Nov. 6, 2015

Alumni Spotlight: Katrina Olson-Mottahed, BFA’04 (Art)

Arts alumni are an accomplished crew. They have great advice for students and fellow graduates, and know that arts degrees teach skills that are sought-after in the professional environment.

Katrina Olson-Mottahed graduated in 2004 with a Bachelor of Fine Art. She is an artist and advocate for the arts and works to make a difference to the people of Calgary who have a love and appreciation for the arts. She believes the best way to better understand and influence the path the arts are taking is to be at the heart of the organization. Katrina has been involved on the boards of Art City, Art Point Galleries & Studios, Tabestoon Festival, 2014 Heart Truth Fashion Show, Glenbow Museum’s annual fundraiser “Schmancy” and is currently Director of Art for PARK (Promoting Artists Redefining Kulture.

What is your favourite University of Calgary memory?

My favorite University of Calgary memory was my Bachelor of Fine Arts graduation show held at the Nickle Arts museum. I finally felt this huge sense of accomplishment over what I had been studying and working towards in my undergraduate career.

What was your favourite campus hang out spot?

It was either in the darkroom listening to my iPod developing prints, or in my art department studio space I shared with my classmates. All on top of the Art Parkade.

If you could give one piece of advice to a student completing the same degree that you did, what would it be?

Treat yourself as a small business. Don’t ever put limits on your creative capacity. Become as entrepreneurial as possible. As an artist, you are building a brand: You, and your product, which is your art. Get involved with as many arts organizations as possible to volunteer and gain experience in the community to diversify yourself. There are so many great ways to volunteer and put yourself out there as an artist. But it takes a lot of time, energy and innovative thinking for people to recognize your contribution. So in other words, be patient, believe in yourself and don’t get discouraged. The best way to do this is by surrounding yourself with the most supportive and nurturing people possible.

How has your career evolved?

As an artist, I do less art, and more writing, marketing, pitching ideas, meetings, concept building and general hustling than I do anything else. I have learned to be very fluid in my practice so I can suit the democratization of taste. I have realized how important community involvement is in supporting other artists and trying to educate the community on the value the arts hold in the city.

What is the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is, I am doing what I love. I wake up excited to write down my thoughts, check my email and drink my coffee. I build ideas that transform into experiences. I love seeing things come together at events and working alongside other creative people of various disciplines. It is all so rewarding and I feel like I am always learning.

How did your arts degree help you get to where you are now/your current career?

My arts degree helped me think outside the box. My degree pushed me to see things in a non-conventional way of problem solving. It taught me to be innovative in my approach and find new ways of doing things.

Do you have any other thoughts or memories you would like to share?

Yeah, watch the films Art School Confidential (2006) and (Untitled) (2009). Those films are a great tongue-in-cheek exploration of Art School and the Art World in general.