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Todd Oberndorfer is an artist and arts administrator. He holds a BFA in 2D design from Weber State University and an MA in Arts Administration from Southern Utah University. Todd has ties to various organizations and projects in both Salt Lake City and Ogden that seek to support artists, public art spaces, and community engagement and outreach in the arts. This has included working as the Visual Arts Coordinator with the Salt Lake Arts Council to manage the Finch Lane Gallery and co-founding The Banyan Collective media company that focuses on art and adventure podcasting to share events and artist’s stories. Todd also participates in more direct community outreach by co-directing the Arts in the Parks program that provides free workshops and events to encourage community participation in the arts and being part of the Ogden City Arts Advisory Committee dedicated to supporting the arts on a community level.

I had the chance to speak with Todd about his experiences working in arts administration with a focus on supporting artists and the arts in the community. 

As we began our discussion of working in arts administration, we agreed that it seems arts administration is often a career path overlooked by many art students. “There are so many moving parts to keeping the world of the arts going,” Todd said. “I think knowing that there are other fields in art is very helpful because you can start to feel a little bit like 'What do I do now?' it is nice to know that you don't have to be a graphic designer to be an artist.”

Of course, arts administration won’t appeal to every person in the arts community, but it can be a great way to stay involved and connect with the broader art community in addition to working as a professional artist. Todd has a clear passion for working on community-based projects that support artists and help them to connect with the community. “I want artists to be able to do what they love to do,” he continued to say, even if that meant shifting more from personally creating art to supporting others who do. 

"It can be hard to do anything but your studies, but the more that you get yourself involved in the community — particularly the artist community — it's really one of the only ways to make that transition into the arts world.” 

When asked about some of his favorite aspects of working on community-based arts programming, Todd said that he enjoys meeting new artists and getting the public more involved and excited about the arts. This is emphasized with Todd’s podcast work, as he mentioned that it is more about putting yourself in a position to become a place for artists to tell their stories and reach a broader audience. When working in community spheres like the Ogden Arts Advisory Committee, he noted that when it comes to art in the community you are "not making the decisions, but fielding the community decisions” — that is, acting as a spokesperson for what the public wants from the art community. 

As we wrapped up our conversation, I asked Todd his opinion on what students can do to become more involved in the art community, especially as they begin to transition into the professional arts world.

“I know that the more students can do outside of their studies, [the difference] is night and day.” He elaborated: “Having conversations with people is kind of one of the best things you can do. There are so many students that find themselves in these kind of silos, especially with how busy people are in school. It can be hard to do anything but your studies, but the more that you get yourself involved in the community — particularly the artist community — it's really one of the only ways to make that transition into the arts world.” 

Todd went on to share how he became more involved in the arts community, emphasizing the importance of going to meetings, sitting in on committees, anything to learn from the source. “The biggest piece of advice I can give is any art student, any artist, or anyone in the arts is to go out on Friday nights and go to gallery spaces to support art shows, music, dance, theater,” he said. “Prioritize a love of the arts and meet people in the community.” Todd was very insistent about the importance of exploring organizations and events in the art community outside of classes to meet more people and be involved in the community. “There are some things you can only pick up from going to these spaces...If someone is doing the thing, you have to support them so they can, in turn, support you.” 

ArtsForce Takeaways: 

  • Get involved and explore the arts community. 

  • Think outside of your own discipline 

  • Don’t be afraid to make connections with people in the art world. 

  • Prioritize supporting the arts and other artists. 

Ali Fuller

Ali Fuller is a premedical student majoring in Studio Arts with an emphasis in Painting and Drawing, and an Emerging Leaders Intern with ArtsForce.

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