Kristen Wahl Hagan entered MAPH in the Fall of 2005 after having received Bachelor’s degrees in Clothing and Textile design (Virginia Tech University) and Art History (Indiana University). She came to MAPH intending to apply for PhD programs in Art History, but her experiences working in the art world also gave her a sense of the benefits of the MAPH degree on its own. As she put it, “Jobs in the art world are few and far between and they’re often very coveted, so even though you know that you don’t need a PhD or a Masters degree to do the job, having that gives you a competitive edge in the job market.”
Hagan’s plans began to change pretty quickly once she got to MAPH. She was surprised to find that the two professors of modern art history that she had most wanted to work with were on sabbatical. Though initially disappointed, Hagan came to view this set-back as an opportunity to make her MAPH experience truly interdisciplinary, embracing the chance to become involved with other departments. Hagan says that after taking a class at the Booth graduate school of business, she began to realize that she had more of a business mind and that becoming an academic was not for her.
Hagan’s thesis, advised by Booth Professor Tanya Menon, was the product of Hagan’s cross-disciplinary interests. By using the thesis project to explore how art museums make themselves accessible to people (or often fail to do so, as Hagan argues), she began a line of thought which is directly connected to her daily work life now. Speaking of her current position as Assistant Director at Gallery KH, Hagan says, “I deal directly with people a lot. In other museum or gallery settings, people are not always willing to speak to you. I’m very conscious of that in how I deal with people.”
When asked what advice she would give to current MAPH students interested in pursuing careers in the art world, Hagan had this to say: “Because I got pushed out of my comfort zone and was fortunate enough to have success with that, I would say to get outside of your comfort zone, so that you can come back to your discipline with a fresh perspective.” Hagan also suggested that taking advantage of internships and opportunities around Chicago is a great way to figure out early on what kind of work you enjoy.
For more information about Gallery KH, check out their website here.