By Joshua Baggett
After a busy winter quarter, the cohort went up, up, and away for our respective immersion trips to New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. All three destinations offered one-of-a-kind professional networking experiences with many of today’s top creative companies and organizations. As someone with a background in theatre and live production, I chose to attend the New York trip due to the city’s status as a global capital for arts, culture, and entertainment. From Broadway to the Bowery, our excursion was an eye-opening look into New York’s vast creative sector and offered a chance to build professional relationships across multiple industries.
The adventure kicked off with an MSLCE alumni mixer the night we arrived. We gathered at a Midtown restaurant where we mixed and mingled with former students working in a variety of creative fields across the city. Over the course of the two-hour event, business cards were exchanged, email addresses were swapped, and we quickly learned that Northwestern’s famous “Purple Mafia” is a friendly and incredibly supportive community. It was a nice chance to chat with other people who understood the paths we are on and everyone took a sincere interest in helping us achieve our professional goals.
Something of an unexpected surprise on the trip was our visit to the organizations Fractured Atlas and New Inc. Though each organization operates on different spectrums, the mission of both organizations focuses on empowering individual creators by providing the resources and support they need to thrive. Nicola Carpenter (Associate Director, People Operations) and Pallavi Sharma (Chief Program Officer) gave us a detailed presentation on the work of Fractured Atlas and how they help their members navigate the financial and administrative requirements of their artistic endeavors. By offering help with fundraising, marketing, real estate, and licensing, artists are able to take control of their careers from all angles.
New Inc. operates a slightly different model by serving as an incubator for people working at the intersection of art, design, and technology. Their members have access to equipment, space, and materials to help them get their idea going or take it to the next level. Executive Director Stephanie Pereira gave us a tour of their three-floor facility in lower Manhattan and explained the organization’s connection to the New Museum, a noted art museum in the city. The group also works with local universities by providing services for design programs.
My most anticipated stop on the trip was our visit to Alchemation, the office of theatre producer Kevin McCullum. With a portfolio that includes Rent, In the Heights, Something Rotten!, and Title of Show, he is considered one of the most innovative producers of the day. We had a detailed discussion on producing commercial theatre in New York, and what methods Mr. McCullum uses to determine which shows to produce. From acquiring the rights to intellectual property to handling subsidiary rights over long periods of time, it was refreshing to hear him speak about the business side of “the business” in such a candid and straight forward way.
Our other stops included meetings at the Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Pomegranate Arts, and the design firm Local Projects. After a flurry of activities each day, Friday arrived all too soon and we were off to LaGuardia to return to Chicago. Thinking back on the experiences we had and the connections we made, I can’t help but feel beyond fortunate to have had this unique opportunity and I’m looking forward to keeping the momentum going.