Welcome to DELVE Interviews, a look into the unique paths of artistic and creative individuals. These conversations are a branch of our DELVE Workshops and Networking Events, where we celebrate and discover everyone's unique paths as artistic and creative forces. It's a chance to learn from others, meet new people and see where our worlds overlap.
We're happy to have had the chance to get to know Mollie Flanagan, the Program Coordinator at the New York Art Residency & Studios (NARS) Foundation in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. She received her B.A. in Art History from Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT and her M.A. in Modern Art, Connoisseurship and the History of the Art Market from Christie’s Education in NYC. She has found her calling in herding artists and loves doing it. She can usually be found drinking too much coffee and reading.
Can you describe your path as an arts administrator- from where and when you began, until now?
When I tell people what I do for a living, the most common response is “Are you an artist?” The answer is always the same, “No, but I love working with them.”
I can trace my love of art back to my aunt, who introduced me to museums at a very young age. She also encouraged my enthusiastic, fledgling artistic talent. In college, I was considering majoring in Biology when I took an Art History survey course and fell in love. I would come back after class and force my roommates to listen as I waxed poetic about the lectures and showed them photos of paintings in textbooks. Something had clicked, and I knew that this was what I was supposed to do.
After completing my MA at Christie’s Education in New York, I temporarily worked in the Photographs Department at Christie’s. From there I joined an artist group in Long Island City, Queens called The Space. The Space took under-utilized, donated space and uses it for studios, and also had a gallery in Queens Plaza. After a promotion to Gallery Director, I found a home working directly with artists to promote and build their careers. Simultaneously, I worked with a children’s arts education program and loved introducing kids to art and seeing their amazing creations. In September 2013, I joined the NARS Foundation as their Program Coordinator and have managed to combine all of my interests into one position.
Can you describe a day, or week, in your professional life?
We are a small staff so there’s a lot of multi-tasking involved, and I need to be ready to assist with anything. My title is very accurate: I coordinate and organize the NARS programming, which includes Residency, Studio, Exhibition, and Education. No two days are quite the same, which is what makes it interesting. Right now, I’m working on arranging studio visits for the artists in our Residency Program for April, May, and June and finalizing events for March. I am also curating our March exhibition, and yesterday I went on studio visits with artists to choose work. Next, I will write up the exhibition press release so that marketing can start to promote both the exhibition and our Residency Artists Open Studios. As we prepare for our benefit in April, I will help manage ticketing logistics as well as the silent auction.
What is your favorite project that you've worked on?
It’s not so much a project, but I love when new Residency Artists move in. Our Residency Seasons run every three months, and artists can stay for three or six-month terms. That means that every three months, we get a new mix of artists. I enjoy learning about their practice and their history while trying to figure out the best way to provide them with professional support. I’m also very excited to be curating at NARS for the first time in March. The group exhibition, Through the Vortex, will examine the face and process of transformation.
What's the most valuable lesson you've learned from managing all of your projects?
It will all get done and it will be ok. There is always a lot to do and to manage, and it can be overwhelming, but at the end of the day, it’s all about prioritizing and accepting that some things will need to wait until tomorrow. I think that’s true of every deadline. There’s this huge scramble to finish things off and, somehow, it always comes together.
And finally, where is one of your favorite places to go to be inspired?
It depends on the mood I’m in. Being near the water gives me a sense of peace that can be hard to find in New York, and sometimes that’s all I need. Other times, I go out and see art. I love to go to alternative arts spaces. They are becoming harder to find in NYC as rents go up and artists move, but apartment galleries and small pop-ups can still be found. Usually the art is more experimental, and I enjoy seeing what artists are creating. It reaffirms what I love about what I do.