I’m delighted to introduce the latest chapter in the Rockstar Series, featuring artist and arts professional Lauren Bierly! Lauren and I were roommates in grad school, but we actually go all the way back to elementary school. In addition to her saint-like patience (evidenced by the fact that she lived with me and we’re still friends), Lauren is a total wonder woman. She’s wildly talented, supportive, and a blast to be around. On top of it all, she’s navigating not one, but two professional pathways in the arts! Get ready to be inspired.
1) Introduce yourself. Who are you? What’s important to you? What does a day in the life look like?
Hey all! I’m Lauren, I’m a multidisciplinary artist and arts professional with a focus on perception [artist] and exhibition management [arts pro]. On a normal day, you’ll find me reading/snoozing on the subway in and out of Brooklyn, rushing through the galleries of the Met Museum to get to a meeting or check on an exhibition, taking a run/walk outside every chance I can get, and catching up with friends. When I can, I aim to squeeze in a few hours in the studio each week to keep those creative juices flowing!
2) You have kind of a fancy job. What is it like to work at one of the most renowned museums in the world and on one of the most talked about exhibits of the year?
Thanks! Yes, I’m the Special Exhibitions and Project Manager to The Costume Institute (CI) at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met). Translation: I manage the workflow of content and oversee all exhibition logistics from research trips through production between the curatorial and support departments for CI’s spring and fall exhibitions—including the design, construction, dressing, exhibition catalogue, outreach, etc. I also manage the CI’s production/installation team, and support year-round side projects in our curatorial, conservation and collections areas. It’s been a pretty amazing ride these past 16 months with an INCREDIBLE team of 30 within the CI department, and 100+ staffers across the museum to make the exhibitions happen. There’s quite literally never a dull day. You’re moving constantly, walking an average of 3.5 miles back and forth across the museum to meetings, having conversations with leaders/experts in their fields of fashion, conservation, design, exhibition construction, museum management, and so on. Each curatorial department is a different neighborhood with unique personalities, talents and celebrations. It’s a little city within the city.
3) You’re also an artist in your own right! What inspires your work? How do you balance your art with your career?
I love to read about advances in neuroscience, and philosophies of space and sociology. I draw inspiration from authors/practitioners/artists like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Juhani Pallasmaa, Oliver Sacks, Frank Lloyd Wright, Sol Lewitt, Spencer Finch, Eva Hesse, Italo Calvino, Michelangelo, and many, many others. My artwork is based in perception; how do you and I experience the same environment/event similarly, differently? I’m also a synaesthete, which means I experience two sensory perceptions at the same time (i.e. reading all letters and numbers, therefore words, as color). I’m very interested in how our senses are connected to our emotions and affected by our environments.
It’s tough balancing two professional lives, so I’m trying to combine them in different ways. For one, scheduling is a huge thing. I make sure to get 10 hours of studio time in each week, whether that’s professional development, applying for grants/residencies/exhibitions, researching/reading, or making work. It’s never perfect, so I’m constantly fine-tuning what works and when. Bottom line is my art practice and exhibition management need to co-exist because they do inform each other. They’re both an ongoing investigation in networks and systems of efficiency, transparency, and communication.
4) Obviously, you have a lot of great things going on. Do you ever get stressed? What do you do to stay centered?
TOTALLY, quite often. I know when I’m about to go through a super stressful install or lots of projects to increase exercise to clear my head and eat well. The first place I feel stress is my gut, so it’s important for me to be mindful of my diet and exercise. To stay centered, I walk and run. Running, especially early morning, helps me organize my day mentally. Walking allows my mind to wander and observe, which is good for my art practice and maintaining exercise on days when it’s tough to get a run in.
5) What advice would you offer to someone who’s trying to pursue their passion?
Be kind to yourself, always celebrate the small feats, and be adventurous. Success is determined by your personal barometer: it is a winding path and is full of unknowns. More importantly, your confidence is strengthened when you embrace unknowns and think of them as possibilities.
6) Where can we see/buy your art?!
You can follow my personal Instagram @lbierly for updates on projects and/or posts about my work at the Met. One of my projects has a separate handle on Instagram @archofmemory. More of my artwork can also be seen at www.laurenbierly.com.
Thanks for sharing a slice of your world with us Lauren!