Olivia Graham McManus '12 (Art History)
Olivia Graham McManus is currently the Director of Sales at PATRON Gallery in Chicago. Olivia received her Bachelor’s degree in Art & Art History and Gender Studies from St Lawrence University in 2012 and earned her Master of Arts in Modern and Contemporary Art History, Theory, and Criticism from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015.
I loved my experience at St. Lawrence socially and academically. I met some of my best friends during my time there and it’s crazy to think we have been friends for almost 10 years! Time really flies. The diversity of the SLU curriculum allowed me to take classes in many different fields, while focusing on my art history major. I was incredibly lucky to develop relationships with professors like Mark Denaci and Melissa Schulenberg who taught me to think critically and from diverse perspectives. They were pivotal to the development of my creative and academic confidence. I will never forget their friendship, criticisms, and guidance and remain beyond thankful for my experience.
After graduation, I moved to Burlington, VT where I was named the curatorial fellow at Burlington City Arts for the 2012-2013 calendar year. During my tenure, I assisted in the research and planning for six exhibitions, led frequent tours and lectures, and most importantly realized that working in the arts was not only feasible, but a viable career choice. In 2013 I moved to Chicago to pursue a Master’s degree in Art History from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I held multiple internships throughout Grad School in a variety of fields including research, publishing, and in commercial galleries. This proved to be the most fruitful exercise because it allowed me to dip my toes into various facets of the art world and I quickly realized how many options I truly had after graduation. After a short stint in development at the Renaissance Society, I was named Associate Director of Rhona Hoffman Gallery where I worked for over two years. This summer I was named Director of Sales at PATRON Gallery in Chicago. Continuing in the path of previous roles, we work with international contemporary artists such as Greg Breda, Bethany Collins, Jennie C. Jones, Samuel Levi Jones, Harold Mendez, Lucas Simões, and Liat Yossifor, among others. We stage solo and group exhibitions and participate in art fairs internationally with the purpose of securing sales, institutional acquisitions, and large-scale projects, but most importantly to advocate for the development of our artists careers.
Regarding my advice for current and perspective students, I think it’s important to make clear that working in the Arts is viable and rich career choice. As I was completing my degree at SLU I knew I wanted to pursue a Master’s degree in Art History, but I was under the assumption that my only option was to continue on to my PhD and become a professor. Of course, this is not the case, but it only was through the course of my Master’s studies that I realized how many options I really had! Connected to this, I think it is of the utmost importance to work or intern while in school. This allowed me to “test-drive” a few different career paths within the arts and made clear that my interests lay with working directly with artists in a commercial, contemporary gallery setting.
SLU has a fantastic faculty and my advice to current students would be to simply speak to as many people as possible, develop relationships, and pick their brains so you can really learn what is out there. The university also has a strong career services department and alumni network, which you should absolutely use to your advantage!