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Catchin' up with... Steve Drapalski

Steve Drapalski
Steve Drapalski

You Can Work in the Arts and Make A Living
By Steve Drapalski

I am happy to report to students everywhere that you CAN graduate and develop a successful career in an industry that aligns with your degree! While I may have focused my undergraduate academic career at Salisbury in both the performing arts and marketing (the latter being extremely necessary, I have found, to promote yourself and your talents anytime, anywhere in whatever profession), I now work in fundraising and development for the arts in Washington, D.C. After graduating from Salisbury in 2007 and dabbling in a few not-for-profit and for-profit organizations spanning realms from healthcare to retail over the next few years, I realized what was missing – direction. I knew I was obsessed with the arts but was uncomfortable venturing into a world that often – but not always – comes with financial hardship. That said, I had also worked a few desk jobs at that point and couldn’t handle the day-to-day administrativeness of that world without the presence of that thing I was passionate about.

I went online, did some research and stumbled on a few graduate degree programs in arts management that struck a balance in meeting my needs: practicality plus culture and the arts. I applied to a few different programs and ultimately decided upon George Mason University in Arlington, VA, which is where I discovered my true love for fundraising. My first professor, Patrick Madden, was amazing and is someone I still keep in contact with to this day. He, a non-for-profit development professional for years and in several positions in the arts, had an enthusiasm for his job that was not only admirable but also infectious. I want to feel that purposeful in my job, I thought. And I love to write. I just had a feeling that this field was for me. I proceeded to get a taste of what development was like at my first arts job at Imagination Stage, a mid-level children’s theatre in Bethesda, MD. After about a year and a half there, I wanted to take my career to the next level.

For the past two years, I have had the privilege to work as a development officer for corporate and foundation relations at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts here in Washington, D.C., the nation’s performing arts center. In this role, I have been responsible for stewarding donors who support the Washington National Opera and the National Symphony Orchestra, artistic affiliates of the Kennedy Center. I also work to garner new financial support for all programs offered by both institutions through extensive research, and manage the creation of all reports and proposals to potential and existing funders. As of November 1, I will be assuming a new position with Ford’s Theatre Society in the district as associate director of development for corporate relations. As my first love has always been the theatre, and I have an affinity for U.S. History, this is certain be a great next step in my professional trajectory.

On a personal note, I have an amazing, large family who keeps me grounded and a best friend of 10 years that I met while at Salisbury who reminds me to let loose every now and then. All in all, things couldn’t be better.

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