College of the Arts host alumnae panel to discuss journeys in the arts industry

In Art, Arts & Entertainment, Features, Lifestyle, Top Stories
This is a photo of CSUF alumnae who were invited by the College of the Arts to participate in a panel called, "Women Alumni in the Arts: Titans Reaching Higher."
(Baylee Maust / Daily Titan)

Cal State Fullerton’s College of the Arts celebrated Women’s History Month by inviting six female alumnae to speak with students about their careers in the arts.

The panel consisted of Michelle Hiraishi, Anabel Martinez, Cyrus Parker-Jeannette, Ashley Sinohui-Lara, Brandy Stiles and Nadine Tran.

Dale Merrill, dean of the College of the Arts, said he wanted to create an event that showcased women in various stages of their careers.

“I think it’s important because you don’t always want to see somebody who’s already made it. You want to see people who are still figuring out the path, people in the middle of the path and some people that have accomplished the path and might be transitioning into a new career,” Merrill said.

Joelle Bergstrand, a first-year student planning on majoring in illustration, attended the event hoping to get some career wisdom.

I know a lot of the industry are mostly a lot of male workers. I was curious to see how (women’s) experiences differ in the industry and how it could possibly help me to learn how to go about the worldJoelle Bergstrand

Panelists shared that getting on the pathway to success has not been easy.

Hiraishi, a 2017 CSUF illustration graduate, and Tran, a 2017 dance graduate, said that being Asian in the illustration and dance fields has gotten them some negative responses.

“Sometimes the way people talk to you when they have a certain image of who you are, they can maybe take advantage of you,” Hiraishi said.

Tran said she similarly faced judgement from a director after being cast in a show.

“She saw me with the rest of the company and said, ‘I don’t know if you’re a good fit.’ I really don’t think it had something to do with my personality or the way I was dancing. I think she noticed that I stood out in a different way,” Tran said.

Despite their differences, Stiles, department manager at Blizzard Entertainment, said she was culturally brought up to be a leader.

“I aspire to be an advocate for artists. If I want to be that leader, I have to be heard,” Stiles said.

Merrill said that he hopes students will take away one pearl of wisdom from the panel that might help them on their own path in the arts.

“I hope our male students will come to this event and see some of the ordeals that women have to go through to be successful in their careers that we as men sometimes take for granted. We don’t always understand some of the things that young women have to go through,” Merrill said.

Finding her own pathway was a challenge that Martinez faced.

“Once I finally was kinder to myself and decided, ‘You don’t have to choose one thing, you can do all of them,’ that’s when my world opened up. That was a really big change for me,” Martinez said.

Even though Tran said that rejection was difficult to move past, she understands a new side to her career field.

“It’s a reality of what we have today in the arts. I think what I took away from that was reminding myself that it’s something that’s a part of me and if someone cannot accept that, then I shouldn’t be working with them,” Tran said.

Laura Neal, career specialist for the arts at the career center, hopes students will see that each pathway is unique.

“There’s no one way to do it. Whether you’re a musician or graphic designer or a dancer, or a theatre arts major, how you get there and what it looks like is going to be entirely unique to that person,” Neal said.

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