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DePaul art students LAUNCH into careers

LAUNCH cohort
Three recently-graduated DePaul art students were among the 24 artists to participate in this year's LAUNCH program, an invitational residency hosted by the Chicago Artists Coalition at the Hairpin Arts Center: Jireh Drake, back row, fifth from left; Charlotte Mukahirn, first row, second from right; and Maya Sato, middle row, left. (Image courtesy of the Chicago Artists Coalition)
The days and weeks that follow graduation are different for every student. Some graduates jump right into jobs they landed even before commencement, while others find themselves having to explore further while holding out for the right position at an organization they love. For Charlotte Mukahirn, a 2017 graduate with degrees in Art, Media, and Design and German, the week after graduation meant adding another layer to the skills she gained at DePaul. Mukahirn was one of three recently-graduated DePaul art students who participated in LAUNCH, an invitational residency hosted by the Chicago Artists Coalition at the Hairpin Arts Center.

 "After doing some research, I knew LAUNCH was a great opportunity to learn more about the details of having an art career," she says.

Through career development, creative practice and community building, the four-day workshop allowed participants to identify and pursue the next steps in their professions. DePaul is one of 10 universities and colleges to participate in the 2017 program, with only 24 resident artists chosen this year.

"The students who participated are at a critical point in their careers; they only graduated a week or two before the residency," says Mary Ann Papanek-Miller, professor and chair of the department of Art, Media, and Design at DePaul. "LAUNCH gives our young artists a chance to devote time for introspection about their future and experience what it means to be an artist after college. They're able to engage with established and innovative thinkers in their field and learn what steps are necessary to accelerate their careers off campus."

Facilitated by a team of art leaders and guest speakers, the program's teaching model focuses on practical skill-building workshops, creative activities, in-depth one-on-one consultations and larger collaborative sessions. The participants gained experience in grant writing, financial planning, goal setting, networking and navigating the professional art community, and managing a strategic and career-minded social media presence.

"The program offered a lot of opportunities to meet successful people within the art community," says Maya Sato, a 2017 graduate of DePaul's Art, Media, and Design program and LAUNCH participant. "It would have taken me years to meet and talk professionally with these artists otherwise. The residency also introduced me to peers from other art programs around Chicago and Illinois who are at similar stages in their lives. Moving forward, we can support, learn from and even collaborate with each other as we build our careers."

Mukahirn notes the experience helped her gain more than just a professional network.

"We received financial advising and also learned about our rights as artists, how to protect those rights and the resources we can access to do so," she says. "Those aspects are sometimes forgotten, but are so important. I also was able to sit down with experts in the field I want to break into and discuss the pros and cons of self-publishing and specific pieces in my portfolio. They gave me advice about what works and what doesn't, and suggestions on how to strengthen my portfolio. I'm excited to put these tools to use over the next year and continue creating."   

In addition to the intensive four-day workshop, LAUNCH residents also receive a complimentary one-year artist membership to the Chicago Artists Coalition. Throughout the year, the artists can continue to connect with the Chicago art community, gain more exclusive access to industry experts, engage in career-focused workshops and build resources for successful and fulfilling careers.

"We are thrilled the Chicago Artists Coalition invited us to participate this year," Papanek-Miller says. "We also are thankful the Coleman Center approached us in nominating our students and covering tuition costs for the program. This was DePaul's first year participating in LAUNCH and hopefully we can continue this collaboration in the years ahead."