The Department of Art Education is proud to announce that Florida State alumna, Dr. Audra Price Pittman has been named Executive Director for the Council on Culture & Arts (COCA), effective June 16, 2014.
Dr. Price Pittman graduated from Florida State University (FSU) in 2007 with a PhD in Art Education/Arts Administration and a concentrated focus in Art Museum Education. Since graduation Dr. Price Pittman has continued to be an advocate for arts and education within the community and has ambitiously followed her passions through her work in the educational system, building her own business, and continuing to demonstrate her love for the community, art, and social engagement.
Although Dr. Price Pittman is incredibly busy as she prepares for her new position in COCA, we were thrilled when she agreed to participate in an email interview to include in this week’s blog, which highlights her career since graduating from Florida State! We have included the interview questions and Dr. Price Pittman’s responses below.
1. Did you ever imagine obtaining the position that you have today?
When I began my career in the arts field, I never envisioned an opportunity like this would even exist for me. The internet had not really taken off early in my studies, so it wasn’t necessarily a Google click away. (Wow, does this age me?). Anyway, I started as an art educator and loved the classroom experience, but knew that one day I could make more of an impact in a different arena. When I was considering pursuing my PhD, the professors from my master’s program suggested that I look into attending Florida State University. They stated that Dr. Charles Dorn was a leader in the art education/administration field and would be a great resource. When I moved to Tallahassee, I really learned about other career options in the arts. I studied museums, cultural organizations, and non-profits through the arts administration program. It helped me understand that I could take on any position related to the arts as long as it was connected to my passions.
2. What opportunities did you pursue that led to your current occupation?
I followed what seemed like a natural trajectory for my career. I was always interested in teaching and helping others understand the importance of the arts and education. My first experience with teaching was during my junior year of college at the University of Connecticut, when I worked at a summer program in Hartford, Connecticut. The program paired the organization Real Art Ways with the Hartford Public School system. This summer program aimed to increase test scores by incorporating artistic activities. After that program, I decided to pursue my Master of Arts in Teaching at Maryland Institute College of Art. During my studies, I had an internship at Wadsworth Anthenaum in Hartford for the summer and later studied abroad in Sorrento, Italy.
After I completed my MAT I taught middle school art in Ellicott City, Maryland, for two years and decided to get my doctorate in Art Education and Arts Administration. I completed this program in 2007 and accepted my first position at Lander University where I ran the MAT program and certified art educators. I had an opportunity to create a professional development conference at this University and really get connected to art educators across the state.
Before I graduated from FSU, I had applied to a position at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). The next year, SCAD called me back and asked if I would reapply to new positions that opened up in the Department of Professional Education. I was also invited to become the chair of the department. During my first year, I faced the challenge of getting initial program accreditation through the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GAPSC), which aligns with the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education Programs (NCATE) for the newly minted MAT program. This program, which only existed for one year, certified masters level students in art or drama. In addition, I was also tasked with not only building the program, but creating the university’s first fully online program. While working at SCAD, I also created a professional development conference that connected educators from the school and museum industry with students and other professionals in the field. It was an opportunity to show the impact of the arts as a community.
For three years, I chaired the department. Later, I married Sean Pittman (an FSU undergraduate and law school alumnus who I actually had met two weeks into starting my PhD program). I decided to step down from my post and teach online. During this time, I also created my own business called Suite P Creative Studio. It’s like “Pinterest with a twist.” What is great about this business is that I was able to meet even more people in the community who enjoyed social activities and learning how to do art, even though they were always professing “I can’t draw a straight line.” I’ve thrown these art parties in a law office, hosted the spouses of legislators, and most recently a group from a local fitness studio in town.
3. How did you become involved with the COCA organization initially? Why were you attracted to this organization?
When I first started my PhD program in 2004 at Florida State University, I did assignments for my coursework that involved studies of COCA, its board, and impact on the community. In 2012, I was invited by the City of Tallahassee to sit on the Cultural Plan Review Committee. The Cultural Plan, originally drafted in 2003, shaped the vision of the arts, culture, and heritage communities for Tallahassee and helped shape the direction of COCA. Throughout that process, we gained a deeper view on the responsibilities of COCA, the resources that it provides for the community, and how much support was being offered by members of the community.
In October 2013, the former Executive Director Peggy Brady stepped down from her post after 20 years. With that position open and the new Cultural Plan voted into place by the city and county commissions in 2014, I knew that this was a perfect opportunity for someone to come in, re-energize COCA, and develop new partnerships that align with the growth already occurring in the town. I felt like the volunteer work I was already doing with the “Art Town at Boys Town of North Florida” and the United Way’s “Art off the Wall” campaign demonstrated that the arts are really supported in this town and that they can make a difference for organizations.
I think COCA, working alongside Visit Tallahassee, the Downtown Improvement Authority, KCCI and other entities can really create some awesome opportunities that continue to make Tallahassee an awesome town.
