Day Jobs: Alanna Marcelletti, Librarian
The fourth of a week-long series of profiles about artists who work day jobs outside of the art world
By Dani Dodge
Although most artists need day jobs to sustain their practice, it is commonly accepted that the best place for artists to work is within the art world. Some artists, though, live a bifurcated life with one foot in a separate professional world and one in art. This series looks at how some artists balance their day jobs at their art careers.
My artwork can be difficult to describe because it doesn’t really fall into the traditional categories of painting or sculpture, it’s really more of a hybrid. Actually, my favorite description of it is as a “portable installation.” They tend to have some interactive component like moveable parts or transparencies that allow the architecture and light of the space they are in to alter the composition. My latest works are based on the toy “Jacob’s Ladder” and they include multiple panels attached in a way that allows them to be rearranged by the curator. I’m really loving them because they can completely transform from show to show.
I work at an elementary school as an associate teacher in the library. I kind of fell into the job when I went back to school for my MFA and needed to switch from the fourth-grade homeroom assistant to something a bit more flexible. Monday through Friday I work with my lead librarian to help students from kindergarten to sixth grade find literature appropriate for their age and reading level. I help maintain the collection of about 15,000 books by processing, weeding, updating records and performing book repairs.
This most recent school year, I also had the privilege of co-teaching technology for kindergarten through second grade. It was a special kind of challenge figuring out how to juggle my art practice while making lesson plans about coding, typing skills, digital citizenship and online research tailored to a young age group.
I should preface this answer with pointing out some days I balance better than others. Ideally, after my toddler has gone to bed and all lesson plans are finished, I have the night to work on my art. I try to be proactive and get all things day job- related planned far in advance during school holidays to alleviate some of the pressure. Realistically, it can be a bit of a scramble that requires flexibility. Sometimes the most art making I can get in is just quick sketching, the jotting of curation ideas in a notebook, and/or reading a couple of articles online. This coming school year will require less time lesson planning, but I’ve decided to work on my Master of Library and Information Science in the hope of becoming a full-fledged librarian. It’s going to take a bit of adjustment finding the time to study, work, be mom and make art. I know I can do it though since I’ve done it before. I’m just a bit rusty!
Impact of day job, positive:
I’ve always worked narratively and so I find there is a lot of inspiration in a library. For a while I was very interested in the idea of how we teach children through fiction. It can be as obvious as Aesop’s fables to the subtlety of dystopian societies mirroring current political fears. On a lighter note, there is a level of complexity in picture books that I believe feeds my practice as well. One of my favorite discoveries on our shelf was “Picture This” by Molly Bang. It’s something I refer to regularly when my imagery becomes too literal.
Impact of day job, negative:
There are times when work requires my full attention and there is just no energy left the in reserve for anything creative. Last year I had to give up my Inglewood studio because my job was taking me to North Hollywood and so my art has been adjusting to being crammed into my one bedroom apartment.
Do you want to quit?
I would love to cut down on hours for the sake of more studio time, but quitting has never crossed my mind. Plus, the pay allows me to have the stability to afford the cost of making art. There is also something really refreshing about being among books and having access to plenty of inspirational resources. While it can be exhausting sometimes, I usually find I’m still fresh enough after work to want to go home and be creative.
Tomorrow, Randi Hokett, Set Decorator.