Alumni Profile – Julia King

Posted: September 21, 2015 at 2:19 pm, Last Updated: September 21, 2015 at 3:13 pm

Julia King Alumna of George Mason University Arts Management Program.

Julia King

MA in Arts Management 2015
Erin Gaffney Award Recipient 2015
Group and Education Sales Manager, American Shakespeare Center

What topics in the arts are you most passionate about and why?

I’m very inspired by how artists are using their art to begin conversations with the community. There’s a principle in community art that says, “with not for” which means we aren’t creating this art for people, we are doing it with them – art is a cross-sector, collaborative process. I’m constantly looking for arts organizations that engage in dialogue and have true intentions of creating with the people who are in their immediate community.

What inspires you as an arts leader?

Conversation, collaboration, and creativity. Arts leaders are fortunate in the sense that all we have to do is simply talk, read, and listen in order to discover new ideas. I’m lucky that all of my mentors are the smartest females I have ever met. I can just sit down with them and listen and I know I will be inspired by different thoughts and ideas.

What did you do before you came to Mason?

I’m a theatre kid at heart – I had really known no other path until I took two years off and interned with Probation and Parole officers while pursuing a degree in human services. I thought being a probation officer was my true calling until I happened to see a production of The Comedy of Errors at the American Shakespeare Center in 2008. I had an epiphany in that moment that I missed the connection between the stage and the community and I did a complete 180 to finish a degree in theatre. Since the striking revelation that brought me back to theatre, my focus has been how a production can transcend the boundaries of the stage and inspire real connection and conversation in the community.

What specific area of arts management is your focus?

I firmly believe in the intersection of arts management and social justice. I recognize the importance of talking about issues and collaborating to solve problems, so I enjoy my work in the marketing world. I love looking at what is being said and asking myself “is this the best possible message for the organization and the community?”

Why did you choose to study arts management at George Mason University?

I grew up in Northern Virginia and I watched Washington, D.C., grow into a powerful and dynamic arts scene. When I was looking at grad schools, there really wasn’t another choice for me because I knew I would be in a great city and my professors would be working professionals who could talk about current events. I also loved that an internship was a requirement of the program – and I was so lucky that I was able to move to St. Louis for my final semester to work with for the Regional Arts Commission’s Community Arts Training (CAT) Institute.

How has the Erin Gaffney Award influenced your life and career?

The award acknowledged my work in theater and social justice – my passion always will be using theatre in nontraditional settings, like Shakespeare in correctional settings to foster new skills and create a stronger community. I was able to share my passion with the Gaffney family for about an hour after the awards banquet. The stories Mrs. Gaffney told me of Erin reminded me so much of my own life. She gave me Erin’s memorial card, which now has a home near my desk at work. I’m reminded that we don’t know how long we have in life, but it’s so important to do what you believe in – if you throw yourself behind your work and your community, people will see the love you have to share and you will be inspirational.

How do you employ the transformative power of art in your work?

I’m in a unique position that I’m not only Group Sales for ASC, but also Education Sales. I coordinate customized visits to the Blackfriars Playhouse that are filled with shows, tours, lectures, workshops… whatever the teachers want. It’s great to see students coming in and experiencing Shakespeare in a “different” way. We keep our lights on during the performance and actors engage with audience members who are sitting onstage and in the house – many students walk away actually understanding Shakespeare! That is such a satisfying experience.

I recently coordinated a workshop for a school that is in our immediate community. Not many of the students had ever been to see a show at the Blackfriars Playhouse, despite it being a few miles away. Knowing that I helped introduce them to the most transformational Shakespeare experience they will ever have is simply thrilling.

What are you involved in now, in the arts and in your career?

I came into my position with a lot of ideas, so I’m currently working on streamlining my processes with the help of some amazing department heads. Student Matinee season starts in September, so every Thursday (and some Wednesdays) we have about 200-400 middle and high school students coming through our doors and I’m their first point of contact when they get here. This year, we received a grant from the NEA and Arts Midwest that we use to provide ticket subsidies to students. In working with the teachers who have applied for the grant funds, I feel like I already know them and their students! I’m ready to finally meet them!

Any exciting projects on the horizon or plans for the future?

Elena Forbes (a current Mason Arts Management student) and I have started a blog: Parallel & Tangential. We noticed a few months ago that a majority of our conversations were arts management related and we both love a good, clean audit. The blog was started in order to explore the tough topics that we run into every day, but in our usual light-hearted and thoughtful manner. It’s been a really wonderful project to take on with someone who is so knowledgeable in her area of arts management. I’m really grateful we met in the Art in the City class during our first summer session!

Anything else you would like to share?

Come visit Staunton! I’d love to take you out for coffee and the best waffles in the world, explore one of the many amazing wineries in the Shenandoah Valley, and show you a captivating and transformational Shakespeare experience!


About Julia

Julia is proud to be the Group and Education Sales Manager at the American Shakespeare Center (ASC) in Staunton, Virginia. Nestled in the historic and idyllic Shenandoah Valley, ASC is the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor playhouse, the Blackfriars Theatre. At ASC, “we do it with the lights on” because that’s the way Shakespeare did it. By re-creating his original staging conditions, ASC brings back the fun and connection audiences had with the actors in his day. Julia’s favorite part about her work is that she gets to talk to educators in the community (and nationally) and help them design amazing trips to the American Shakespeare Center tailored just for their students.

Julia found her home in theatre box offices after dabbling in performance and directing. While at Mason, she worked in Synetic Theater’s box office and interned at Provisions Library. Her most recent stop prior to ASC was at the Community Arts Training (CAT) Institute in St. Louis where she was a part of the team that worked to teach artists and community workers collaborative skills. Her graduate capstone thesis, Prison Performing Arts: a case study in community arts organizations and marketing, looked at the practical and ethical implications of marketing for arts organizations that work in difficult areas. Julia has a passion for being the “connector” piece of any puzzle.  She often jokes that she is passionate about finding out what other people are passionate about.