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Art Management Alumni

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Clare Sifford, director of Cary Visual Art


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Clare Sifford
BS Art Management, 2006

Clare Sifford loved the hands-on coursework of our Art Management program. Even though Eli Bentor was "the most fantastic art history instructor a student could ask for," she says, "and Jim Toub was brilliant for Art Criticism and Theory, there was something to be said for leaving the books and classroom behind and living what I was studying.

"Being in the gallery—smelling the paint on the walls, slipping my hands into the white cloth gloves, having the authority to complete a condition report, peeling the show title from the walls and messing with putty to start fresh—all of these things prepared me to enter a job with confidence and knowledge."

Clare, a 2006 graduate, is currently the director of Cary Visual Art in Cary, NC. She came to Appalachian as a transfer student from UNC-Charlotte and quickly realized that her heart was in the mountains. Her passion for the arts was shared with her peers in Boone. "It was the best decision I've ever made. It has empowered me to do what I love in my career," she says.

By working with the Hank Foreman and Brook Bower from the Turchin Center for Visual Arts on the annual Rosen Competition and Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition, she gained the experience that is key to the work that she does today. Cary Visual Art's Outdoor Sculpture Competition and Exhibition was modeled after the Rosen. "This was familiar territory to me," Clare says, "and has helped to make me who I am today."

As an Art Management major, Clare was required to find an internship to complete her degree requirements. During a summer internship at Artspace in downtown Raleigh, she met many artists who remain dear friends and colleagues. Her primary job was to liaise between the teachers, staff, and volunteers for the Summer Camps at Artspace. "By the end of the summer, I was exhausted, but a better person for it."

After graduation, Clare volunteered at the North Carolina Museum of Art and became the co-director of the First Friday Gallery team at Vintage21 in downtown Raleigh. "I became involved with Cary Visual Art, and was eventually hired as a research assistant. I quickly was promoted to the Programs and Exhibitions Manager, then the Programs Director and am now their director."

2011 has been a busy year for Clare and Cary Visual Art. Most recently, they completed installation of the 4th annual Outdoor Sculpture Competition and Exhibition, hosting top sculptors from around the nation. Clare is responsible for coordinating all stages of the event from the call to artists to deinstallation. "I've worked with some outstanding leaders in the public art realm; most recently, Jack Becker of Forecast Public Art and Public Art Review; Glenn Weiss, public art manager for Times Square; and Linda Dougherty of the North Carolina Museum of Art."

In January, they hosted international artists Helen Marshall and Alessandra Ferrini for a community-wide participatory art project exploring the notion of "home" entitled "Home Sweet Cary." This summer, CVA collaborated with the Cary Cross Currents Chamber Music Festival, anchored by the Brussels Chamber Orchestra. The concerts were accompanied by special viewings of "Home Sweet Cary," giving both cultural arts groups exposure to one another for the first performances in the new Cary Arts Center theatre.

Clare is currently overseeing the expansion of the Wishing Well Exhibition, a quarterly student art show located at WakeMed Cary Hospital. "We plan to install a hanging system down a large stretch in a main corridor of the hospital featuring local artists."

Clare looks forward to continuing with Cary Visual Art and partnering with other cultural arts organizations to "encourage healthy growth and awareness of the grassroots art movement in our community." To see what she is up to now, visit Cary Visual Art's website at

September 2011

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