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Out of her Element, and Loving It

Julie Wake ‘07 BFA
  • Alumni
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Nonprofit executive Julie Wake envisions a world where artists have a seat – and a role to play – at every table.

Julie Wake is Executive Director at Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, a nonprofit that supports Cape-based artists through funding extracurricular arts activities, artist grants, and personal development opportunities. Julie enrolled in MassArt’s architecture program after several years in the workforce and became the first in her family to earn a college degree. She is passionate about expanding access to the arts throughout Cape Cod, and amplifying the role of art and artists.

What do you remember most about your experience at MassArt?

There was the opportunity to explore — to really grow and lean into things I’d always been thinking about. Going in as an older, non-traditional student, I sometimes felt super out of my element. But I found (MassArt) so welcoming and inclusive. The classes were small, and the coaching and mentoring were so personal. I’ve never felt so challenged and then built back up. And I’ve never laughed so hard. I learned that it’s never too late to try. MassArt made it possible for me to earn a college education. 

How did your program shape your perspective?

I was in the architecture department and it was just mind-blowing to consider housing and structure in a way that was more human. We were thinking about environmental architecture and design as it affects us as people who interact with the world. It brought a softness to a strong-edged subject. It brought me an understanding of how the arts interact with all different sectors. 

How did that perspective lead you to where you are now?

I took those lessons and worked as a communications director for the Housing Assistance Corporation. I’d never worked in social justice before, but I went in with that MassArt confidence. Then, the executive director position at The Arts Foundation of Cape Cod opened up. I understood the sector, the needs and challenges, and how to work with artists. MassArt gave me the cachet to come in and be confident and fearless in a job like this one. The school thinks of its students as future leaders and entrepreneurs. I’ve now been here for eight years. 

What role do you see the next generation of artists and designers playing in society and in the world?

The arts no longer serve just one area. Artists are helping with mental health. They’re helping tell the story about lack of affordable housing. Artists are critical to our humanity. They’re rockstars—the rest of the community really learns from them. It’s so good for society to have an artist in conversations, to talk to somebody who sees the world in a completely different way. I see lots of openings for artists, art organizations, and community access to those things. And I’m excited because most people are starting to get on that same page.

Artists are critical to our humanity. They’re rockstars—the rest of the community really learns from them. Julie Wake ’07 BFA
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