We are ecstatic to share this week’s Frank Talk with Ellie Hayworth! Ellie is a Cuban-American entrepreneur and the founder of Hayworth, an independent PR and communications consultancy committed to promoting intrepid ideas in art and design. Ellie’s passion lies in galvanizing a community of curious culture-seekers around exhibitions, events, programs, and panels that both reference and unpack contemporary social phenomena — in the arts and well beyond.
Hayworth spearheads comprehensive marketing campaigns for clients such as SUITE NY, Suzy Kellems Dominik, Sidel & McElwreath, and Pintô International, among others. In past roles, she oversaw communications for clients such as the Aspen Art Museum, Frieze Art Fairs, 21c Museum Hotels, The Brant Foundation, New York Botanical Garden, kurimanzutto new york, and the Andrea Rosen Gallery, among others. Ellie has held positions with Third Eye, Resnicow and Associates, Lehmann Maupin Gallery, Marianne Boesky Gallery, Vogue, and the NEWD Art Fair in Bushwick, Brooklyn. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and Art History at Vanderbilt University and a Masters of Art Business from Sotheby’s Institute. Please enjoy reading Ellie’s art world insight below!
What was your first job in the Arts?
Beyond internships with galleries such as Marianne Boesky and Lehmann Maupin and a summer spent working in the Director’s Office and Marketing Department at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum when I was an undergraduate, my first job in the arts was with Third Eye, a dynamic PR agency specializing in contemporary art.
What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?
I learned foremost about sustaining strong relationships with my clients, the art of troubleshooting, and the value in trusting one’s instincts. My experience at Third Eye also reinforced in me that tenacity and hard work go hand in hand and that if you hit a dead end, the best thing you can do is to pivot and redirect.
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
I was raised with a teeming curiosity for visual arts and culture and a desire to foster connections between like-minded individuals and companies. I’ve always had a proclivity for communications — public speaking, writing, literature, poetry, and rhetorical studies — but it was not until my undergraduate years where I took my first art history course that I realized what a compelling discipline art was for me. I was particularly drawn to the way in which art, and its market, is quite reflective of the wider sociopolitical environment and yet provides a unique and distinct forum within which individuals can debate and push the envelope on salient social issues. I proceeded to graduate from Vanderbilt early with a double major in communications and art history, and immediately pursued a Master’s in Art Business at Sotheby’s Institute as a way to further my understanding of the mechanics of the art market.
What do you do now?
I helm an independent PR and communications consultancy at the intersection of art and design. Our clients represent a diverse group of artists, creatives, and companies who bear in common a passion for innovation and for pioneering intrepid ideas in their respective industries.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Miami, Florida.
What is the arts community like there?
Vibrant. Miami harbors a distinctly international energy and is a very young and spirited city. My family is Cuban American and, as such, I always held a deep respect for music, the performing arts, food, and visual art. I grew up alongside the Miami art world as we know it today. The American Airlines Arena had just transformed Bay Side, the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center broke ground during my childhood, Art Basel Miami Beach became an annual tradition for both my family and my high school arts courses, and museums like the PAMM and the wealth of private museums all came to fruition during those formative years in South Florida.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
It has certainly fostered in me a particularly egalitarian approach to the arts. My definition of “art” can be quite broad and encompassing — the culinary arts, architecture, fashion, music, design, performance, and visual arts are all among the wider ecosystem of “the arts” that was fostered by the global community in Miami. Taken as a whole this synergy is what makes for an exciting and flourishing culture and informs the way I approach strategic partnerships and collaborative programming that also underscores what sets Hayworth apart from our competitors.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Do not be discouraged by the apparent rigidity or barriers to entry of the market. The art world is notoriously opaque and insular but with a little creativity, genuine curiosity, and expressed enthusiasm you’ll find that likeminded professionals are very willing to impart valuable insights. I’ve never allowed myself to be discouraged in my career; I’ve learned to leverage challenges as motivation to continue expanding my professional network, requesting informational meetings, and honing my eye and my tongue so that I always feel comfortable in whatever setting I’m thrust. These, for me, have been the most valuable steps to growth in my career.
What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
I consider launching my company to be my stand-out accomplishment to date. I’m incredibly fortunate to have partnered with an impressive roster of clients in the art and design sector — some at an early start-up stage and others at a later stage of maturity. I’ve been equally energized by the prospect of developing and implementing communications strategies for young, new organizations as well as supporting the ongoing success of stalwart organizations, some of which have been in business for decades. The reality that my company — just shy of 2 years old — is truly beginning to distinguish itself within its niche has hands-down been the most rewarding aspect of my career to date.
