Q&A with Alum: David Strand

Posted by Bess Butterworth, ARTS at SeattleU. Marketing Assistant on Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 10:55 AM PST

January 12th, 2016
It is a typical rainy January afternoon and I have just sat down with one of Seattle U’s well known alums. David Strand, who sits across from me in the café, was recently promoted to Manager of Exhibitions and Publications at The Frye Museum on Capitol Hill where he has worked since his graduation from Seattle University last spring with a double major in Visual art and Creative Writing. He has taken time out of his busy day to fill me in on what he has been doing since graduation.

BB: What opportunities offered at Seattle U did you take advantage of while you were there? Did these opportunities lead you to where you are now?

DS: They did actually, in a very direct way. From my sophomore through senior year, I was involved in the Seattle U Gallery Guide Program at the Frye. It opened up a wider awareness of the Seattle arts community and the world of museums. When I was applying for a position in the curatorial department at the Frye my senior year, I believe my familiarity with the Frye staff, the history of the Museum and its collections was an asset. They could put a face to the name and that helped me get through the door.

BB: When you initially enrolled in classes at SU did you know you wanted to go into the museum field?

DS: I did not. I came in as an Art History major my freshmen year. I knew I was interested in art and literature and I ended up switching my majors to Creative Writing and Visual Art during my sophomore year. But even then I really wasn’t sure how my majors would translate into a job after school, and to be honest, I didn’t expect them to. Since I wasn’t interested in becoming a starving artist, I sought arts internships and opportunities to gain more experience outside the classroom. Some were through SU, like working at the Hedreen Gallery or doing the Artist Assistantship program, and some were not, like interning for Gage Academy of Art and for Black Box 2.0 (an international art, film, and technology festival), and writing for Vanguard Seattle.

BB: Now that you have a job are you still doing creative work?

DS: Unfortunately I have not been making much work since graduation. That has been hard. I would like to, but switching to a full-time job has demanded a lot. Also what’s tricky is going from having access to studio space like I had through SU to only having an apartment with carpets and cats to make work, which is not ideal for obvious reasons. Also I am very interested in the organizational aspects of art, and the creation of it. I have done a few studio visits with artists and some small arts writing gigs since graduation. I also curated an exhibition of five Seattle artists down in Portland with Emma McKee, another SU alum, which I guess could fall under the umbrella of “creative work.” I like to do a little bit of everything, so we will see what happens, but I would like to make more art as well. You have time if you make time, and I need to carve out time for making art.

BB: What was your medium specifically as far as visual arts goes? What themes did you explore through your art?

DS: My background is in drawing, though I shifted more towards painting by the end of college. I became really interested in Queer Theory my senior year and tried to incorporate elements of what I was reading and listening to into my work. The modern and contemporary art history classes I was taking also influenced what I was making. Work from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, artists like Eva Hesse, Donald Judd, and Robert Rauschenberg became major points of inspiration.

BB: In your personal life do you show up at the arts?

DS: Yes, but I want to show up more. The second half of my senior year I was going to First Thursday every month, I was writing about exhibitions, I was taking to artists. I was really into it. However, once I graduated, I had to check out for a while. I was really burnt out. Now that I have had some time to adjust to life after college, I am beginning to go to more events, especially ones that don’t traditionally fall under the visual art category, like going to performances at On the Boards.

BB: Is there one Seattle arts organization who you follow religiously? No questions asked, you will be there.

DS: I would say that for me right now that would be The New Foundation. They are a philanthropic arts organization down in Pioneer Square, founded by Shari Behnke, and led by Yoko Ott and Jessica Powers. They have an exhibition space as well as a really wonderful reading room/library, which is a great resource full of arts periodicals and journals. I love the programming that they do so whenever they have something going on, I’m there.

BB: What are your future plans?

DS: Probably graduate school, but not right away. I need to narrow down what I would study. I just graduated and while I miss school in some ways, I don’t want to go back until I have a better sense of what I want to do. So in order to figure that out I want to do more projects; curate exhibitions, write, and make work.

BB: If you could go back and tell your freshman self-something what would you say to yourself?

DS: I don’t know if that would be helpful, which might sound strange. I guess I would tell myself to get out into the arts community, and take more risks creatively, but I don’t really like playing the “what-if” game with my past self. It’s cheesy, but all the mistakes I made my freshmen year (which were many) helped lead me to where I am now.

BB: Is there any advice you would like to give Seattle U students?

DS: College is a bubble, and after four years it pops. You want to be building a bridge while you are still in school. So get involved and network, both on and off campus. You have to do both. Join a club or start your own. Put on your own exhibition, even if it’s just in your dorm room. Get involved with SCRATCH, which is an awesome event. Go to the drag show. Get to know your professors, many of them are amazing artists and scholars in their own right and well-connected so ask them questions. Equally crucial is getting involved with the arts off campus. At SU you are in the middle of Capitol Hill, the city’s first arts district. There is so much going on just blocks away from you. Go see shows, do an open-mic, attend a workshop, volunteer for an organization you like, the list goes on…

BB: At ARTS at SeattleU we have been asking our community “How do you make art your place”

DS: Art is a lot things and notoriously hard to define, which is probably my favorite thing about it. It’s inexhaustible so take advantage of that. You can speak about it without having to explain it, but the best thing is always to simply do it.