Get to Know Our Staff: Q&A with Alexandra Cespedes

If you’ve had much contact with Agora Gallery, there’s a good chance you’ll have come across Alexandra Cespedes, our Marketing Assistant, who works with artists to help them work out what they’re looking for in terms of promotion and ensure that they get it. Friendly, fun to be with and enormously professional, Alexandra is popular with gallery staff, visitors and artists alike!

Alexandra at a reception

From Left: Clara, Sabrina, Alexandra

Q&A with Alexandra

When did you first discover your interest in art?

My mother always said I was born an artist. She still has my very first painting from when I was six years old. Growing up in New York and being exposed to museums, galleries and street art, I fell in love and became an art appreciator at a very young age.

Is there anyone in your life who particularly encouraged you to explore your love for art?

My mother always pushed me to explore my talents. She enrolled me in performing art schools all through grade school and high school. She celebrated all my academic and artistic achievements. She encouraged me to pursue my love for the arts and make it my career.

Alexandra in Agora

What made you decide to take your interest to the next level with a BFA?

Honestly, getting my BFA seemed like the next logical and natural thing to do. While attending the Fashion Institute of Technology I was able to explore so many levels of the art industry and fashion that I was always eager to learn more. I didn’t approach it as a degree I needed in order to acquire greater success in my career, but happily continued my studies in the pursuit of knowledge.

What made you realize that you wanted to work in the fine art world?

I knew nothing else would make me happy.

Alexandra at Agora

From Left: Clara, Nellie, Sabrina, Alexandra, Chiara, Anya

What’s your favorite aspect of working at Agora Gallery?

I love working with all these highly educated, brilliant and talented women. Our team at Agora is pretty incredible and we’re all so supportive of each other which makes for a great working environment. I also enjoy meeting so many different artists from all over the world who have such tremendous talent. Listening to their experiences, stories and drive is inspiring.

If you could meet one figure from art history, who would it be?

Frida Kahlo de Rivera, the female Mexican painter who is best known for her self portraits. Her life’s work is an inspiration to me, as a Latina and female artist myself.  Her work screams passion, love, and pain and she humbly put her anguish on canvas for all to see. I admire her greatly, because through all her life’s challenges she never stopped painting.

Q&A with Christine

If you have visited Agora Gallery anytime in the last year or so, the chances are that as you opened the door into the main gallery you were greeted by the smiling face of Christine Vittorino, our lovely Gallery Assistant who is usually on hand to welcome visitors. Christine has a BA in Arts Administration from Baruch College in NYC, an MA in Art Museum and Gallery Studies from the University of Leicester, UK, and has contributed an article to ARTisSpectrum about the value of museums considering the option of long-term collection-sharing. She’s a New York native, and if you’ve met her, you’ll already know that she’s fun, friendly and full of passion for as well as knowledge about art.

As Christine is the first person many people meet on entering Agora, it seemed like a good idea to give blog readers the opportunity to find out a bit more about her:

When did you first discover your interest in art?

From a young age, I was obsessed with fashion design – with endless drawings of faceless figures sporting elaborate designs only fit for the runway. Drawing was my primary outlet for expressing my creativity. My interest in drawing, though casual, was a constant and private interest of mine.

What made you realize that you wanted to work in the fine art world?

I actually attended a business school with a concentration in Advertising. Frankly, I did not know what careers in the arts existed at that time, so I chose the most creative window I could find in the business world. After taking Art History as a prerequisite, I discovered various art electives, including art market and museum studies. These courses grounded my understanding of the art world and offered a new direction. Ironically, business made me realize that I wanted to work in the fine art world.

Why New York?

I was born and raised in Astoria, Queens – a borough of New York City minutes away from Manhattan. After taking time to travel and live abroad, I returned to New York with a renewed appreciation for its unique culture. Not to build on any clichés of this being the “center” or “best” city, I feel it is rather designed to attract different lifestyles, which makes it so appealing. Each borough, each neighborhood carries its own identity. We have a 24/7 running transportation system, food options for any diet, and art, music and theater districts that continue to draw people from all parts of the world.

What does a typical day at Agora look like?

There is no one day that is the same as the next.  From visiting artists, patrons and tourists snapping their photographs to incoming and outgoing artwork passing through our doors — Agora Gallery mirrors the busy city in which it resides. The occasional Afternoon Tea Time is sometimes needed!

What’s your favorite aspect of working at the gallery?

Apart from the wonderful team of art enthusiasts I get to work with every day, one of the natural perks of working at the gallery is the art itself. While permanent exhibitions tend to define traditional art institutions, Agora Gallery’s exhibitions change every 3 to 4 weeks, making for continual change and inspiration for visitors; it is a true dynamic. Coming with an Art History background, there is always something to learn at Agora Gallery: from the artwork, from the artists and from the staff.

If you could meet one figure from art history, who would it be?

The magnificent Renaissance and later Baroque painter – Caravaggio. In my studies, I was fascinated by Caravaggio’s daring and dark depictions of religious compositions. He drove the technique of chiaroscuro, juxtaposed pure realism in unnatural settings, and humanized religious figures, such as the Virgin Mary in “The Death of the Virgin.” Caravaggio furthermore lived a life of violence and mystery, which ultimately led to his dramatic death. There are so many questions!

I do also want to briefly mention one artist not yet affiliated with the traditional art history canons, but worth noting. I recently discovered the photography of Vivian Maier, an American nanny living between New York and Chicago. Her photography consists of snapshots of the everyday: street photography of the 1950s-1990s. What makes her story particularly interesting is that she did not consider herself to be a photographer. In fact, no one ever saw her incredible photography until she passed away and her photography was discovered cast away in a storage locker. I wonder how this infamously and intentionally private person would feel knowing that her photography has inspired books, documentaries and adoring followers.