4. What unique abilities/traits do you possess that gave you an advantage when pursuing this position?
My background and genuine passion for the arts helped me secure this position. I am an artist by trade, but I am also someone who is invested in the community. As an individual, I have a positive disposition and seek out the good in situations. I think it’s important to take the view of building up rather than tearing down. I also believe that if something needs to be changed or amended, you need to offer a solution rather than contribute to the problem by focusing on the negative. I established myself in this town as a supporter of the arts, culture, and heritage communities, and have academic and work experience to back up my commitment. I obviously enjoy learning and continue that love of learning by looking for ways to grow and improve. I have genuine excitement and enthusiasm for all of the opportunities on the horizon. I have personal contacts with the city and county commissions and know that there are big decision makers who really want to help me see my vision into fruition.
5. Did any particular experience in your doctoral program provide you with the tools you needed to lead you to this career path?
My coursework with Dr. Pat Villeneuve and Dr. Dorn really helped me understand the administrative components of this position. All of the arts administration courses provided both broad and deep perspectives on working in this field. Dr. Dorn helped me investigate solutions to real-life problems and case studies regarding non-profit organizations. The courses provided the fundamentals of boards, structure, and management that you don’t always learn on the job. Pat provided experiences like her museum conference in Sarasota at the Ringling that afforded us opportunities to network with other arts administration professionals. The most important experience that I gained from Pat and her coursework was the importance of seeking out information rather than waiting for someone to give me the answers. Her philosophy of teaching and learning really made an impact on how I address matters today. Pat helped set the tone for the work I do now that involves research, problem solving and communicating information.
Additionally, my seminar with Dr. Gussak was an amazing experience. It was one of the first courses I took during which individuals from different disciplines and stages of their doctoral studies came together to discuss ideas and philosophies. He really encouraged creative thinking and approaches to learning the material. The online structure to our discussions was memorable and I think it helped me appreciate that people with diverse perspectives and life experiences are the ones from whom you will learn the most.
Dr. Tom Anderson’s coursework was invaluable as well. As my major professor, he not only served as a resource and mentor, but he inadvertently became a life coach! (I’m not sure I have ever mentioned this to him). Dr. Anderson also helped me realize the importance of focusing on the positive and using your current interests to shape your work. I think it’s an approach that people should take in regards to their course studies, life, and work. I continued to stay in contact with Dr. Anderson after I graduated and he really supported all of my career decisions. I think that his humor and dedication to social justice really show how having a genuine concern for people and a passion for the arts is to be commended.
6. What was the most important/influential thing that you learned while in school?
As stated earlier, I really gained an appreciation for being inquisitive and seeking out answers rather than waiting for someone to give it to me. I put so much pressure on myself to have the “right” research for my dissertation, but realized that it may not necessarily be my life’s work. Focusing on what my passions were at that moment and embracing the “why?” continue to shape my decision making. I learned to embrace possibilities and the idea that an answer that seems right for you at that moment may change several years from now. People who are genuinely passionate about learning will always grow and move in new directions.
7. In pursuit of your current position, were there any major setbacks that you had to overcome?
As a full-time mother and business owner, I had to consider the changes of working full-time and how that would affect my family and business. I realized that everything I was already doing in regards to my volunteer work aligned with the new position. Building networks, advocating for the arts, and working with a business to help others understand, appreciate, and support the arts were all a part of the job at COCA. I realize that so many people do not have the opportunity to work somewhere that aligns with their passions and I have that chance. I actually look forward to bringing my daughters to events and having them appreciate what I do at work.
8. Do you have any advice for students or professionals who might desire to follow in your footsteps
As a student, I would really recommend getting involved in any and every organization related to your discipline/trade. There are so many local, statewide, and national conferences that can inspire you and open the possibilities for what you pursue in the future. Also, consider presenting at conferences similar this as well. They give you the opportunity to add to your resume and will help you meet other individuals who are interested in your research. When preparing for your first job, do not limit yourself to what you think is the most ideal position. I never imagined that my first position in higher education would be in rural South Carolina. What I learned from that job prepared me immensely for my second position at Savannah College of Art and Design. Every opportunity will provide learning experiences. You have a lifetime to consider what trajectory you will ultimately follow for your career.
As a professional, get involved in your community. Working with various boards has afforded me the chance to meet and work with a set of individuals outside of my normal scope. By connecting with media professionals, business owners, and leaders in the community, I have a great pool of resources to help me with my current position. Volunteering also helped others understand my background and interests in a way that would not have been possible in a normal social setting. Be open to non-traditional collaboration and stay in contact with people.
9. What do you hope to do after assuming the position as Executive Director with the Council on Culture and Arts? Any future plans/ goals?
I really have a lot to dig into with this new role as Executive Director. So I think continuing my work with the community, and being involved will really help me achieve my vision for the future of the arts in Tallahassee. I am working on the recommendations listed in the Cultural Plan, but really look forward to this organization being a model agency for other arts organizations across the state. We are in the capital city and have so many opportunities to flourish.
We would like to genuinely thank Dr. Audra Price Pittman for taking the time to participate in this interview. We are so proud of her success and look forward to hearing about other wonderful things she will be accomplishing in the future.
To read the COCA announcement declaring Dr. Audra Price Pittman the Executive Director please follow this link: http://www.cocanet.org/news/2014/5/29/coca-announces-new-executive-director.html.