To hear sculptor and Joanna Blake, ’99, describe her career path since leaving Auburn, she might chalk her success up to luck; but it has long been said, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
Blake presented “Doing the Work of Public Sculpture” as a part of the anniversary exhibition focus on sculpture. With photographs and personal accounts, she shared process and preliminary design steps from her projects—from collaborative works on the Auburn campus to the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.
“I studied painting at Auburn and came to sculpture in an almost accidental way,” she said. Associate professor Gary Wagoner, chair of the Art department, had seen Blake’s work in a clay construction class. “The objective was to create a jug, and I decided to do something in the tradition of a face jug,” she said. “I made the piece as a portrait of a classmate. It really looked like him.” From that, Blake said that Wagoner recruited her to work with him on clay projects after she graduated.
That connection gave way to another networking opportunity, Gianetti Studio, an ornamental plaster company in Maryland. Blake began working there once she and her husband, also an Auburn grad, relocated to the DC-metro area. Blake said that Gianetti Studio happened to lease space next to Raymond Kaskey, who at the time had been awarded the commission for the National World War II Memorial. “He had seen the work that I was doing with Gianetti Studios, and when he was assembling his atelier, he asked me to join him and come sculpt with him.”
Blake explained for each public sculpture project she was hired for, she used a variety of skills beyond sculpting techniques, like:
- Researching American history, Greek mythology, and science
- Using spatial relations to determine scale of an outdoor work
- Storyboarding and storytelling
- Managing client expectations
- Recruiting models—sometimes strangers, sometimes her own friends and family
“But I’m not a sculptor,” you say. According to Auburn’s Career Center, here are five attributes employers look for in candidates. You can add them to your resume, too, when you discover your museum.
- Problem solving skills – One solution doesn’t necessarily fit all, even in art.
- Analytical skills – Art history and art appreciation provides lessons of visual analytics.
- Communication skills – Artists express themselves through their work. What’s your take?
- Interpersonal skills – learn to deal with others through exposure to range of ideas.
- Creativity – It’s not called the “creative economy” for nothing. Innovation leads to new business ideas and products.
You can hear professional advice from artists, filmmakers, and scholars at upcoming outreach programs. Art Changes Lives!