Monday, November 8, 2010

Meet Monica Johnson, Manager, Exhibitions… and so much more!

Primary role: Monica Johnson oversees a massive art storage space adjoining our headquarters in New York City. She carefully receives, registers and catalogues every national award-winning work of art that comes through our doors. She’s also responsible for the design and installation of our New York City exhibitions and for shipping artwork to various destinations—an art unto itself!

Secret facts: Monica has her own power tools. She can also make kombucha and twirl a baton.

Monica: Before coming to the Alliance, I studied painting in San Francisco and enjoyed a short and moderately successful career as a gallery artist.
But I was always in search of a more robust career in the arts. For me, the gallery was just one outlet for visual communication, so I set out to develop a greater visual skill-set at Hunter College in New York City in the Integrated Media Arts program.

As a graduate student, I’m currently using various web-based languages and technologies to develop my visual skills. For me, the dynamic and instantaneous possibilities that web communication offers balances and enhances the otherwise static nature of the gallery exhibition.

As Manager of Exhibitions at the Alliance, I draw on my experience with installation and woodworking to design and create exhibitions. I learned solid woodworking skills and museum practices in undergrad, but developed considerably by working for many years as a museum preparator and fine arts framer. I take these skills outside the workplace and into my own art-making as well – I design and create large-scale installations and do contract work on really cool projects like David Byrne’s Playing the Building. Not to mention I can also make my own furniture!

My artistic roots rely on things created with my own two hands. Oftentimes, after working many long hours at the computer, I crave the immediacy of creating with my hands. When I get this urge, I usually reach for wool and fabric. I knit and sew hats, clothes, bags and other objects and sell them under the brand name Wool + Brick at local flea markets and on Photographing the items and writing their descriptions adds another dimension to this creative process.

Over time, my visual and technical abilities have developed into a multi-layered career in the arts. In the process, I’ve also created a diverse skill-set that ensures I’ll always find work doing something I enjoy. I remain connected to my gallery roots in that I still draw a lot, but now it’s something I do for myself without the strains of production and presentation.

Advice to Artists: Learn to write well, or at least clearly. Learn to manage your finances as early as you can. Although these skills will serve anyone in any career, they are particularly important in an arts career because they are typically overlooked in arts education. Oftentimes, working in the arts you are your own little company with your own PR and accounting departments and you have to know how to run those departments successfully all by yourself. Also, most importantly, always use the right tool for the job. And, if you don’t have the right tool, make it.


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