Follow your passion. Be persistent. And if you want to make a career in the arts, don’t neglect the business side of the profession.
These were some of the pieces of advice panelists shared with Clark students and other attendees Dec. 1 as Clark University kicked off its ClarkCONNECT community focusing on the Creative Arts. ClarkCONNECT matches students with alumni, parents, faculty and outside partners for mentorship and career-exploration opportunities. Communities also have been established in the areas of Biology/Biosciences and Law and Regulatory Affairs.
The event included a jazz performance and a panel discussion titled “Painting with a Broad Brush: Creative Arts at Clark,” featuring five alumni and moderated by Gino DiIorio ’83, professor and director of Clark’s Theatre Arts program. A networking reception in the foyer of the Alumni and Student Engagement Center allowed alumni, panelists and other attendees to connect with students, share their experiences and offer advice in pursuing a creative art path after Clark.
Serving on the panel was Stephen Albano ’07, a graphic designer at College of the Holy Cross; Robert “Bob” Cory ’67, a stained glass artist; Alex Dunn ’11, M.B.A. ’12, founder of Skyscope Creative; Etan Yravas (Nate Savary) ’08, founder and creative director of Everything Young & Major, an entertainment company for business-minded musicians, digital artists, culture designers, and content engineers; and Sasha Abby VanDerzee ’00, co-founder of Company One Theatre.
Each shared the challenges they faced breaking into the working world during their post-college years. Dunn, Yravas and Abby VanDerzee acknowledged that building your own business is a significant challenge, particularly when funding is tight. “I pretty much ate my metric weight in Ramen Noodles,” quipped Dunn, who co-founded Skyscope and later sold the company to Matter Communications.
Albano left graduate school to pursue employment and is now a graphic designer for Holy Cross magazine. The magazine was honored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education with a 2014 Circle of Excellence Award in editorial design for a spread Albano created.
Cory spent four years in the U.S. Air Force after receiving his undergraduate degree in English, then went on to earn an M.B.A. He worked a series of nonprofit-sector jobs before deciding to give up his 9-to-5 life as a college personnel director to follow his passion for stained glass making. “The most valuable skill that you can have as an artist is listening,” he said.
Panel members stressed the importance of advocating for yourself and recognizing the value of what you create. “If you are passionate about art, do something every day, even if it’s drawing on a napkin,” Dunn said.
Albano added, “Break out of your box. There’s growth in what you’re doing.”
Dunn, Yravas and VanDerzee stressed that artists should not ignore the business principles of their profession. “If you care about making money off of what you create, you have to learn how to sell,” Dunn said.
He and Yavras said while they love making their own art, whether music, apps, or films, they also need to effectively market it so they can have the resources to continue creating. “I wouldn’t be where I am as my own boss, making money from where my music has gone, without the focus on being business-minded too,” said Yravas, who noted that he is constantly reading business books in addition to making music.
An audience member asked how one avoids losing passion in your art when it’s also your business. The panelists agreed that artists must find the power to create and advocate for themselves in ways that let them fulfill their creative vision — and earn a living.