Her mom is an artist, her dad is a musician, her best friend is an art therapist, and her husband is a writer. With a family like this, Melody Kadlub-Barr (MFA ’14) had no choice but to love art and she discovered a passion for fashion growing up in Cleveland, Ohio. While receiving a Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising from Kent State University, Melody worked as a buyer for the on-campus museum store. She always planned to work in the fashion industry in Manhattan after graduating. When 9/11 happened her senior year, Melody was forced to reassess her life’s path. After some deliberation she realized the importance of travel and being around nature, so she decided the Pacific Northwest would better support her lifestyle. Looking back on it, Melody feels that moving to Seattle in 2003 was “definitely the right choice.”
After making that move, she started working at Seattle University as a book buyer, which is how she learned about the MFA Arts Leadership program. She was won over by the program’s robust faculty who were relevant in the field, and the ability to complete the degree in two years, unlike the MBA program. The tuition reimbursement benefit did not hurt either. Melody admitted that the program was extremely challenging to complete while working full-time, but believes if it is something that you really want, it’s well worth the sacrifice.
Reflecting back on the MFA program, Melody felt that the best part was the networking. Both the professors and her peers offered a unique community experience, and that network is one that she knows she can always return to if she needs to bounce ideas off of someone or receive feedback. “All of the classes have a way challenging you, in the right way; you just don’t see it at the time.” Melody is confident that above all other skills acquired in the program, enhancing her critical thinking and writing skills were the most important.
“Spacefinder was just an amazing practicum,” Melody said when asked about her favorite practicum experience. “I love Kevin Hughes; the way he taught. He was a storyteller and the timing of his class aligned with my Spacefinder practicum.” Through her practicum, Melody was able to learn more about Seattle and how to do mapping, which was especially challenging since the city is always changing. When it was time to choose a focus for her Summary Project, Melody decided to use her practicum experience and knowledge from Spacefinder. In 2015, Melody was invited to present her Summary Project research at the Association of Arts Administration Educators (AAAE) Annual Conference. “I never would have had this opportunity if it wasn't for the practicum experience and my summary project.” After graduating, she began a contract position for 4Culture and the Office of Arts & Culture, continuing her work on Spacefinder. Today, Spacefinder Seattle is a database of rental spaces in the region that are available to artists and arts and cultural organizations. It helps artists and organizations discover new spaces, and encourages cross-pollination among arts disciplines. The lifecycle of any arts organization or the programs they offer are extremely unpredictable, but Melody hopes that Spacefinder continues to thrive for many years to come.
As the Book and Merchandise Manager at Chihuly Workshop, Melody is one of the few Arts Leadership alums who has applied their degree to the for-profit arts sector. The Chihuly Workshop works with the artist Dale Chihuly to produce a broad range of projects, including books, prints, films, and stationery. Melody is responsible for product development, various aspects of contracts, and social media. Each of these classes taught her how to effectively make a compelling argument in support of the arts. Using those skills acquired in the program and her prior buying history is what makes this job fun for Melody. Dale Chihuly is a renowned artist whose work creates a little “positive disruption” in all of us, and the Melody considers getting the opportunity to connect with that broad an audience the most rewarding part of her job.
Melody believes she has found her dream job for now, but has hopes that one day she will own a business or become an Executive Director of an organization of some kind. When asked what advice she would share with future MFA students, she expressed the need to immerse yourself in the arts community of Seattle and the importance of writing. “Go to as many activities, both hosted by the school and other arts organizations, because it is who you know. And don’t underestimate how much writing you will do. You are entering into a program where you need to be prepared to write!”
As for advice to the recent grads of the program searching for a dream job, it was similar to any great dating advice, “You may have to kiss a lot of frogs before the right one comes along. Be patient; do not settle. And stay in touch with your peers and the faculty.”