Sean Fitzthum - JHP Arts Career Development Fellow

Sean Fitzthum is one of the Josephine Herrick Project's Arts Career Development Fellows.  The Fellowships are generously funded by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and the NYS Regional Economic Development Council (REDC). Our Fellowships are intended to help build career pathways for veterans based in Long Island to develop careers as photographers and /or as Arts administrators.  Over the course of the Fellowships, the Fellows are placed with arts organizations in Long Island where they are expected to get a very hands-on opportunity to learn about their craft and key areas of managing a non profit.

Though less than halfway through his Fellowship, we asked Sean to write us a blog that helped us catch up with his first weeks.

March 15, 2019

I started my fellowship in early January based with the Islip Arts Council, a nonprofit that presents, produces, and promotes a range of high quality arts programs for the diverse population of western and central Suffolk county, Long Island. It puts on a series of concerts and exhibitions as well as a range of arts and cultural classes, as well as managing the Islip Arts Museum, the leading exhibition space for contemporary art on Long Island.

My first day on the job was in the museum, and hanging the first solo exhibition in the United States of acclaimed Chinese artist, Yu Han-yu.  the first solo exhibit that they have ever hosted,  

I was also a first for me, never having planned, designed or installed an exhibition. From that first day I have not stopped learning. So far I have been trained so many facets of running a presenting organization as well as a museum, from creating, scheduling, recruiting teachers and marketing art classes, to identifying and booking artists, (both visual and musical,) for concerts, exhibitions and other events.  I had no idea how much went into planning some of these events.

Apart from learning about so many aspects of organizing and managing such programs and events I am fast learning about fundraising for the money to pay for the events, the artists as well as the Arts Council staff and teaching artists and all the associated costs, including including reaching out to local elected officials and civic minded local business owners. As well as basic event planning and fundraising, I am learning about about marketing, bookkeeping, operating a gift shop, and many other things that go into running a non profit organization on a day to day basis.

Since starting here, I have met influential people in all areas of the art world, including artists from a wide range of disciplines, elected officials, media personalities, and local business owners and even, I am proud to say, an astronaut. 

I am being mentored by several photographers and marketing professionals, who have given me invaluable tips and lessons about getting "exposure" for my photography. I have had the opportunity of building my event photography practice, and shooting photos for print as well as online and social media marketing. Trained originally as a graphic designer, I have even also started drawing again since being surrounded by creatives, which is a great outlet.

I couldn’t have imagined learning so much in such a short period of time, and cannot thank the NYSCA and REDC and all those mentioned here enough for the opportunity. I look forward to going to work every day.


Sean on ladder on his first day, with Assistant Director of the IAC, Linda Weingarten, looking on, as Chinese Artist, Yu Hanyu, directs.

Sean on ladder on his first day, with Assistant Director of the IAC, Linda Weingarten, looking on, as Chinese Artist, Yu Hanyu, directs.


Jessica Wanamaker