|Profession||Fine Art Services/Small Business Owner|
|Income||Under six figures, but more than half of that|
|Current Location||San Francisco, CA|
1. How did you get to where you are today?
I studied some stuff in college … got a few art degrees. I’ve always worked with my hands and just sort of learned things that were interesting to me. After graduate school, I became a father. My wife stayed at a good job and I stayed home for a couple of years.
At some point, I ran into a friend working at a gallery. They said, you have all these art degrees but all you talk about is your kid. They told me, “Go talk to this lady and she’ll give you a job.” I showed up at an art gallery and my job interview consisted of a gallery owner asking me for my (zodiac) sign and hiring me on the spot. I had no plan to work in art installation, it just happened. I knew a lot about art and had a driving background – you have to know how to drive trucks – the skill set was right.
I worked for someone else for about two years and then split off on my own. I was a one-person operation for about three years, and then I hired a couple of people here and there to assist me. And then all of the sudden I had a couple of employees. I’ve been in business for myself for about five years.
2. What do you do at your job? What does your daily routine look like?
There are wild swings in my job responsibility and daily routine. I spend a lot of time in the office now and about 50 percent of my time out doing actual art installations and things with my hands. I travel a lot to supervise art transportation and installation.
The business has about 12 employees. We can do things as simple as driving art from point A to point B and hanging it on the wall. Or we can oversee moving an entire art installation for a museum. From things the size of a book to the size of a city bus, we get it where it needs to go safely.
3. As a child or a teenager, what did you want to be when you grew up? What is your ultimate career goal now?
I think as a teenager I wanted to be a set designer and build things in the theater. I imagined myself in New York and working on Broadway. But that didn’t happen. Working in museums and setting up art isn’t that far of a conceptual leap.
(My goals now are) keeping everybody who works for me healthy, happy and well employed. Put my kid though college successfully. At 48 you can’t not think about where you’ll be at 68 – which you hope is some place comfortable. At the moment I’m still dealing with starting a company right before an economic crisis.
4. What would you say your general political leanings are? Not party affiliation, per se, but your stance on work-related issues like social security, overseas manufacturing, and unions.
I’m conflicted by the capitalist motive of running a business and being profitable. I think there should be universal health care and everyone deserves to be on a more equal playing field then we are now economically. We do a lot of work with international companies like mine, but they have really different pools of experience. In Europe, this job is looked at as a trade. We have an embarrassing number of people around who have a (Master of Fine Arts).
5. How have the past four years of economic instability affected your career?
One of the worst days of my life was the day I had to let four people go. They didn’t deserve it, but we had no work. That was so intensely related to 2008’s crash – that was August or September in 2008. The art market is very connected to the stock market and currency rates – the people buying art are the people working in those industries. All the money for the art world flows pretty much in step with the markets. I can’t say the last three years have been easy but we’ve survived. I’m back to feeling like we’re on more solid footing but I don’t know if that will continue.
6. What worries you the most about your job? What worries you most about your life outside of work?
I’m kind of a maker and a doer. I never imagined myself as a manager and I worry that I’m not a good manager. I feel very confident about most aspects of my job. I’ve always thought of myself as an artist, and I think by nature artists are not good at people managing.
Since starting this business I have lost touch with a lot of people because I’m doing this seven days a week. My phone rings all hours of the nights. The business has an effect on the happy, social parts of my life, but I meet a lot of interesting people.
7. Are you in a union? Does your industry have unions? Do you think your industry should unionize?
Would the art industry benefit from a union? It’s too small and spread out of an entity. In San Francisco, there are maybe four companies, with a sum total of about 100 employees who do what we do. Then there are museum workers who have very, very different types of jobs. These would be very tough things to string together.
8. What is your proudest career accomplishment?
Most recently, my son who is 16 has started coming to work with me one day a week. He’s doing the things you do when your 16 – sweeping, mopping and taking out the trash. One day after work he said “I had a good time today” – he had been helping put together some palettes. I’ve done things that have made the papers and moved art around the world. That’s gratifying but the thought that I’ve created something that is family oriented and involves caring people who can interact with my family – that would be my proudest accomplishment.
9. If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
I don’t think anybody at any job wouldn’t want more flexible house, better benefits, higher salary – all those things sound good. It’s hard to pick just one. We’re trying to put together a 401K benefits package here, and I would like to include myself in that. So, retirement plan and higher salary – those are the top two.
10. In one sentence, what's one thing you'd like America to know about you and people like you?
We’re sort of like plumbers. You can’t live without a plumber, but you don’t really need to know what plumbers do. Art and museums are in the public eye – and we don’t need to be – we just sort of get things done. Artists and museums can’t exist without us.
–By Jo Piazza / current.com / @jopiazza