Meet Tara Westermann
VIVIANEART, Calgary, Canada
MA Contemporary Art, New York, 2013
Tara Westermann currently works as Associate Director of Barbara Edwards Contemporary, a commercial gallery located in Calgary, Canada, dedicated to the presentation of Canadian and international contemporary art. Tara holds a Bachelor of Fine Art degree from the Ontario College of Art and Design specializing in Drawing and Painting, and graduated honours from the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, New York in 2013 with a Master’s in Contemporary Art.
What does your current role entail?
As Associate Director, I provide support in all tasks related to exhibition programming, business development and client relations. I take a lead role with administrative and marketing tasks, including logistical operations related to the shipment of artwork and exhibition installation, advertising, and management of social media. In addition, I curate an annual student invitational exhibition, conduct studio visits with prospective artists, represent the gallery at our participation in several art fairs, and lecture at local universities on material related to the commercial art industry.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
As a rapidly growing metropolis, Calgary is actively fostering the development of its arts and culture sectors. Barbara Edwards Contemporary (BEC) provides vital support to this growth as a space offering rare opportunity to view, discuss and acquire the work of international contemporary artists of significance. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is the gratitude received from our supporters, who feel that my work through BEC is an essential contribution to the Calgary art scene at large.
In what ways does the master’s degree program in Contemporary Art at SIA assist in your current role?
Sotheby’s Institute of Art offered quality contemporary art education in both the depth and breadth of content covered. It equipped me with a working knowledge of contemporary art in New York City and further abroad that I continually draw upon with confidence in discussions with visitors, clients, artists, students, critics, and writers alike. My education experience at SIA has greatly benefitted the development of my professional reputation as a knowledgeable and vetted supporter of the arts.
Drawing on your own experience, what advice would you give to people hoping to start a career in the art world?
In my experience, there is nothing more valuable than fostering meaningful and genuine relationships with art industry professionals. My advice would be to actively pursue opportunities to meet influential individuals, which may include internship placements, participation in the organization of exhibitions and art fairs, or assistance as a studio hand. Networking opportunities made available through these often underpaid or volunteer entry positions become an asset for future career development.
What was it about the program that made you decide to take a master’s degree at SIA?
While considering various Master’s degree programs, I was looking for an internationally reputable program that would offer support for focused theoretical and academic study of contemporary art, access to external resources, and connections to working industry professionals. Not a small bill to fit, but SIA proved to meet all of the above in a city renowned world wide as a contemporary art centre.
How should a new student in New York make the most of their time at SIA?
One of the greatest assets to the New York SIA program is its proximity to thousands of contemporary art exhibition venues. It is a privilege to have immediate access to this network. Though at times overwhelming, attending as many openings, events, and exhibitions as possible is the best way to develop an applied understanding of the principles learned during class. Contemporary art is best experienced!
Do you draw on the Alumni network in your current role?
Yes, absolutely. The connections I made with my peers during my time at SIA have proved invaluable for continued personal and professional support. Since graduation, I have found that inclusion in the SIA alumni network has provided a privileged line of communication with other industry professionals from all over the world. The network also offers access to relevant discussion groups that keep me informed of current news and events that I would have limited exposure to otherwise.