you really want the answers to about forging a career in the arts after graduation. All majors welcome!

For the last couple of weeks, we have been firing questions at our alumni guests for a sneak preview of their insight and advice. Today, we got the lowdown from Alison Davitt, ’07, who, of all our alumni guests this year, has the most unusual occupation: Music Therapy. We’re delighted to have Alison join us for the event, as she represents the sheer breadth of arts careers available, and is living proof that the arts and the sciences aren’t from different galaxies after all. Alison talked to us about her experiences with therapy, the importance of music in our lives, and how to find a fulfilling career.

Alison felt she needed to find a career that incorporated her science background with her love of music.

Alison felt she needed to find a career that incorporated her science background with her love of music.

Your job sounds like such a fascinating blend of science and the arts. Can you tell us a bit more about it, for those of us who aren’t sure what music therapy is? How does something creative like music benefit the clinician (or patient) in therapy?
Officially, Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program (American Music Therapy Association, 2013).
The music therapy interventions mentioned above include everything from instrumental and vocal improvisation, writing and recording original music, singing, listening to well known music, and even music for relaxation or movement.  Music Therapy is based on the idea that everyone has the potential to create music within themselves.  This natural ability is therapeutic and can help accomplish their goals in a variety of ways, from providing an alternate means of expression, to teaching a stroke victim how to walk and talk again.
Is there something fundamentally therapeutic about the arts? What role do you think music plays in our lives?
Many people have forgotten that artistic expression is not only for those of us designated as “talented.” In my work as a music therapist, I have worked with trauma victims whose rediscovery of their voice through vocal and instrumental improvisation has made a major impact on their overall self-esteem. I have also seen elders with dementia sing the words to an entire song despite their inability to speak coherently. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said that, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” I have seen music succeed with clients when words did not.
It is an understatement that music plays a huge role in the majority of human lives. Music has the ability to remind us of past events, both good or bad, whether it was the song at our wedding, or a song our mother sang to us, or even the song that was playing on the radio during our first break-ups. It also has the ability of soothing our moods, or alternately, getting us excited. It is always there when needed, and best of all, it does not judge us or make us feel guilty.
How did you figure out that this is what you wanted to do? What would you say to a student who loves nurturing their creative side, but worries about finding a career in the arts after school?

 After I graduated from BC, I used my biology major to obtain a job in a transplant laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. During this time, I was in a rock band with two other BC graduates. We met frequently and wrote original music that we eventually recorded and played in several Boston venues. Initially, my involvement with the band was enough to satisfy my musical cravings and make me feel fulfilled. However, I realized quickly that the position at BWH did not utilize my full potential. I needed to find a way to combine my scientific background, my desire to help people, and my love of music. After researching the Masters in Expressive Therapy program at Lesley University, I knew that it was exactly what I had been looking for.

Finding a career in the arts is always a scary thought for students, and it was for me as well. I took comfort in the degree at Lesley since it provided not only Music Therapy licensure, but also Mental Health Counseling licensure. For me, the dual licensure provided some practical insurance that I would have options following graduation.  In reflecting on my job searching after graduation, I would advise students that there are opportunities for careers in the arts for those who actively seek them out. There are also ways of incorporating the arts into other job roles. Often this requires perseverance, networking skills, and personal assertiveness. If there is something that you would like to do in the arts, you will most likely need to market yourself for it!

What’s your best memory of BC? 

My best memory of BC is watching the Red Sox win their first World Series in many years. As a freshman, one of my first activities was a game at Fenway park.  Sitting in Vanderslice Watching everyone stream out of their dorms onto lower campus was really exciting.

For students interested in finding out more about music therapy, there are expressive therapies information sessions at Lesley University: Friday, October 25th 10:00 am and Friday, November 15th 10:00 am. The next Open House is January 15th, 2014.