Liz Hopfan, founder of Free Arts NYC


Liz Hopfan

In this week’s Frank Talk we chat with Liz Hopfan, founder and executive director of Free Arts NYC. Liz founded Free Arts NYC as a one-woman organization nearly twenty years ago. Her reason to start Free Arts? I first came to understand the crucial intersection of art-making and mentoring as a volunteer with Free Arts for Abused Children in LA. As an elementary school teacher in the late 90s, I saw opportunities for art education drying up. When I started volunteering at a residential care facility for boys, I was moved by how the children opened up while engaging with the arts and the volunteer mentors. These experiences inspired me to head back east and found Free Arts NYC.” Today, the organization has grown to a full-time staff of a dozen dedicated employees and has developed a family of thousands of active volunteers. In 2017, Free Art’s Teen Art Program tripled the number of participants and today they are on track to continue to grow their Free Arts Day Program to nearly 100 events this year. We wanted to know Liz’s advice on working in the arts.

What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?

Figure out what area of the arts you want to work in. If you are you an artist, do you want to work with collectors, artists, back-end, non-profit… etc. The art world is thread through so many industries you can think outside the box a bit.

What has an employee done that happily surprised you?

Not that anyone should feel pressure to do this, but someone once made me lunch and it was the nicest, most thoughtful surprise!

What makes a person hirable?

Smart, professional, timely follow through, an excellent writer, not too long winded, clear and articulate in the interview.

What is the most frowned upon trait for an employee?

Missing deadlines, and not giving a heads up that they will be late; wasting time trying to figure something out instead of asking for help; office gossip!

What are things a person can do to make them stand out in the workplace?

Speaking up in meetings and making suggestions is a great way. Ask questions, volunteer to do things that may be outside of your area and be friendly with people in other departments other than your own helps you to get to know the entire business.

What does professional mean to you?

Dress professionally, especially when you are going to a meeting or doing something outside of the office. The art world can be a casual place in some companies but in others it is certainly more formal.

Respect the hierarchy of a company – you are just starting out and you have to put in your dues, not everyone is entitled to the same benefits/perks all the time!

Are there any tips you can give people entering the workforce?

Do your homework!  Research a company before you go for an interview, look at their financials, org chart, read recent articles, be able to bring something to the interview that no one else can. It’s great practice to ask questions about office culture and to use your connections to see if you can get some inside info before the interview. Always follow up the interview with a thank you note and let them know you want the job. I think hand written is best, but be prepared to send an email, since in this day and age people expect to hear from you promptly.

Are there any tips you can give for increasing your online presence? Whether with your LinkedIn, Art Frankly or other accounts?

Take advantage of alumni associations!

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