A behind-the-scenes glance at our alumni
Interviewed by Allen Lee Hughes. This month: Rebecca Lord-Surratt ‘11
What are you currently doing in your life and career that you are proud of?
Career-wise, I am most proud of projects created with long-time collaborators. Developing a language with a group of other people takes time and space, and I value the relationships I have made with other artists along the way. I have two young children Wyatt (4) and Wesley (9 months) who have opened up a whole new world of joy and pride. It's amazing to see their curiosity and how they learn from their world. Wyatt often surprises me with his depth and sensitivity, and learning to be a parent has been one of the most rewarding challenges of my recent life. Being a working artist with a family in New York has its own unique set of challenges, and making that work is a daily accomplishment!
You graduated in 2011 and your career has been very productive. What secrets, principles, talents, assistance, and support do you feel have made you so successful?
The NYU network has definitely supported me since graduation and a great deal of my work I could trace back to a connection with another alum. I'm not sure I possess any secrets, but I do know that for me it's been valuable to keep my mind open to unexpected places my career took me, and to know it's all a work in progress. I try to give myself the permission to not know all the answers, and to try and stretch myself with every project.
How are you currently involved with the department? Are there any ways that you would like to be more involved?
I have participated in Midway for the past 3 years and try to come to Design Show and Alumni events when I am able.
Have you worked with any NYU alumni or current students? How did that work out?
I have worked with alumni both as collaborators and as an Assistant / Associate. I started assisting Andromache Chalfant shortly after I graduated for a show at MCC, and we have been working together ever since. In my TV projects, I work frequently with Aaron Black, and have also hired NY alumni for various art department roles. There is definitely a shared language and experience that unite NYU alumni, and I've always had positive experiences working fellow alumni.
What do you find to be the most difficult part of your process and how do you resolve it?
Just starting from the blank page can sometimes be the most daunting point in a process. I try to get out of my head and work with my hands whenever possible. Definitely something I learned at NYU. When in doubt I try something and see how it feels. Very often this first idea gets thrown out, but at least the juices are flowing. There's also something meditative about the process of working with my hands that can get me into a project when I'm stuck.
When did you get interested in theater or film design and how?
My parents took me to theater and opera from a very young age. I have a vivid memory of a production of Where the Wild Things Are that made me really interested in spectacle and live performance. I played a Nibelung in Das Rheingold at the Lyric Opera in Chicago when I was 13 and got to see behind the scenes on a large scale. I started building and painting sets in high school as a way to be involved with the Drama Department, and fell in love with it. I felt really exhilarated seeing my designs created and fitting into something larger than myself. I was really interested in history, arts, and technology so it always felt like a natural fit for me.
As you design and meet the challenges of being a freelance artist, are there any voices that you particularly hear from the aggregation of voices?
Definitely Paul Steinberg saying “You won't know if it's right until you build it.”
Any final thoughts?
None at the moment.