The Artist Talent Agent
Angie Wojak, MFA '92, encourages art students to network and cultivate relationships with students, faculty, and administrators outside of their school or department. She says the MU alumni she has the most contact with today are people from other departments who she met through friends or at social events.
Angie (Pannell) Wojak, MFA ’92, says the time she spent as a teaching assistant (TA) in the Department of Art while pursuing her MFA helped prepare her for a career helping other artists pursue their careers. Wojak’s first major job after college was as a career services director at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. She now serves as the director of career development at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where she earned her undergraduate degree.
“At Mizzou I was thrown right into being a TA, so we taught our own classes without another teacher,” Wojak says. “I taught drawing my first week of class, and I was so nervous, but it was such a great experience because they gave us that autonomy.” She credits Mizzou art professors Frank Stack, Bill Berry, Daniel Frye, and Larry Kantner for providing the support and guidance that gave her the confidence to succeed.
Another precursor to her current occupation occurred when she realized the university had hired a biology professor who was the son of the printmaker Leonard Baskin.
“We realized this famous printmaker was the father of one of the faculty in the sciences, so we reached out, and he talked to our students about his work. A lot of what I do now is bring in interesting guest speakers, or I create conversations across different departments.”
In fact, later this month, Wojak will moderate a career conversation between feminist and social activist Gloria Steinem and her friend, famed illustrator Barbara Nessim, at the School of Visual Arts theatre. In October, Wojak will give a presentation on animation careers in Kyoto, Japan, and co-host an alumni event in Tokyo before doing some outreach in Taiwan. Wojak encourages art students to network and cultivate relationships with students, faculty, and administrators outside of their school or department. She says the MU alumni she has the most contact with today are people from other departments who she met through friends or at social events.
A Handy Reference
Wojak and Stacy Miller are the authors of Starting Your Career as an Artist: A Guide to Launching a Creative Life. Wojak says for her, the term “artist” encompasses a broad category of creative people.
“Traditionally, when we think of an artist, a lot of us think of painting, or work shown at a gallery, but artists are doing utilizing all sorts of media, and their careers are not what the traditional path used to be,” she says. “The traditional path is studying to get your MFA in some aspect of painting or printmaking or some form of photography and then turning that into a combination of a teaching career and a gallery career. That’s just one of many paths.” For example, Wojak has worked with comic book artists who’ve gone on to work for Marvel Comics and animators who went on to work at Pixar and Industrial Light and Magic.
While at Parsons, Wojak worked with Tim Gunn, who later became famous as a co-host of the television show Project Runway, teaching fashion design students at the school.
Tim Gunn, Rod Berg, Angie Wojak, and Phil Jimenez.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is there are a lot of fashion designers now working in all aspects of the fashion industry and I worked with when they were younger,” she says. “If you think of anyone in the arts, whether they are a painter pursuing a studio practice or a freelance graphic designer or someone working with a big studio like Walt Disney, it’s often challenging when they start their careers because there is not that traditional, linear career path there might be in other fields such as education or business or medicine.”
Wojak says it is easy for creative people in their first year after college to get discouraged because it takes time for a career to unfold, and it may unfold in an unexpected way.
“It’s important for artists to know that just because they studied a certain medium or discipline in the arts, it does not mean they are not being creative if they leave that field and do something else. I started out my career thinking I’d be a painter in the studio, working all day in quiet isolation, and while that would have been fine, this work of helping others connect their passions with work opportunities and enabling creative people to tell their stories has turned out to be so much more interesting and rewarding for me.”
Angie Wojak, Rebecca Sugar, Mike Roth, and Phil Rynda at Comic Con in New York City.