Spotlight on Arts Administration Student Kate Place ☆

Kate is a second year Arts Administration student.  She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatrical Directing from Boston University.  She worked on the 2008 and 2009 Tribeca Film Festivals, and is currently the Internship Coordinator for the Arts Administration program and the Company Manager at Barrow Street Theater.  She has directed numerous theatrical productions in New York City.

How did you get involved in theatrical directing?

I acted in high school.  I loved it but didn’t know if I wanted to stay with it.  In the BU program, actors, directors, playwrights and dramaturges all have to audition for the same program.  There were 40 of us and we were all put in a group for a year.  You do a little bit of everything, and it was great because it was a year to just figure things out.  At the end of the year, they asked, “Where do you want to be?”.  I said, “I’m a director,” and they said, “We agree!”

My senior year I did internships in London and Los Angeles.  Then I moved to New York and I was working an hourly retail job, and I was freelance directing.  One of the directors I worked for has a husband who is an architect, and he needed an office manager.  It was nine-to-five, and after work I had the keys and could use the office space for rehearsals.  So I had a loft space in Chelsea that I could use for rehearsals.  It was great!  I was working on a lot of new plays with a lot of new playwrights.

How was your experience with the Tribeca Film Festival?

I just loved it.  I jumped right in and did org charts, human resource stuff, union contracts for projectionists and budgets.  It was great because it was all the producer stuff that I had to be doing when I was a director anyway, but it was on a macro-level and I really enjoyed it.

After my boss left, I did the 2009 Festival by myself, with a technical consultant and a production consultant.   After the 2009 Festival, they had full-time staff lay-off, including me.

What made you decide to pursue a Master’s in Art Administration?

After the Tribeca Film Festival, I did go for six months without a job.  During that time I applied for a lot of arts administration jobs because I liked that macro work.  The jobs I was applying for were all at about a 25% pay cut from what I had been making at TriBeCa, plus, I really needed a Master’s.  I thought, “Who gets a Master’s in Art Administration?  I’ve been doing this kind of work for two years!”   I think my success in the program is directly related to the fact that I have already done this before.

I couldn’t get a job in arts administration, so I got a “regular” job, as I called it, and decided to apply to grad school.  I applied for a “regular” job on a Tuesday, had the job by Friday.  It turns out that the Human Resources Director was the wife of one of the filmmakers who I helped out at Tribeca.  She said she was ready to hire me when I walked in.  Two weeks after starting that job (as a facilities planner for an advertising agency, which I got because of my background working for the architecture firm), I found out I had gotten into grad school.  I was with them until May 2011.  They really wanted me to stay because they liked what I had been doing, so they allowed me to be in the office only 25 hours a week.  But my job stayed the same, and it was tough.  I remember coming out of a mid-term, and I had a million messages.  Staying was a good decision, in that it definitely reduced the amount of money I had to take out.  When I left in May, I worked on my internship full-time.  So it was painful, but everything fell in place.

I understand you secured an internship at the Public Theater—a first for your program.

The last intern coordinator thought I was crazy, like a dog with a bone.  But I was really adamant about getting into the Public Theater because I want to eventually work for the Department of Cultural Affairs for New York City so it is really important that I’m at a CIG.  A CIG is a Cultural Institution Group, or the 33 institutions that are owned and physically operated by New York City.  So it was really important for me to work at the Public Theater, and it was really important for me to be at a place that was producing over the summer.  And I have to believe in what they are doing.

The Public Theater is going through a capital campaign right now so there is a lot of interaction with the city, because the city has to approve everything that is decided.  I made lots of friends there, and now a lot of the Arts Administration first-years want to intern there.  The Public Theater is a place that pretty much exclusively hires their interns.  I had applied for three jobs there, and once I was interning there I saw that each of those jobs was filled by someone in-house.

Might you land there in May, after graduation?

Most of the higher-level managers and directors have Master’s degrees.  None of the assistants have Master’s degrees.  So I think it would have to be one of those things that would be a fortuitous event, because I won’t be an assistant there.  I’ve answered phones before!

Does your TC degree opens doors in the arts?

It definitely does.  Regardless of where you’ve worked, there’s always a risk in how different organizations run, and how different people and personalities translate into the workings of those organizations.  This degree gives two things:  One, the graduates of this program have a great reputation.  And two, it has provided me with a full landscape and a much better view of how organizations work and if “jams” I have had in my experience were specific to that organization or just an anomaly.

The Arts Administration program is pitched as having great alumni connections and relationships with institutions throughout the city.  Have you found that to be true?

Yes.  I got my internship at the Public because I didn’t send my resume into the general internship box.  Here’s the story:  I was working on a group project and two of my classmates were connected to Wave Hill (another CIG):  One was a press assistant and another was a full-time curator there who left to come to TC.   The Wave Hill HR manager was Liz Sharp, who I knew to be the HR manager at the Public.   I went to my classmate Leigh (who was the Wave Hill curator) and asked her if she knew Liz Sharp.  She did, and she wrote a really beautiful email introduction.  And that was it.  It was through the program.  If I didn’t know Leigh, I wouldn’t have been directly introduced to Liz.

You’ve had a lot of experience.  How far are you from getting into the door of the Department of Cultural Affairs?

I might never end up getting there because it is such a roll of the dice.  Kate Levin, who is the current Commissioner of Cultural Affairs was teaching Shakespeare.  Mayor Bloomberg heard her speak and had her come over.

I’m also interested in the funding and granting world but philanthropy is extremely difficult to get into.  They have the money and it’s a comfortable job; you don’t have to worry about your paycheck, and you get to give away hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars.  I’d love to end up there because I think these are really the people who are ultimately the tastemakers in this country.  Who gets the money and to what extent can really affect how much you can do.  I think we’re at a turning point where we have so many amazing political and avant-garde things happening right now in the arts.  I think grantors and funders are in such a unique position.

How is your research going?

I’m in the early stages of thinking about my thesis.  I want my question to ask:  Can the idea of human capital in a for-profit company be applied to non-profits?  When a company is valued in the stock market at a percentage that is higher than the value of their physical assets, the difference is their human capital.  It’s the ethereal things that can’t be measured.

In the granting world right now there is a lot of move to invest in managerial and staff training and infrastructure instead of program funding.  There’s a lot of that going on, and they’re finding it to be more successful.  I want to see where the nexus of that is, but this topic hasn’t been written about in the arts, it’s only been written about in the business sector.