Inside the Arts: Rachel Herrick, trouble making arts educator

Rachel Herrick, performance and installation.

With Visual Art Exchange’s annual For the Love of Art Auction and Gala just around the corner, ArtsNow went to get the scoop on the people who throw this celebration of the arts. We visited VAE’s Raleigh Warehouse District gallery and office space to go “Inside the Arts,” a series that focuses on the people behind the scenes in arts organizations. Read more in the series

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Rachel Herrick | Director of Initiatives, VAE

Photo by Beth Mann.
Photo by Beth Mann.

How did you get this gig?

I started a few months after Sarah started. I volunteered with VAE for quite a while and I think they just decided that I was useful. I started in 2000 and was there for three years. Working at VAE is an inspiring thing to do and it got me dreaming big things for my personal art. I left in 2009 for grad school and I got my MFA. During those years I still kept in touch with everyone because once you work with them they become your family. After I got my MFA, VAE was in a transitional period and was making some internal shifts. They were looking to cause some trouble and that’s my favorite thing to do so I was able to join the family again. They wanted their trouble maker back.

[Related: 2015 Red Carpet photos]

How has working at VAE impacted your own art?

I don’t have as much time to work on my own stuff but I have started a new series using police grade pepper spray paintings. Working at VAE does keep me connected to other artists and the art world in general. I get to be around creative problem solving conversations all day; that’s really inspiring for me. It’s rewarding to be able to keep my head in art mode all the time. I can apply art to everyday life and problems. I’m always saying to artists in the Launch program (VAE’s year-long intensive for retail-minded crafters, makers, and artists who want to further their professional skills and gain retail experience) that being creative and being an artist is not as much a career as it is a lifestyle. You never want to shut off the art. Working at VAE encourages you to stay in the creative headspace. And if you’re able to do that, then it makes me better at my ‘job’ at VAE. It’s a nice symbiosis.

Since you’re the arts educator, per se, what do you want for 2016?

The Ignite Conference is coming up next so that’s been on my mind a lot. What I’d love to see is getting exciting crews involved in programs, as jurors and speakers. For Ignite, we want more people to be able to get involved from all over. The goal is to make programming more accessible to a wider range of creative people. That’s always, always the dream and the goal: keep people excited!

What is one skill you rely on daily in your position?

Communication. When you are trying to organize a lot of people, and a lot of creative people trying to do cool stuff, often times I have to be the most organized person facilitating whatever cool trouble we are trying to start. I have to state ideas and feedback clearly and be sensitive to the audience. It boils down to being a nimble and good communicator.

[Related: 2015 social media posts from the gala]

What about the gala do you look forward to most each year?

The gala itself is such a high and a great night, but you have to understand it’s months of super hard work. There is this one moment, after everyone leaves and all the art is out, that we find ourselves all laying in the hallway. At that point we are all so deliriously happy and tired, maybe still a bit tipsy, shoes off, but we get so silly and punchy. It’s really such a unique time. I also look forward to seeing all the artists appreciated by the community. Sometimes people connect the artist with the art but seeing the artists happy and appreciated is really rewarding.

For the Love of Art Auction & Gala

When: February 20, 6 to 11 p.m., Raleigh Marriott City Center
Attire: Black tie optional, creative attire welcome.
Honorary Chairs: Dan and Fairley Bell Cook
Co-chairs: Melissa Matton and Angela Kuo

Gala Fast Facts
– 170 original works of art, all donated by artists who support VAE’s programs.
– Featured artist is Nancy Hughes Miller.
– Special Exhibition: For the Love of Cake – for all the aspiring culinary artists and Cake Boss fans.
– 50 + community sponsors.
Preview the art here on flickr.

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