Sotheby’s Institute of Art recently appointed Patty Tsai as Director of Alumni Relations. While the Institute has had active alumni relations efforts in place for some time, the appointment of this Director position and formation of a formalized and permanent Alumni Relations department reinforces the commitment to supporting alumni as vital stakeholders, powerful ambassadors, and an essential responsibility for all leading education institutions. Patty Tsai joins Sotheby’s Institute to shape a creative vision of what an alumni relations program of the future could be, and how an alumni network can best support Sotheby’s Institute graduates as they excel in their careers and are a formative and influential community within the international art world.
Founded over 50 years ago, Sotheby’s Institute of Art has over 8,000 global alumni of the Master’s degree offered in New York and London (now with a hybrid-online option), and over 2,000 students taking short courses each year ranging from high schoolers to career changers. Starting with a focus on postgraduate alumni who hold a Masters degree or graduate certificate, Ms. Tsai will work to institutionalize and strengthen the art world connections that are so vital to career success and the Sotheby’s name. Her long term vision is to build a comprehensive network across all Sotheby’s Institute students - past, present, and future - ranging from high schoolers who attend Sotheby’s Summer Institute pre-college program to professionals who pursue career advancement through online courses. With a keen eye on supporting relationships with alumni and the greater art world, she sees the importance of establishing points of contact for alumni with the school and with each other.
“It starts from when they’re here as students, learning in New York, or in London. Having Alumni Relations’ presence from the first moment an individual is accepted into the program is key in building a lifelong network and connecting students and alumni across time and space,” Ms. Tsai says, understanding that future alumni are students first. These networks will foster peer-to-peer engagement from student to alumni that SIA graduates can utilize throughout their careers and life.
With a BA in Art History from Rutgers University, Ms. Tsai began her career in the arts as a Development Coordinator at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey. She then pursued a MA in Arts Administration from Teachers College, Columbia University and while as a graduate student, gained experience at Christie’s Old Masters & 19th Century Art department and The Museum of Modern Art’s Corporate Membership department. Her latest tenure was with Columbia University’s Office of Alumni and Development. It was here for seven years she developed her ability to bring people together in the Columbia Alumni Association’s Arts Access program and other programs that built engagement and advocacy.
With these experiences Ms. Tsai hopes to use the skills acquired “to establish structures and also build new communities” for SIA. She acknowledges the various realms many art world aspirants embark on, whether it be in galleries, auction houses, and museums, and sees the importance of interconnectivity across the international ecosystem of art businesses. With her background in the arts, her appointment at SIA is a return to her roots.