One of the cool things about the Integrated Design program here at Parsons is that it is very small and tight knit. So when I met Christopher Udemezue, an alumni of the program back in 2008 I knew I had to chat with him about his experiences in IDP and overall here at Parsons. It’s been over five years since Chris has graduated and he has been working non-stop in graphic design with a current position as the art director of Afar magazine and not to mention his own fine art and performance art works that he shows at galleries throughout the city. Since graduation is fast approaching for me it’s always great to talk to alumni who were able to land great jobs post-grad. Check out my interview with Chris below!
Lauren Davis: Hey Chris! So I gotta ask, with all of the design schools out there, why Parsons?
Chris Udemezue: Honestly, I didn’t choose Parsons. Parsons chose me. I applied to basically all of the major art schools and Parsons offered me the best scholarship/financial aid award package. In addition to the amazing programs Parsons offered and with a lot of the financial burden being lifted, especially because I come from a middle-class family, that made it a major factor in my decision. I think the fact that Parsons is a private school that might scare or deter people but if you do your research there are tons of programs and scholarships out there that can make college affordable.
LD: In the Integrated Design program you were able to major in fine arts as well as communication design. How do you feel this education helped you for what you are doing now?
AfarCU: Well I am currently the art director at the travel magazine Afar and I’ve been there for almost a year; prior to that I worked at Conde Nast’s Gourmet magazine. I also show my fine art and performance work at galleries throughout the city. I think being in Integrated Design was instrumental for me because I had so many different interests and wanted to try a little bit of this and a little bit of that, which this major allowed me to do.
LD: What are some of your duties as art director at Afar?
CU: At Afar there is the publishing team and then the sales and marketing team, who I work with. We basically come up with the visual direction of the magazine as well as work with the overall presentation, campaigns and editorial pages.
LD: What are some of the challenges of not being in school and in the “real world”?
CU: I think one of the biggest challenges is just remembering that you are an artist. When you start to work for a company or if you’re assisting someone else we tend to forget that we are creative people. And when you are out of school and more focused on how to pay your bills It’s easy to lose sight of that. It’s important to remember to self-motivate yourself and continue pushing yourself in your own work. Go to museums and stay current and up to date with what’s happening in the art world. Also, talk to other artists. In art school we are kind of spoiled because we think well everyone’s an artist, right? But in the ‘real world’ that is not so much the case. Keep a close network of friends from school and motivate each other to just make things.
LD: How important would you say internships are and can you tell me about some of your own intern experiences?
CU: As I’m sure you know internships are very important. I feel like in school I was able to learn a lot of theory and really hone my skills; but, an internship gives you real world experience. Figuring out gallery contacts, talking to art movers, and just seeing overall how things get done are things that only happen out of the school environment. I would also say it is imperative to have a variety of internships. Take notes, sit and learn from the people who are already in these positions. My one and only paid internship was in the marketing/art department at Bloomingdales and I was given a lot of hands on work. I worked on presentations, mood boards, call sheets for photoshoots and everyone was super nice… which I thought was weird!
LD: Can you share one of your best memories while being at Parsons?
CU: I think the many times of being in the Integrated Design room/floor are among some of the best memories I have. It was such a small program back then but I loved it because I knew everyone. That room and the people in the program definitely became a second home for me. You know, it’s such an amazing thing to be in this big city but see the same faces every day. It was like a little base and we were like a family.
LD: Do you have any advice for current and prospective students here at Parsons?
CU: For prospective students I would say, don’t underestimate art school! You will work hard, even I was surprised! But that just made me love it that much more. I would also say stick to your guns. Art is subjective and a lot of teachers might tell you something you don’t agree with but if you’re passionate about what you’re doing stick with it no matter what. For current students I would say enjoy it! Opportunities will open up when you graduate and this is the time to network. Talk to your teachers and your peers. Stay strong, be strong and hold on!