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Kelly Schmader
Business and Entrepreneurship, MAM

business.mam@colum.edu

Kelly Schmader was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina, studied studio art at Oberlin College in Ohio, and lives in Chicago. Inspired by photographer Laurie Simmons, fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez, author Francesca Lia Block, and select drag queens, she uses digital collage, photography, and social media to explore the American pop cultural landscape. She currently lives with her roommate and drag mother, renown Chicago queen Valentine Addams.

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT YOU WERE DOING BEFORE YOU CAME TO COLUMBIA.

After graduating from Oberlin, I moved to Chicago with my best friend and roommate. She and I relocated to Chicago with nothing but the desire to make life work in one of the nation’s largest cities, and over time developed our individual paths. Mine led me to higher education administration at Northwestern University, where I was the program assistant to Political Science before moving internally to be the executive assistant to Northwestern’s first chief marketing officer, Mary Baglivo. Mary came from a position as CEO of the major global advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi. Over the four years I worked with her, we built the office of Global Marketing from the ground up. Also during that time, I worked with Chicago area drag queens to develop and produce the short film Lipstick City, the first fashion drag film of its kind. I found that a fusion of my higher education skills made me an ideal leader in the drag world, and I started looking at Chicago graduate programs in arts management to build a stronger management foundation.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE COLUMBIA FOR YOUR GRADUATE STUDY?

I chose Columbia because I have a deeply rooted history in the Chicago arts since moving here after college. Through my personal relationships in the Chicago drag scene, I met and befriended multiple Columbia graduates, each with their own unique experiences and areas of study at the school. What I found most compelling about their individual histories with Columbia was the fact that they were still in close touch with other graduates, who were their good friends and collaborators. Additionally, I felt that studying at Columbia would provide the skills I need to take the next steps in my career. My specific program, the Masters of Arts Management, has coursework in every arena I’ve felt necessary to learn about during my career as both an artist but also a creative director and facilitator of artistic projects.

TELL US ABOUT A PROJECT YOU’RE WORKING ON THAT YOU’RE EXCITED ABOUT.

Currently I’m orchestrating an ongoing drag self portraiture project where I conceptualize and coordinate a series of images of my drag persona in order to explore what doing drag means to me personally, while also further expounding on the iconography and color palette that I feel is central to my art and drag character.