What has been a challenge for you?
The biggest challenge I’ve confronted has been striking a healthy work-life balance. I’ve been blessed by the opportunity to build a career around art, a passion of mine since childhood. That said, successful PR necessitates expertise in cultural trends, market news, and familiarity with evolving media strategies which means that down-time is limited, events and programs are aplenty, and timely knowledge of current events is key. Further, with the integration of digital marketing such a social media, email, and text into every facet of contemporary life, setting boundaries surrounding “business hours” versus “personal hours” can be challenging.
What is something you do every day at work?
Follow up. This is paramount for a successful PR campaign. I’ve learned that the key to management of any project, regardless of its scope or scale, is taking charge and driving initiatives forward.
What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?
A good employee is a critical thinker, an individual who is both eager to learn and generous of spirit. Being proactive, strategic, and making efforts to work smart, not necessarily just hard, are all critical skills that contribute towards efficient and successful work. I also believe that a mature level of professionalism both in written and interpersonal communications is paramount. As a boss, I value above all else an honest and open feedback loop. It isn’t surprising that as a communications professional I strive every day to ask questions that ensure my team has all the resources they need to complete a task at hand and that they feel empowered to put forth their own creativity and ideas in the work they do. In complement, strong, active listening skills are key for a boss to both internalize client goals and objectives but also to communicate those goals into the work at hand.
What do you think makes a person hirable?
I believe hiring is foremost about identifying team members whose personal and professional goals align with the company (and its clients’) goals and objectives. For me, an individual is distinguished as “hirable” if they reinforce the company culture and vision. This is why I place such a high value on how candidates carry themselves in the interview process, how informed they are about the company and its clients, and also how appropriately they articulate the value they’d add to the team.
What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace?
At the risk of redundancy, open and honest communications is key. Speak with your supervisors about the exhibitions they’re experiencing, what they found most compelling or challenging about a project, why it is that they approach a certain strategy or challenge in the way they do. Ask informed questions, do the research to contribute in group brainstorming sessions, volunteer to represent the company at cultural events and programs that align with the work you do. This curiosity paired with hard work and enthusiasm is incredibly refreshing in today’s workplace.
What are things you can do to proactively boost your CV?
I’m a big proponent of continued education — I do my best to attend as many panel discussions, workshops, business conferences, and workshops as feasible. The skills cultivated through these activities contribute to the soft-skills outlined in a CV but also a true understanding of the market. Further, I encourage my mentees and associates to consider certification courses that bolster their existing skill-set with transferrable skills such as digital marketing, social media marketing, and graphic design. Companies such as General Assembly, the Flatiron School, and non-profits such as Changemaker Chats offer quality programming for a relatively low-cost and a limited time commitment. Further, universities and institutes such as the Sotheby’s Institute (of which I’m an alumna) offer online, summer, and part-time accreditation courses specific to the art world that lend incredible expertise and refresh your understanding of the art world and the mechanics that sustain it.
Are there any tips you can give people entering the workforce?
Put your best foot forward the first time. I recognize that trends are evolving and that hiring managers’ time is limited, but there is nothing more refreshing than a well-worded cover letter tailored specifically to the company you wish to join. I also encourage young talent to brand themselves. Your CV can be more compelling than a black and white document in 12-pt Times New Roman. Think about what brands, artists, and galleries are compelling to you — what marketing and branding strategies distinguish them for you? Apply those same skills towards your own brand.
In your experience, what are things to do and things to avoid during an interview?
Avoid vaguery and ask questions. Be curious about the role, about your career track, and about your hiring managers’ experience with the company. You’re interviewing the company as much as they’re interviewing you. That said, be humble, come prepared, and be respectful of feedback.
What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?
Gertrude Abercrombie at KARMA. There is something so entirely compelling about the intimate size of some of her most special paintings and yet how profound — almost mystic — the compositions are. Further, she is an artist whose visual art spoke to a wider interpretation of “the arts” by alluding to the vibrant jazz scene with which she was affiliated. It was a pleasure to see so many works on loan from private collections, piecing together a cohesive presentation of this incredible female surrealist.
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
My fantasy art wish list includes: a found-image collage by Carmen Winant, a work on paper by the late Eva Hesse, a video by artists Ryan Trecartin & Lizzie Fitch (and, in a perfect world, one of their sculptural theater build-outs), a photograph by Deanna Lawson, and a collage by Cuban artist, Augustín Fernández.