Nick Naber – Artist and Archivist at Van Doren Waxter


Nick Naber

We are excited to share this week’s Frank Talk with Nick Naber! Nick is a working artist with a day job as an archivist at Van Doren Waxter. Nick went to undergrad at UW-Milwaukee, and graduate school at Pratt Institute. Nick has worked in galleries since 2010. He started out as an assistant for a large-scale Pat Steir installation, which lead to him working as a gallery intern, as a front desk person, and now an archivist. Nick is also the Co-Founder and East Coast Editor of The Coastal Post. We are delighted to share Nick’s insight into working in the arts with you here – and, please go check out Nick’s exhibition at Trestle Gallery in New York City – it’s on view until the end of August! 

What was your first job in the Arts?

My first job in the arts was during grad school. I helped with an installation at Sue Scott Gallery for Pat Steir. It was a two-week project where we painted the walls for her work “The Nearly Endless Line.” That project ended up turning into a gallery internship at Sue Scott Gallery.

What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?

There were a lot of skills that I learned at Sue’s. I think one of the most important ones was a pretty basic one, which was how to handle, pack, and install art work. It was a great lesson for me as a young working artist. I also learned a lot of gallery administration functions that have helped me out down the line.

Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?

As I said earlier, I am a working artist. It made sense for me to pursue a position that aligned with that. I guess I never really thought about any other jobs outside the art world to be completely honest.

What do you do now?

I currently work at Van Doren Waxter as the Archivist.

Where are you from?

I’m from Wisconsin originally, a little town south west of Milwaukee called Eagle.

What is the arts community like there?

I went to undergrad in Milwaukee, ten years ago. The scene was at the time very DIY and fun. There was a lot of emerging artists and community-based programs happening. It was and still is, a rich and diverse scene.

Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?

Of course, I’ve always been interested in research-based activities. That interest goes hand in hand with being an archivist at an art gallery.

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

Be diligent, I’ve found it to be one of the most important things.

What is something you do every day at work?

Every day I am updating and changing something on the gallery website. The gallery works with both living artists and foundations and estates. There is always something happening.

What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?

We had to do a photo shoot of many works for a big retrospective for one of the gallery’s estates. The only place that could accommodate the numerous large-scale works was a bible camp. We shot about 40 works in the bible camp’s rec center.

What do you think makes a person hirable?

They have to have the skills, but more importantly they have to be a good fit with the team. This is paramount in hiring someone, you want somebody who will compliment the group you have now, but also someone who has their own voice and brings new ideas and experiences to the job to help make the team grow.

What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace?

You have to be willing to go above and beyond. I work in a small gallery, sometimes I help move paintings, help install, or even take out the trash. You have to be flexible, and not a prima donna.

What are things you can do proactively boost your CV?

Keep learning, see what else can be done where you work. Help out co-workers and learn new skills. Take classes, go to lectures, be proactive by going and doing things that interest you and in turn can help add to your experiences on your CV.

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

Show up and do a good job. Learn from your colleagues, be inquisitive and be as helpful as you can.

What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?

‘Art of Native America,’ at the MET

If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?

Kelly McCafferty, Edmund Caputo, Ryan Turley, Natalie Baxter, Ken Price (drawing)


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