A Year After Graduation: An Interview with Mia Vilanova ’21
After graduating college, seniors are gently pushed into the world so that they may take their place in the world. Some may not have a set plan or goal, but their experience and knowledge collected by their college experience helps them find the lifestyle that they want to partake in. After her graduation in 2021, Mia Vilanova is working her dream job as a Programming Associate at the Marcus Performing Arts Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I spoke with Mia about her current career, her plans after graduation, and how her time at Carthage College gave her the experience she needed to become the person she is today.
To begin, you are the Programming Associate at Marcus Performing Arts Center. What are your duties for that position?
My position is unique due to it having both an administrative and a tactile side, depending on what is needed. On the administrative side, I manage the artist contracts for our MPAC Presents series. I handle all of the “advancing” for our future artists, meaning that I ensure their onstage and offstage needs are met and connect them with our various departments. Finally, I manage our event calendar system, overlooking, receiving, and distributing information for all of our future events and plans. As for the hands-on side of my job, I am present for each and every one of our MPAC Presents events. I am the contact person for our artists from the second they walk on property until they head back to the hotel, assisting with setup and making sure that they have everything they need. Despite the long hours, this is one of my favorite parts of the job!
When it comes to programming and arts administration, what is something that you think people should know?
More often than not, you will be working on or planning events that are months, even years away. So, having the ability to work on projects with completely different timelines simultaneously is a necessity.
What was your plan once you graduated from Carthage? Has it changed since your current occupation?
I did not have a plan once I graduated, but I did have an undefined idea. I knew that I wanted to work in the arts or sports industries due to them being my biggest passions. I graduated in 2021, a year after the beginning of COVID-19. Due to Carthage moving J-Term to May, I graduated a bit earlier than most college students would. Unfortunately, many performing arts centers hadn’t opened yet and sport administrations were focusing on bringing back employees that they had let go previously. I decided to work at the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin while I waited for more positions to open up. After a few months, I was able to land my current job at the Marcus Performing Arts Center, and I couldn’t be happier with how things have turned out!
Has social distancing and COVID-19 affected your job at all over the past year?
When advancing with an artist, part of my job is to ensure that our COVID-19 policies align with theirs. As a company, you never want to consistently change your policies, as it will confuse and upset the audience. In March, due to the low level of COVID-19 spread in Milwaukee, we decided to relax our policies for the audience. This meant we had to go back and renegotiate with incoming artist groups to ensure both parties felt safe with the current policies. It was a long process, but the one constant in this profession is change, so not entirely unexpected!
While attending Carthage College, how did the Fine Arts program affect you?
I graduated with a Public Relations major and a Communications minor. Honestly, the Fine Arts Department completely changed the plans I had when I started college. I started freshman year as an Athletic Training major and found an on campus job with the Office of Performing and Visual Arts as an Event Staff member. The Director of Arts Events, Tianna Conway, realized I had a knack for working with people, and I was quickly moved to a House Manager position. By sophomore year, I was promoted to the newly created position within the office, Project Manager, and was also the Interim Box Office Manager. If not for this opportunity, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Tianna put her trust in me, and gave me the resources I needed that led me to realize I had a talent and passion for organizing and planning events in the arts. Ultimately, the experience altered my view on the world and created an entirely new career path for me.
What was your most memorable experience at Carthage?
One of my most memorable experiences would be my first Christmas Festival. At the end of the event, the lights are dimmed as the choir finishes their performance with “Silent Night.” Being able to watch everyone come alive, and sign together was truly an amazing experience for me. Due to COVID-19 and social distancing, we did not have a Christmas Festival my senior year. This was extremely disheartening because Tianna had put me in a position where I would be able to help plan the event. Another favorite moment of mine is when Carthage would have its Holi Celebrations. It was fun watching everyone come together and celebrate this cultural experience by throwing colored powder everywhere. Being able to go as a big group with my friends is something that I will never forget.
Do you have any advice for aspiring fine arts students?
If you plan on going into arts administration, my advice to you is: be open and available to all experiences. While searching for a job on campus my freshman year, I was not expecting to enjoy working for the Office of Performing and Visual Arts. Obviously, I ended up loving it and learned so much about myself. If not for that experience and for my decision to try something new and unexpected, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Now I work on being open to new experiences in my current job, offering my help and time to others. I’ve been brought on to so many different projects and committees due to stepping out of my comfort zone. It’s okay to branch out and network, as you never know who you might meet, and where it will take you!