Tyler Park is the current gallery director at the Pit, a gallery and exhibition space in Los Angeles, CA. Tyler Park received his B.A. in Art from Chapman University in 2012. Two current Art History students sat down with him to discuss his experiences at Chapman and his early career that put him on the path to where he is today.
CU: What was your path after graduating from Chapman to becoming a gallerist?
TP: When I was finishing up my junior year at Chapman I got an internship, I had a class with Micol Hebron and she was talking to us about things we could do and she suggested that we get internships as a way to see how galleries work and to be around working artists. She gave me a couple suggestions, one was Cardwell Jimmerson, or Roberts & Tilton, where [CU faculty member] Michael Dopp shows, and then there was François Ghebaly Gallery… at the time, Carissa Marante, who is also a Chapman alumni, was the assistant director. So I interviewed at these places and ended up working at the François Ghebaly Gallery where Carissa was working. I interned there every week from my senior year until I graduated, so about a year and a half. I also worked at Laguna Gallery of Contemporary Art – it was my first paid job as a gallery assistant. This allowed me to get work experience before I graduated. When I did graduate in the Fall of 2012 I got an interview for a gallery in LA called Carter and Citizen, and right out of school they offered me an assistant director position. This was right after school and I was still considering myself to be a practicing artist and I was trying to make work but I just couldn’t get myself to sit down and make art. I think a lot of it had to do with being in close proximity to other artists’ work, it can be both a good and bad influence. A little bit into my job at Carter and Citizen, I decided that I wanted to focus on working in galleries and see where it goes.
CU: What did you learn at Chapman that helped you in your career?
TP: For what I do, you have to be really good about talking about art. And at Chapman, with the classes we had to take, we had to take all of the critical theory classes and the critiques [that] really helped me to know how to describe and talk about art. Basically for my job there are a lot of references in the artists’ work that I need to tailor to a collector or curator and that theory really went a long way. Having the faculty here, they are all practicing artists and being in proximity was able to influence me.
CU: How does it compare being on the business side of art as opposed to the creative side?
TP: A very successful artist is also very business minded too. In order to create and live off of your own artwork you must be very business savvy to know how to manage your money. A lot of artists that are very successful their art is really good but they are also out there trying to make connections and meet people and continue that onward so there is lots of overlap. My role as a gallerist and as a gallery director at the Pit is much more administrative where the owners are behind the curatorial aspect of the gallery. With my background as an artist, it helps me to understand what curators will be interested in, what artists will sell in this space, and the longevity of the artist. My role is about thinking long-term and at times it is not very creative but I also have to write a lot and need to discuss and talk about art. Sometimes I help curate the shows, but it is much different than producing your own work and trying to get people interested in it.
CU: What advice would you give to students trying to follow a similar career path?
TP: There is no right or wrong way to go about it. You can’t just do these A,B,C,D steps and get there. When I graduated, I had no idea that this is what I liked doing or wanted to do, I just took the opportunities that were put in front of me. I just took these opportunities as they came. The best path would be to get an internship or paid internship and focus on what you want to learn. Learn about art and other information that you can use in a later interview, intern for a gallery or artist and use that to connect with other people. There are so many different roles in the art world, so just focus on what interests you. If I were to go back and do it again, I would want to maintain a more equal balance between art and gallery directing.
The answers have been edited for clarity.
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