MCLA

Filling in the gaps

09/08/2010

As a part of her B-HIP internship in the summer of 2009, Julia Dixon worked as the coordinator of DownStreet Art. The experience proved to be exactly what she needed: She now serves as acting director of the Storefront Artists Project in Pittsfield, Mass.

Dixon came to B-HIP with a plethora of experience, but still lacked some knowledge and experience to do what she wanted to do with her career. In 2005, she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Purchase College, part of New York's state university system. After graduating, she remained in Westchester County for four years, working there and in New York City, as an artist's assistant to four professional artists.

"It was amazing," Dixon said. "I learned how to prepare taxes and shoot photographs, how to catalog and stretch paintings and communicate with galleries. That was my entry into arts management."

In late 2006, she secured a position at the Westchester Arts Council, working part time as a gallery assistant.

"That turned into a full-time exhibition coordinator position," she explained. "It was a great job. I was curating and I was managing exhibitions in this huge, beautiful space that got a lot of traffic. I decided I wanted to keep pursuing arts management, but I didn't want to get a master's degree. I knew I needed to learn other aspects of the industry, including development, fund raising and board structure.

Then, she found B-HIP.

"It seemed to be the perfect way to fill in the gaps that I didn't learn on my own. That's what it did. It was the perfect thing for me to do. I studied intensively all summer last summer and this new experience put me in a position to run an arts program or organization."

From there, she went to the Ferrin Gallery, where she served as the gallery's manager. Then, this past summer, she made the move to direct the Storefront Artists Project.

At the Storefront Artists Project, Dixon leads the organization in bringing artists and art-making to underserved and diverse members of the community by presenting innovative art exhibitions and installations, many times in non-traditional studio space, such as empty storefronts and other vacant commercial spaces.

"I manage our programs, including exhibitions right here on Fenn Street. I organize fund raisers, write grants, hire interns and place artists in storefronts around Pittsfield. So I do a little bit of everything," she said.

Dixon says that participating in B-HIP turned out to be a major turning point in her career.

"Before B-HIP, I got a taste of doing this kind of work, but it was all learn as you go. Then I came up here and it was fine-tuning all of these skills I had. I just absorbed everything I was learning. It was an amazing experience. It changed and enhanced my interest in this field and made me want to stay in this county," she explained.

"I had  hands-on experiences at Tanglewood, Jacob's Pillow, Shakespeare and Company, Ferrin Gallery and at the Berkshire Museum. B-HIP opened up the internal structure of these organizations to us, which was incredible. And, it enabled me to be doing what I'm doing now."

For more information, go to www.mcla.edu/b-hip or www.storefrontartist.org .