The MMIAM Journey

A blog about the Master of Management
in International Arts Management program

Creating opportunities for yourself

Putting professional experience and the MMIAM degree to work in Montréal

Agnese Cazzavillan describes herself as a city dweller who loves discovering public art, architecture, and gardens; her background is in international sales and communications. She joined the MMIAM in the hopes of applying these skills to the arts industry in Montréal, where she currently resides. Agnese is the Marketing and Administration Manager for ESPACE art actuel, an art magazine that stimulates dialogue around sculpture and public art and is a graduate of the MMIAM’s seventh cohort.

Tell me about yourself.

I’m from the north of Italy, in the Veneto region. I studied languages at the Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia, specifically Chinese language and culture. However, my path has not been “regular.” After graduating, I did a short post-graduate program before beginning my career in the manufacturing industry where my roles ranged from administration work, for example, as an assistant to the CEO, to becoming manager of exports. I oversaw several markets in Europe and China.

I also started doing theater. I attended theater classes for about three years before I realized that perhaps I could apply my managerial skills — something that I had already — to work in arts and culture. So I moved to Montréal with this goal.

Why Montréal?

I’d visited [Montréal] earlier and really liked the city. I thought, ‘this is a place that encourages the arts.’  There are a lot of opportunities, at any level, to be an artist and/or enjoy the arts, from individuals to big organizations. I thought it was the right place to switch careers. When I moved at the end of 2018, I started to research jobs and something that could help me improve my education… that’s how I found MMIAM.

What are you doing now?

A couple different things. I’m really trying to grow my network and leverage opportunities. I’ve tried to keep my eyes open.

I completed a mentorship with the program manager for démART; they work to integrate diverse artists and cultural workers. My mentor gave me a good overview of the city’s cultural sector. She also shared her journey as an immigrant; I felt I could really connect with her.

Once I completed the MMIAM, I began doing something akin to an internship with the FCTMN (Femmes du cinéma, de la télévision, et des médias numériques). I was matched with the FCTMN through démART. Currently, I work as a Communications Manager.

I also work for an arts magazine focused on contemporary sculpture and public art. It’s me and the Director/Editor-in-Chief; just two of us. I’d say 90% of my time is dedicated to operational activities, but because there are just two of us, I do a bit of everything, from administration to marketing. Currently, I am leading the efforts to install a CRM. It will facilitate internal work, but also aid our relationship with our readers. Starting in October, I will become a consultant for the magazine and I’ll only focus on special projects that require strategizing and analysis. Given my background, this is where I feel I can really be effective.

How does that tie into your long-term goals for working in the arts?

This is a good question; something I’m constantly thinking about. I’m in an exploratory phase… it’s been interesting to work with small organizations, because you’re hands on in everything and you have a closer relationship with leadership and peers. You get to know a lot of hidden details. But I think I would like to eventually work more internationally and perhaps with a larger organization. The thing I loved most about our program was the teamwork and the fact that you’re always sharing and collaborating. These opportunities are limited in a smaller staff.

Agnese and her classmates in class in Dallas in September 2019
Agnese, her professor and her MMIAM classmates in class in Dallas in September 2019 (personal archive)

What made you interested in applying to/completing the MMIAM program?

Before applying, I wrote to Francois Colbert, the MMIAM co-director. I already had a good bit of work experience, so I wasn’t sure if I should apply or if the program would be rewarding for someone in that phase of their career. He reassured me that I would find the program rewarding. I loved all the practitioners we met, but also the professors. Every class was based on their experiences… that was extremely enriching. The other part was the international aspect. I studied languages and cultures; so this part of the program was very appealing. Unfortunately, we couldn’t finish the international part.

Right, COVID!

Yes, we went to Dallas and to Montréal but beginning in March 2020, we went into lockdown. Anne-Marie and Francois were so great! They tried everything they could to ensure we could travel, but ultimately, we finished our courses online.

Can you talk a little bit about your experience? How did y’all manage?

The good thing for us was that we really bonded in Dallas. So that helped us so much when we were in Montréal; we were able to transition into a new city and then again into lockdown smoothly. We knew each other’s personalities, attitudes… this helped as we tried to find a way to support one another in the lockdown. I tried to go for a walk, once a day, to keep my mental health. And then, once we could gather in parks, those of us who stayed — because of course, some people went home — met for birthdays or other celebrations. Also, people from the previous cohorts made themselves available to us. It was a unique experience, but we really saw how MMIAM could be a family.

I hope that continues into the future!

Yes! I just moved, so I hope to one day have people over. I have a nice balcony and I love to cook!

So, any final thoughts?

In the end, what I most appreciated in the program was the way it shook up my vision of work. It was what I needed. Through this program… I say program, but I mean the people… I really changed my perspective on what work can be: exciting, collaborative, and challenging.