If members of Keuka’s Class of 2013 are looking for inspiration as they enter the job market, they should check out Stephanie Lange, who was in their shoes just a year ago.
In her time at Keuka, Lange ’12 of Apalachin made quite a mark. While completing a double major in visual and verbal art and organizational communication, Lange helped found and lead an intellectual exploration group known as Tabula Rasa, worked as the graphic designer for the student newspaper, and completed a bronze sculpture installation of a red-tailed hawk as her senior art project.
Now she’s venturing into new ground in the arts, and landed what she calls her “dream job.”
In late January, Lange started work as the program coordinator for the Schweinfurth Arts Center in Auburn. She is now directing a two-week annual conference, “Quilting by the Lake,” for the non-profit in addition to helping promote the Arts Center’s five annual exhibits, communicating with corporate sponsors, and producing and designing the center’s newsletters and other marketing materials.
The annual quilt show convention, held each July on the campus of Onondaga Community College near Syracuse, features more than 30 quilting-related classes and lectures, a quilt show and specialty vendors. According to Lange, while traditional quilting styles and methods are featured, there is a focus on modern quilting techniques involving painting on the fabric and elements of geometry, all of which creates an artistic quality.
“It’s not like something my grandma does,” Lange said. “The precision required for quilting is difficult to master.”
Like others, Lange had been forewarned to expect great challenge finding a salaried, full-time position in the arts field and said that awareness had her raving to her family that this opportunity was amazing. Not only does she help stage exhibits – some in the same measurements she learned as a student assisting with shows in Keuka’s Lightner Gallery – but she can participate in art classes hosted by the Center, as well as meet artists and local residents through Schweinfurth’s special events.
The spring exhibit, “Made in New York,” featured one artist she had met during her time at Keuka. That exhibit is about to close and installation and re-set of the gallery will begin on a new one, “Innovators and Legends: Generations in Textiles and Fibers,” a traveling exhibit from the Muskegon Museum of Art. In the fall, Schweinfurth will again host its own exhibit: “Fertile Imagination: Art and Agriculture.”
“It’s really full-circle. I get to do a lot of things and it’s really exciting,” Lange said. “I enjoy going to work. I’ve been thrown into this job and it’s really great that I can learn by doing. They say ‘Figure it out—just learn it, just do it.’ The job exercises my mind in many different ways that I enjoy. I’m really happy.”
However, since there are so few jobs in the arts, one has to be flexible, willing to relocate and humble in understanding “you won’t be making $100,000,” she added.
While Lange had been working in a graphic design position closer to her hometown, spending eight hours a day in front of a computer was a not a good fit for her, she said. Then in December, classmate and friend Kelsey Marquart ’12, an Auburn resident, sent Lange a Facebook message that if she was willing to relocate, a job Marquart thought could be “perfect” for her had opened up at Schweinfurth Arts Center.
While Marquart’s lead “definitely got me to the door, my experience and resume and references was what got me through it,” Lange said, describing how her first internship at her aunt’s quilt shop proved relevant to her new position.
“I worked my butt off in college making sure I had good quality Field Periods.” Lange said, using Keuka’s moniker for the 140-hour internship or exploratory experience each undergraduate student conducts each year.
Thanks to Field Period, Lange now has different resumes tailored to showcase the variety of skills gained through each one and a physical portfolio that showcases the breadth of experience she built – all of which means an interview can include discussion on the experiences that couldn’t fit on her resume.
While most of Lange’s time is devoted to coordinating the annual quilting convention, she’s discovered that work at a non-profit also means lots of pitching in across multiple areas, including the Arts Center gift shop or even setting up refreshments for the Center’s First Friday events where musicians play in the background while guests may tour an exhibit or learn a new skill from a workshop leader. It can also include coordinating daytime art “camps” for children, such as the one she helped organize and facilitate with daily, three-hour classes during the February school break.
“I’ve met so many different people via activities. I got to know our board members well and got to talk about art. I’ve been working with a few artists that I worked with at Keuka. I’m able to be in contact with a few local artists I met in Penn Yan. It’s neat pulling it all together and getting to know what people are up to,” Lange said. “My coworkers are all recent grads in our early 20s – we’re all in that same excited, enthusiastic “art geek” stage where we discuss what makes art “art” and you’re able to enjoy that whole thing. It’s really neat.”
Lange also wants to look beyond the borders of Auburn and give back to her alma mater by brainstorming with Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art, on how Schweinfurth could build a partner relationship with Keuka College.
Now that Lange has been in her position almost five months, she is finding more room to stretch her professional wings. After observing a number of juried shows, she’ll serve as a juror herself, come June, for the Keuka Arts Festival in Penn Yan. Lange completed her senior practicum with the Arts Fest last year and said she’s excited to return as a full-fledged juror.
“It‘s been a whirlwhind, but it’s been fantastic,” she said. “I love my job. It’s a great setting. There’s always something going on and I’m never bored, because it’s always something different.”