By Kate Helm
One of the stars in the new reality series Gallery Girls premiering Monday, Aug. 13, is Maggie Schaffer ’10. She is one of seven women the series follows as they try to secure their dream jobs in New York City’s competitive art world.
Schaffer, who lives in Manhattan, filmed the series last fall. Thanks to three prestigious internships she was already immersed in the New York art scene. She worked at Eli Klein Fine Art, a contemporary Chinese art gallery; Christie’s New York; and Cottleston Advisors, an art advisory and lifestyle marketing company. Klein approached her about the Gallery Girls show.
“I know firsthand the highs and lows of trying to break into this industry and thought this would be a good opportunity to convey that,” says Schaffer, who graduated with a double major in art and English. “Also, some people see the art world in New York as a full-time glamorous party, and I thought this would be a great way to show both sides of the industry from the perspective of someone trying to build a career.”
Schaffer was surprised to learn how competitive the art world can be. Her professors encouraged her to go after opportunities. Ed Kerns, Clapp Professor of Art, suggested the Christie’s winter internship program, and Jim Toia, director of community-based teaching, encouraged her to introduce herself to the founder of Cottleston Advisors after a campus speaking engagement.
Toia assigned and guided Schaffer in critiquing other students’ artwork when she served as his teaching assistant.
“I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but he pushed me to do it,” says Schaffer. “It made me realize that you can’t be scared of what other people think, and they will appreciate you more for being honest. Professor Toia helped me believe that I had it in me to make this happen for myself. If it weren’t for him and Professor Kerns, I would not be where I am today.”
That kind of individual attention is what led Schaffer to transfer to Lafayette after her first year at a large university in Philadelphia. Lost in the shuffle, she realized the institution didn’t have the resources to make her dreams a reality. Lafayette’s art faculty are known within the industry, and the rigorous academic programs gave her the confidence to succeed.
“Lafayette prepared me for trying to find a job in New York City,” she says. “I was challenged academically and exposed to much more. The faculty is well-recognized within the art scene, and employers respect that I learned from such fine individuals.”