This month we connected with Morgan Beckwith, a 2009 graduate of our Dance Department, currently serving on the staff of Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York City. Morgan generously offered her thoughts on her Walnut Hill experience as well as her transition into the commercial gallery industry.
Catch us up on the years since you graduated—what did you do after Walnut Hill, and how did you make the transition to the career you have now?
After graduating from Walnut Hill I attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. From performing George Balanchine’s Serenade at the newly constructed Winspear Opera House to “boulevarding” during home football games, there were infinite occasions to work very hard and have the type of college experience I hoped for. Halfway through my time at SMU I decided to tack on an Art History major, a subject I have always been passionate about. That passion led me to an opportunity to work in the fine art world, at first selling antique prints, watercolors and paintings, and then onto my current field selling photography.
It was a difficult decision not to pursue a professional career in dance, but SMU gave me the tools to figure this out for myself very pragmatically. I applied and was given a grant through the SMU Engaged Learning Department to intern with a small contemporary ballet company in Mystic, Connecticut. I studied the reality of what life would be like as a professional dancer and after presenting my findings I decided that this was not the path that would serve me. In 2012 I interned with NBC Universal’s booking team for the Summer Olympics in London and then was hired as a booking contractor for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. I knew from this experience that I enjoyed the challenge of high-pressure environments. Therefore, upon graduation I decided to pursue a career in the commercial gallery world, where an interest in fine art and the ability to succeed in intense and time-sensitive situations would serve me well. After a memorable run-in with a gallery owner while checking out a sale preview at Sotheby’s Auction House, I was offered an interview, and got my start in the gallery industry.
Do you find that your arts education serves you well in your current field? If so, in what ways?
I cannot emphasize enough how my time at Walnut Hill serves me every single day, especially in a place like New York and in the commercial gallery profession.
In the Dance Department we were taught very early on to take criticism without hurt feelings or second-guessing our ability. Understanding that this is the best and most effective way to improve in any industry, has given me a significant advantage.
The fine art world encompasses a collection of divergent and oftentimes difficult personalities. Spending three years of my high school career surrounded by expressive and passionate artists has helped me to communicate and work with personalities and viewpoints that are different from my own in order to get things done.
Lastly, Walnut Hill gave me genuine love and curiosity for multiple art forms. Sales is a difficult business and very disingenuous if you don’t believe in the material you are dealing with. Walnut Hill gave me the ability to connect with art and discuss it in a way that helps me share it with other people and get them excited about it.
Do you have any lessons or advice for our recently graduated Walnuts who are entering the world?
Spread your love for art! Even if you are not pursuing a career that is directly connected to your studies at Walnut Hill, that doesn’t mean your chosen art form can’t still be a part of your life. In fact, I am of the opinion that we have a duty to our fellow artists and to ourselves to be active members of the wider arts community. There are multiple ways to honor your legacy at Walnut Hill.
I had a difficult personal relationship with dance as a performer but chose not to abandon my passion for dance. While at SMU I began writing for an online editorial publication, now a website, print-journal, and podcast, called DIYdancer. Through this incredible community of editors, critics and artists I have been able to see countless performances and interview a wide range of choreographers and dancers in order to be a part of the conversation. I would also consider myself an amateur dance historian and a collector of books on 20th century American dance. I’m incredibly thankful to still be an active member of the dance community and I hope that all alumni are able to find a way to connect with their chosen artistic community.