Associate gallery managers learn by doing


Just a year ago, Adriana Alexatos '12 of Glen Cove, Long Island, N.Y., would not have imagined that she could have a successful career in arts administration. But now, after having managed an art gallery in downtown North Adams over the summer, that's exactly what she plans to do.

Through MCLA's Associate Gallery Manager Program, Alexatos (pictured left) - who earned her bachelor's degree in art - managed Gallery 53. The program allows recent graduates and current students in art and arts management to obtain real-world experience as they run a gallery for MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center's DownStreet Art initiative.

"It's a program that really pays off in multiple ways. We have some of our best and our brightest not only running the spaces, but really being thoughtful about how to market them, and how to get people interested and to buy the work," said Jonathan Secor, director of the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC).  

Through the experience, associate gallery managers learn the day-to-day needs of a successful gallery. This includes talking about the artwork to gallery visitors, and marketing and selling the art.

While she will continue to create her own art, Alexatos also plans to work in an art gallery.

"Learning about gallery life in such a small and intimate setting has helped my understanding of arts management greater than a classroom setting," Alexatos said. "It is fulfilling every time I see an individual come in and smile at or learn something from the art. Knowing I helped to present this to them is very rewarding."

Arts management major Cecilia Wright '16 of New Haven, Conn., (pictured right) who managed the Branch Gallery on Holden Street, plans to run her own gallery one day, and curate art exhibits in a space that includes weekend performances.

Starting this fall, she will serve as the assistant manager of MCLA Gallery 51.

"This experience gave me the hands-on training I needed to be a manager," Wright said. "Everyone asks, 'How does someone become an arts manager?' The simple answer is by doing. That is how you learn."

According to Wright, the amount of work and dedication that goes into running a gallery can be accomplished only if one has a passion for the arts. "This experience has made me realize that this is the career field I want to go into. I cannot see myself in any other field."

"I've learned a lot from this summer," said Cassandra Garcia '14 of Rehoboth, Mass., (pictured left) who managed Main Street's Gallery 105.

"The classroom theories behind doing everything are great, but being able to get your hands dirty and actually put the art up, get the gallery ready, fix something you weren't expecting to have to fix, make posters, and much more, is something different - and very gratifying," Garcia said.

This summer, only four associate gallery manager positions were available to undergraduates and alumni due to the slow, but steady, growth of North Adams' economy.

Places to house DownStreet Art's pop-up galleries were in short supply with businesses and galleries like MCLA Gallery 51 and the PRESS Gallery now occupying once-vacant spaces. The BCRC, said Secor, played a major role in this success.

It's one reason why Garcia dreams of working someday with an organization like DownStreet Art: "It's done so much for the community, and is full of amazing people who are great at what they do."