For this Frank Talk we sit down with Catherine Sippin, the Director of Operations Mana Decentralized, a membership-based career development platform designed for artists and art professionals. Prior to joining this new division of Mana Contemporary last year, she worked for Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) to oversee the installation of The Art Collection at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, a state-of-the-art sporting and event venue which features over 200 works of art by 54 artists. She previously was the Assistant Director, among other roles, at Mana Contemporary which she first joined in 2011. Sippin has a degree in Art & Art History from Dickinson College and has studied with Studio Arts College International in Florence, Italy. Please enjoy reading Catherine’s Frank Talk here!
What was your first job in the Arts?
While in college, I worked part time in the summer as a youth arts educator Westport Arts Center (WAC). My first job out of college- I was hired fulltime by WAC as a Visual Arts Coordinator and got to learn from the incredible staff of women there.
What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?
Working for a small not for profit that had such a wide range of programming helped me understand a high-paced environment, with high expectations and small budgets!
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
I have always been an art-lover since I was young and enrolled in as many after-school and summer programs to enhance my artistic skills. While majoring in Studio Art in college, I realized that, ironically, I did not want to pursue a career as an artist, but rather help support other creatives to realize their visions.
What do you do now?
I’m currently the Director of Operations of Mana Decentralized, a new initiative being developed by Mana Contemporary to create career development resources for arts professionals and also a new innovative sales platform for artists.
Where are you from?
What is the arts community like there?
There’s a wonderful arts community in the area where I’m from. I began interning at the Westport Arts Center during the summers between college. The local artists were a very welcoming group, plus it was not far from Paul Newman’s Playhouse. The content coming to Westport, and nearby Aldrich Contemporary Museum, Bruce Museum, Center for Contemporary Printmaking, and Silvermine Guild Arts Center were quite exceptional, and those organizations played a role into growing both my practice as an artist and my professional career.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
Absolutely. I have an incredibly supportive family that have always encouraged me to pursue a career in the arts.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Take risks and opportunities that come your way. You never know where they will lead you to next. Also, never burn bridges. The art world is a small world and having a good relationship with your network could lead to new career opportunities, collaborations or resources that you might need in a jam!
What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
Installing the Art Collection at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. Working for Savannah College of Art & Design alongside the AMB Group and such an incredible roster of artists was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Seeing the Stadium host the Super Bowl this past year was an absolute treat, particularly reconnecting and reminiscing with artists and other colleagues that were part of the project.
What has been a challenge for you?
Not actively creating art. It’s something that I always have a challenge prioritizing.
What is something you do every day at work?
I have always made a daily to do list to help tackle what I need to get done and keep meeting notes there. It’s a great way for me to keep track of the various projects I have going on at the same time.
What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?
There have been too many to count! J
What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?
Good employees are good team members and hold themselves accountable.
A good boss helps encourage their employees, identifies their strengths and seeks opportunities for their growth and development.
What do you think makes a person hirable?
What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace?
Be pro-active. Support your colleagues whether it’s attending their programs or lending a hand if they need help. When it’s your turn it’s always great to have the support of your co-workers!
What are things you can do to proactively boost your CV?
As you have milestones throughout your job, make notes in your CV as you go. It’s always easier to keep track of those metrics or moments rather than trying to look back over a longer period of time. When applying for jobs make sure you keep the language consistent with the particular position you are applying for.
Are there any tips you can give people entering the workforce?
If you’re unsure of the career path you envision for yourself, try to find roles that expose you to a variety of areas.
In your experience, what are things to do and things to avoid during an interview?
What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?
Nari Ward at the New Museum.
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
Ursula von Rydingsvard
It’s 6 – don’t make me eliminate one 🙂