10 Questions for our alumni
Amie Bajalieh, BFA, Sculpture, 2003
1. Why did you choose to attend Grand Valley?
It was a local university with a great reputation and an art program I was looking for.
2. How or why did you choose your major or main emphasis area?
Choosing to be an art major was something I wanted to do since I was
5 years old, so that was a no brainer by the time I got to be college aged.
Why sculpture? I loved working with the various materials and working 3-Dimensionally. It wasn't the obvious choice at first, until I experienced the different courses offered, the visits to the museums, the discussions about art, and discovering how I gravitated towards sculptural work.
3. What advice do you have for future students thinking about colleges?
Look at what the programs and universities have to offer, no matter what your major is. Consider cost, the quality and experience of the faculty, and what you want to get out of the program. Also, reach out to recent alumni. They will offer the most honest evaluation for you on what any current program has to offer.
4. What advice do you have for current students thinking about careers?
It's a tough balance between making money and doing something that you love/fulfills you/makes an impact in your life. Whatever degree you get, consider what skills you have that are transferable to a variety of jobs. The more skills that are transferable, the better off you are to market yourself and find a job that you enjoy. The job market is competitive. Be that person to beat. While in college, learn as much as you can not only about your area of study but other areas as well. Ask questions of your faculty about how to apply for jobs, where to look, start to network. Careers don't start after graduation. They start while you're still a student.
5. What did you do after graduating?
I began working in local theatres helping to paint and build props
and scenery and even worked in the costume shops stitching and
assisting with costume builds. I chose to apply my visual arts skills
to work in performing arts and entertainment. In the six years after
graduating from GVSU with my BFA in sculpture, I worked for several
theatres, organizations, and colleges in and around Grand Rapids in
their design shops, as well as on the stage crew, and eventually being
hired as a stage manager to manage the plays, musicals, events and
even found myself producing for pageants with the Miss America
Organization. I also co-founded a small non-profit theatre company.
By 2009, I was attending graduate school to earn my MFA in stage management from Rutgers University. After graduating with my MFA, I lived and worked in New Jersey, teaching at Rutgers University and producing for TONY Award winning Crossroads Theatre Company, as well as traveling around the country to Colorado, Vermont, Alabama, and New York working until I returned to my hometown of Grand Rapids, MI in 2017.
6. What are you doing now?
After 8 years on the east coast, I have returned to Grand Rapids, MI. I work around town and travel as a professional stage manager. Locally, I work for ArtPrize as their seasonal Production Coordinator, which combines my expertise and knowledge of the arts with my event and stage management experience.
7. How have you used the skills you developed in your field of study in your life and/or career after GVSU?
I have always experienced the world through a creative and artistic lens. It's why I pursued visual AND performing arts. My sculpture degree was my bridge to working in theatre, which lead me to stage management. I often get asked "how did you go from sculpture to stage management?" but as I've stated before, finding those transferable skills in your degree, I was able to easily find a way for my visual arts degree to transfer elsewhere. Another thing I learned that was incredibly valuable is through having an arts degree I am able to study things critically but creatively problem solve as I need to, I am able to receive and provide constructive criticism with ease, and I can (and often do) explore ideas and processes in a very special and unique way.
8. What is the best advice you got from an instructor at Grand Valley?
Two things: "Draw (create) what you see, not what you know." and "the sign of a good artist is not whether or not they make mistakes, but how they respond and deal with a mistake." This is in terms of drawing and sculpting, but I often think about these statements because they do apply to much more.
9. What is your favorite memory of being a student at Grand Valley?
I love GVSU! I think the time I spent in the Calder Art building, which was a majority of the time, was pretty memorable. Being surrounded by artists (sometimes very late at night) is always entertaining.
10. Anything else you would like to share with our Visual and Media Arts Community?
I want them to know I think the community there is special. It always has been. I am very proud of my degree. I left college with skills I had always wanted to learn but also with a way of thinking, evaluating, and doing that is unique to many of my peers. I thank my Visual and Media Arts Community and my instructors for that. Teaching something like art is a challenge because though technical skills can be taught, the way in which we see and experience art is fluid and it's hard sometimes to make a case for how valuable arts culture is. The instructors and staff there are incredible and they make students want to learn and love what they do.
Image credit: Amie Bajalieh. You can visit Amy's website at https://www.amiesbajalieh.com/