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Case Study: Pamela Campbell-Johnston

Personal details
Degree:MA Hons Art History Profile picture
School(s): School of Art History
Year of Graduation:Jun-1993
National of: United Kingdom
Employment details
Organisation: ex Royal Academy of Arts
Job title: Freelance Arts Consultant and Lecturer
Occupational Sector: Arts Consultant
What has been your route to getting your current position?
Throughout my holiday time at the University of St Andrews and before I secured my first permanent position, post graduating, I completed various work experience in a number of different arts organisations: porter at Bonhams Auction House, administrator at the Art Loss Register (company which helps to trace stolen works of art) and tour guiding for the National Trust. After graduation, I secured a permanent position in a recruitment consultancy. I undertook various recruitment exams in employment law, recruitment advertising and interview technique. For the next three years, I worked on temporary and permanent secretarial/executive PA appointments. In 1996, I applied for a position at the Royal Academy of Arts, London as Sponsorship Manager and started a career in this organisation which lasted for over over twelve years. I was promoted from Sponsorship Manager to Head of Corporate Fundraising and then moved from the Development Department to the Education Department. Here, I became the Friends and Patrons Events Manager where I was responsible for the cultural programme of events (about 2/3 events a week) and led these events and any associated administration. I left the Royal Academy to start a family and now work freelance as an arts consultant and lecturer.
What does your job involve ?
I advise clients on what kind of art to purchase for their private or public collection and facilitate that purchase or commission. I also lead tour events and lecture on various fine art subjects to interested adult parties.
What are the best bits of your job ?
I am in a very fortunate position to be able to use my art history degree and to be able to engage my passion for the arts with other people. I enjoy public speaking and imparting my art history knowledge to interested people. It is also a real buzz finding that just perfect piece of art work for a certain environment and client - particularly if it means exposing that client to different genres and art medium against their initial thoughts and loves.
Why were you successful?
Success can be hard to judge as it can mean different things to different people. But in terms of having job satisfaction, it is a great privilege to be able to use my art degree. My hobby and passion, and of course my initial studies at St Andrews, has fuelled my career for over 20 years and I have managed to make it work. Being totally flexible, engaging in all sorts of arts-related work experience, and realising very early on, that money can not be a major motivating factor in the arts world are crucial factors.
What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?
Over the years, I have been on many public speaking courses and had to deliver numerous lectures, presentations and talks. When I think back, the slide talks that we had to give as undergraduates to our tutors and tutor groups gave me a good grounding in public speaking. I have also been able to draw upon information from my dissertation and it helps now, that two of my art history examination papers, focussed on British Domestic Architecture.
What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?
I think when starting out, it is always a good idea to build good business acumen and work out how organisations operate. Don't be fluffy and feel that 'you just want to work in the art world' - just think of the furore that Obama made by his recent comment - "I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree". It is all too easy to just think that an art history degree is only useful for those individuals who wish to pursue a career in education or become a curator and setting up exhibitions. If there is a calling for a career in arts museums and galleries - do consider these organisations as institutions which have many different departments ie finance, personnel, development, education, IT, front of house, marketing, press and so on. This opens up the opportunities for potential career paths. A degree in art history is not the exclusive door opener for permanent employment - be business savvy, have real skills to offer potential employers and above all, have a passion and interest in this world as it is so rewarding. There are numerous opportunities to socialise with like minded individuals.