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Meet Vanessa Grubbs, an art gallery director
Brenau University gallery director Vanessa Grubbs puts the Jasper Johns lithograph "Passage 1" in storage near the school's gallery. - photo by Tom Reed

Working for a living: Gallery director
This summer, our In Schools page focuses on career options available to recent graduates and features stories from professionals with unique jobs. 

Gallery director, curator

Overview: Curators plan and oversee the arrangement, cataloguing and exhibition of collections and maintain collections. They acquire and preserve important pieces for permanent storage or display. Curators may coordinate educational and public outreach programs, such as tours, workshops, lectures and classes, and may work with the boards of institutions to administer plans and policies.
Education requirements: Many museums require a master's degree in art or in museum studies. In small museums, curatorial positions may be available to individuals with a bachelor's degree.
Outlook: Faster than average employment growth is expected through 2016. Keen competition is expected for most jobs as curators because qualified applicants generally outnumber job openings.
Median annual earnings (as of May 2008): $47,220

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Vanessa Grubbs loves her job.

She's the gallery director for Brenau University. Grubbs also teaches art and design and oversees Brenau's arts management program.

The Georgia State alumna got a master's degree in fine arts and worked for a nonprofit art institution before she snagged her dream job.

Her daily duties include caring for Brenau's permanent art collection, which includes works from art greats Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol.

Grubbs said the best part of her job is choosing how best to showcase the artwork she draws to Brenau's three galleries.

"It's like my own work of art," she said. "The proper arrangement can really make art look more interesting. It can make your exhibition more compelling. It's like decorating your house, and I love decorating my house."

Question: What does a gallery director do?

Answer: I coordinate and schedule exhibitions on a rotating basis for our three galleries. And I also oversee Brenau University's permanent collection. We have approximately 2,000 works of art in our collection, so I oversee where they are displayed on campus and how they are displayed and promote our permanent art collection along with our rotating exhibition schedule.

Q: How do you draw exhibitions to the galleries?

A: First thing that I do is do some research. One of the places I would start would be looking at magazines like Art in America or at art papers out of Atlanta. And then I'd start to look at gallery Web sites to see what's going on kind of happening right now that I think is cool. I would talk to them about their work that I've seen that they're making that I would like to show. Sometimes they send me images. Sometimes I already have in mind a group of work I've seen that they've made in the past that I want to exhibit. Then we negotiate the contract and pick dates for the show and talk about whether, if they will have programming.

Q: What type of exhibits do you like to attract?

A: What we try to do with our exhibitions is we try to not just have art that is interesting to art students, but that will be interesting to all the students at Brenau University; we consider things like gender, feminism. We have an environmental show coming up this year because Brenau is committed to sustainability. And then we develop programming like artist talks or tours to go along with that artwork. We want it not only to be interesting to the university, but to the community and to be relevant to a broad range of people.

Q: How does someone get started on the path to becoming a gallery director?

A: If someone is interested in pursuing this kind of career, working in a museum or gallery, they could go to Brenau University and get an undergraduate degree, a (Bachelor of Science and Arts) in arts management, that would enable them to work in a public arts center or museum. We have different concentrations in theater, dance and visual arts. There's lots of entry level positions that that kind of undergraduate degree can get you. ... And with a master's degree in fine arts, museum studies or arts administration or art history, you could become a gallery or museum director. ... It's kind of a booming field. It's estimated that there's going to be 60,000 jobs open in nonprofit institutions open in the next four years, and many of those will be art institutions, so it's actually a good field to be pursuing right now.