November 24, 2020 | By Elena Duran | Back to blog

“So, what do you want to do, exactly?”

This big question has haunted me for years. In high school, the easy answer was, “go to college,” then in college, it was, “major in something I like,” but as the years passed and my time in school came to an end, I found this question even harder to answer. I graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor’s Degree in French, and Minors in Art History and Apparel Merchandising – a mixed batch of subjects, to say the least. By the time I graduated, the only answer I had for that big question was, “a lot of things.” I knew I loved French and visual arts, but I struggled with my next step in that field. I did know that I enjoyed retail studies, and I had been working part time in retail throughout college. After I graduated, I was promoted to a full-time position and given my interest in merchandising, I thrived. However, the more I climbed the ladder in retail, the more that big question nagged at the back of my head – and it started to change to, “do you want to be doing this?”

Then back in March, the pandemic shut down the world, including my store. In that great pause, when the way of life changed forever, retail sales was the last thing in the world I cared about. I realized that I was starting to know the answer to this question, at least in part. I wanted to use my creativity and my love of the arts to contribute to and improve the new world we all live in. I want to have a job that I miss during quarantine, not one where I’m relieved to have a break. I want to work for an organization where I’m proud of the contributions that I am making. I applied to the Master of Arts-Business: Arts and Creative Enterprise Leadership (MA ACE) program to become qualified and knowledgeable enough to pursue creative and challenging career paths in the arts sector. Through this return to school, I am learning how to contribute to arts organizations so that they can thrive during, and beyond, the pandemic.

This year, my applied learning placement is with the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. The galleries recently reopened, and the staff was eager to get back to work, welcoming me with open arms. I’ve been assisting the development department with donor relations and grant applications, and learning about fundraising and event planning, especially during the pandemic. I also help the communications department utilize social media to spread awareness and support of MMoCA, and the great programs they put on for the Madison community. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of the various activities that are helping the museum thrive. I can take what I’m learning and apply it to any arts organization I may work for in the future.

I love being a member of the inaugural class of the MA ACE program. I now have a way to find answers to the big question, and I know that I can always change my answer, too! I want to work in the nonprofit sector, I want to engage the community through art, I want to fundraise for organizations whose mission I believe in, I want to help local artists thrive, I want to prop up artists who have been demarginalized in the past. And I will be able to do all of these things as a graduate of the Bolz Center for Arts Administration.