Ready for the Real World
Recent graduate Hannah Antalek 13 PT is pleased to be using her education and experience to piece together a career in New York’s art world, juggling work as a studio manager, a production assistant and an intern at Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery (co-founded by fellow RISD grads Rob Hult 01 PT and Sam Wilson 01 PR). She’s finding that the wide range of experience she garnered as a Painting major – installation work, sculpture, video – is serving her well in the real world. “It has been great to have a fluid, nontraditional background,” she says – “not to be boxed into a single medium.”
Antalek admits that the greatest surprise when she first got to RISD was finding the strong sense of community on campus and how important that is to the learning process. “I was expecting intense but more independent learning,” she recalls. “I was amazed by how people band together. Students are competitive with themselves, but not with others. It’s hard to judge yourself against others, particularly during Foundation year, because people are going in so many different directions.”
Antalek considers her decision to pursue a concentration in the History of Art and Visual Culture (HAVC) one of her wisest moves. With her focus on contemporary art, the concentration afforded her a fellowship in the Contemporary Art department at the RISD Museum. “Getting to work under [recently retired Curator of Contemporary Art] Judith Tannenbaum was probably the best experience I had within the concentration,” she says. “I did research for a post-pop exhibition due to open next spring, and she really looped me into the curatorial process.”
Antalek found her studio work constantly informed by her study of art history. “Having that background was really beneficial when working through a problem in the studio,” she confirms. “It was helpful to draw on movements and works of art I’d read about and then take a deeper look at them.”
The work she’s now hoping to do in New York also ties back to that Museum Fellowship, Antalek says. “I’m now looking for museum work, and I wouldn’t have considered that if I hadn’t had the fellowship. I thought galleries were more the direction I wanted to go in. But I like the pacing of museum work and the rigorous research that goes into museum exhibitions.”
The relationships she built with her professors were equally helpful, Antalek says, recalling specific classes that contributed to her artistic awakening. Assistant Professor Daniel Harkett’s seminar on Modern Exhibition Culture proved to be especially eye-opening and she cites Associate Professor Bolaji Campbell as another huge influence. “He was a great resource,” she says. “I’ve always been interested in African art and really appreciated being able to study African masquerade rituals with Professor Campbell.”
Now that she has graduated, how would Antalek describe the overall impact of studying at RISD? “It’s hard not to be changed by RISD,” she says. “It’s such an intense period of creation and hard work. And that work ethic is something that will be lasting. You really need to be self-driven and committed to what you’re doing to go to RISD and to pursue life as an artist afterwards.”
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