Marginalia, Graduate Blog

A new job at Lillstreet Arts Center

Ali Porter

Lillstreet Art Center (photo credit: Joe Tighe)

Lillstreet Art Center (photo credit: Joe Tighe)

Some, if not many, of you may have heard of Lillstreet Art Center. It is a wonderful place located on the north side of Chicago that offers art classes, workshops, gallery spaces, community events, and much more. My friend, former AEMM classmate, and all-round crafty person, Sarah West Ervin, is the new Director of Marketing and Communications at Lillstreet. I interviewed this fabulous lady to find out about her, her job, and her cat…Hi Sarah. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I really love chocolate milk. Other, perhaps more substantial, things to know about me:

You can take the girl out of the south, but you can’t take the south out of the girl. I’m from Arkansas, but I’ve been living with my now-husband in Chicago for the past five years. Brian and I met in college, where I studied psychology and art, worked in the theater department sewing costumes, and started, with Brian, a little online shop selling art, craft, and vintage wares. Retro Robot, we called it–we opened shop the same summer Etsy launched. Etsy kinda stole our thunder in the end (understatement, much?), but now I’m a devoted Etsy follower.

I’m a lover of all things craft–from fine or studio craft (ceramics, woodworking, glassblowing, etc) to domestic or hobby crafts (crochet, embroidery, anything involving a glue gun). Making something (semi) beautiful or useful with my hands is so self-affirming, and I’m so inspired by other, more talented folk who can create even more beautiful or useful objects to share with others.

Brian and I also have a blog, Westervin, where we share little nuggets from our daily lives, our interests, and the things we value. There you’ll find food and cocktail recipes from Brian and some handmade shopping roundups, visual inspiration, or musings about American crafts from me. Oh, and we have a cat. Fitzgerald is his name. Being weird is his game.

What do you do at Lillstreet?

I’m the Director of Marketing and Communications at Lillstreet Art Center. I grabbed the reigns about 3 months ago, and I haven’t had time to look back! I’m tackling Lillstreet’s email communications, social media messaging, press & PR communications, event marketing, and a number of other things–all to tell people about the ridiculously awesome things that go down at Lillstreet. It’s silly, really. Lillstreet, with all it’s art classes (in many of the fine craft media I praised above), the gallery and artisan gift shop (so hard not to buy EVERYTHING there), the pie shop in the first floor of the building (must exercise better self control here, to be perfectly candid), all the community events happening at any point, and all the fascinating artists, craftspeople, and generally creative people around me there–it’s just dreamy.

How did you end up working at Lillstreet?

Good question! Well, I first connected with Lillstreet about 18 months ago–it was the start of my second semester at Columbia, around January/February. For the marketing class that semester, we had to work with a real business or organization in Chicago within our various fields of interest to complete a marketing case study. I picked Lillstreet. I happened to know (and love) the Gallery Director there, who I worked with for a year before I started the MAM program at Columbia. I asked her to put me in touch with the Marketing Director, and she kindly obliged. To make a long story just a little shorter, the project went well, I then completed an independent project that summer to execute one of my marketing recommendations with Lillstreet, which also went pretty well, and then this spring when the position opened up, I applied, and I guess I won them over.

What is a typical day like for you?

To be honest, I think it’s too early to say what a “typical” day is like. I’m still trying to find my footing, learning more and more about Lillstreet and the strong community there, and trying new things everyday. It seems, however, that Lillstreet is the type of place where days aren’t “typical.” There are so many creative, energetic, flexible people there that each day is a new adventure. But ask me this question again next year…

Did the AEMM program at Columbia help you find and apply for the job at Lillstreet?

Without the opportunity to create the marketing case study for Lillstreet through the marketing class, I wouldn’t have made the personal connections there, shown them my passion for what Lillstreet does, or demonstrated my administrative and marketing experience. So while I found Lillstreet, nurtured those professional relationships, put in all the work and effort, and applied for the job, being a graduate student in the MAM program did give me the opportunity to do so.

What advice would you give to future or current AEMM students looking to follow in your footsteps?

Stay organized! But also, make the most of it. Graduate school is hard. Sometimes it really sucks. I’m not gonna sugar coat it. But if you’re confident that you’re on the right path, working toward a job or a field that you’re excited about, stick with it. Also, watch that TedTalk about power posing. Seriously.

Founded in 1975, Lillstreet Art Center is a large community of artists and students working side-by-side in a friendly environment which encourages and inspires artistic growth in the individual. Lillstreet Art Center supports the arts through an artist residency program, gallery, studio space, education, and an outreach program. For more information visit: lillstreet.com

A new job at Lillstreet Arts Center

Some, if not many, of you may have heard of Lillstreet Art Center. It is a wonderful place located on the north side of Chicago that offers art classes, workshops, …

Arts, Entertainment & Media Management MAM Ali Porter, alistair.porter@loop.colum.edu
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

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