Sara Radin (BA '11) sat down to answer questions about her career, work, and life after Stamps while preparing for the inagural Career Bootcamp.
When you think back to your time at Stamps, what are the top memories that float to the surface?
Three memories come to mind:
1. Staying up all night slaving over a project for TMP. We were asked to create a costume for a character from Alice in Wonderland, completely out of paper products. I made cardboard overalls that were supposed to resemble the disappearing rings of the Cheshire cat.
2. One of my professors offered an optional field trip to Detroit and only three of us signed up. So he drove us (and his dog) around the city in his SUV, showing us gems like the Heidelberg Project, the abandoned Detroit train station, and the Russell Industrial Center where his friends had artist studios.
3. Helping Professor Joe Trumpey build his sustainable property one Saturday. I collected rocks to make his family's fireplace, met his daughters and explored his farm with my art school friend Ellen Rosengard.
These days, you work for WGSN, a “trend forecaster.” First off, that sounds like a really cool job. Can you tell me a bit about what it entails for you day-to-day?
WGSN is an online publication for the fashion and design industries. There, I am an editor focused on trends in art, culture and travel. No day is the same, but some of my recent projects included creating a monthly exhibition calendar for North America, interviewing a fashion designer about her favorite spots around New York, and reporting on emerging cities for 2016. I'm actually sticking around after the Career Bootcamp to report on Detroit, and I'm super excited to explore the city!
You've also done a fair amount of recent freelance writing for publications like Huffington Post and Thought Catalog, crafting editorial features around the themes of navigating your twenties as a creative person and a creative professional. Can you talk about what drives you to communicate these stories to a broad audience?
Up until recently, I struggled to understand what kind of creative person or artist I am. Growing up and even throughout college, I was interested in so many mediums and creative fields. I chose to go to art school because I knew I wanted to do something creative, but while I was there, many of my projects fell flat. Luckily I was able to pursue the BA program and explore some of my interests that way. Then I fell into the fashion industry by chance, and ended up in a role that suited my conceptual strengths. But after a few years in NYC, I grew tired of just being an idea person. It was time to actualize my ideas. I decided to create cultureisland, a space that would allow me to explore things that interested me without limitations. I was lost creatively so I decided to start interviewing my creative friends and ask them about their work, personal journey and inspirations.
In my first job, I had organized company events like craft hours, field trips, and an exhibition program that gave my coworkers a chance to show their art around the office. Over time, I missed that tangible, in-person experience, so I began orchestrating events around NYC, collaborating with many of the people I had interviewed. It's been a year and a half since I started my passion project. Now I've interviewed over 30 people and organized 11 events in New York and one in Los Angeles.
Last summer I decided to share this challenging yet positive experience through publishing my story. I slaved over my first article for weeks, had countless people read and edit it, then I submitted it to a bunch of publications. To my surprise, Huffington Post and Thought Catalog picked it up! Since then, sharing my journey and learnings has become a huge part of my artistic process and identity. cultureisland helped me realize I could touch all of those mediums that had always interested me through being a writer, a curator, and a collaborator.
Now, I'm finally building the creative, fulfilling life I always wanted.
In your writing, you encourage readers to embrace a "passion project" (yours being cultureisland). If I had to communicate this project to a general audience, I'd say it is a digital space where you document your creative process, publish interviews with creative people you admire, and a brand in which you orchestrate live creative happenings in NYC and beyond. Is that accurate or am I missing a critical bit of nuance?
cultureisland began as a passion project but has come to represent me as a creative person. cultureisland is simply me as an artist. I don't put pressure on myself to definite or limit it and I'm allowing it to grow organically. It's constantly evolving but right now the focus is on interviewing all kinds of creative people and orchestrating collaborative events. In the future, I hope to expand on the kind of creative projects I do. For example, I would love to make films and publish some of my own writing in book form. Currently, I'm working on a collection of poems and a friend is helping me illustrate them. In the far off future, I hope to open my own space someday. Every day, I'm learning to take myself more seriously as an artist and seek opportunities that speak to my strengths.
When you write about cultureisland, you state that the project has taught you how to pitch an idea that you truly believe in, to be fearless in your pursuit of connecting with people you admire, and to be direct in asking for what you want/chasing ideas that matter to you. I'm curious to know if those were your goals going into the project or if you had something else in mind. Are the outcomes of cultureisland surprising to you?
I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started cultureisland. All I knew was that I wanted to make ideas realities. I didn't have any goals other than that, but the project has changed my life for the better in so many unexpected ways. In New York, it's easy to feel lost and alone but through cultureisland, I'm forging my own path and creative community. I've had amazing experiences and met new people who have become collaborators and close friends. I've grown a lot and learned huge lessons. Overall, I am much more confident and positive because of this project. I'm totally blown away by the outcomes and I now feel truly happy and fulfilled. My hard work is paying off and I'm really excited to see the project growing!
How does your undergraduate experience at Stamps inform your work, your methodologies, your philosophy, and/or your skills?
I really valued the sense of community at Stamps and the larger university. That desire for community has stuck with me throughout my career and creative adult life.
Luckily, I have found employment at companies that also value collaboration and community. In NYC, I am on the junior board of a non-profit, ProjectArt, which has also helped me feel part of a community.
Another big lesson I learned at Stamps was to take initiative and seek opportunities for myself, not wait for them to come to me. Going to a big school also taught me how to take advantage of its various resources. Senior year, I visited the career center multiple times a week so different people could edit my résumé. I slaved over that thing! When I was interviewing for my first job, I wasn't the most qualified candidate but the hiring manager said I had one of the best résumés he had ever seen. My résumé helped land me a dream job, true story!
What do you wish Stamps did a better job of when it came to preparing you for a career?
I wish the school started educating its students on how to turn an art degree into a successful career from day one. Stamps has an incredible alumni network it could be better utilizing. Hopefully we can help strengthen the connection between Stamps and the professional world through the Career Bootcamp program and get the dialogue going.
Generally speaking, what traits do you wish you saw more of in creative professionals?
I wish more creative professionals were open to collaboration.
If you could go back in time and give any words of wisdom to your 18 year old self, what would you say?
I would tell myself to be less afraid of failure and to be more fearless.