Interview with Deb Rosen: Director of Art Production at Wieden + Kennedy

So often people want to know the story behind the photographer or the creative on a project, but what about the art producer?  Art production is such an interesting job to say the least. The people I know in this position come from such rich and diverse backgrounds and rarely do they follow the same path to become one. Understanding this, I thought it would be fun to host a series of interviews with art producers that doesn’t just address how to get their attention, but instead celebrate the art producer for who they are, where they came from and what is important in their life.

Thank you Deb Rosen for agreeing to be part of this series.  Deb is Director of Art Production at Wieden + Kennedy NYC  and was eager to share her story. She is always looking for ways to connect with artistic and creative minds and can be found most weekends at museums and galleries in New York. Her passion for her work is obvious through her answers. We hope you enjoy learning about her work as much as I did. 

Not all art producers take the same path to their job.  Where did yours start and how did you end up as an art producer?
I was actually an advertising major in school so I knew that I wanted to get in to the industry but wasn’t quite sure where I fit in specifically. During school I was only taught about account management, strategy, media, and creative–production wasn’t even presented as an option. I always thought I wanted to be an art director since I grew up drawing and painting, but shortly before graduation I realized that, while I wanted to be involved in the creative process, I didn’t want to actually be the art director on the project. Art was such a personal passion that I didn’t know if it would translate well in a commercial sense when I didn’t have complete creative control.

After that, I decided to pursue account management positions because I thought it would be a good way to get my feet wet. I also interned at an art gallery on the weekends to get my creativity fix. One day while working with my art producer, she asked if I had ever thought about pursuing art production. After learning more about the role, I was convinced it would be a good fit for my personal and professional interests. Shortly thereafter, a position became available and I made the switch. I couldn’t have made a better decision, and I can’t imagine doing anything else at this point!

How does being an art producer differ from your other jobs?
I only had experience in account management prior to switching in to art production, but the jobs are very different. As art producers, our job involves keeping up with trends in culture, art and fashion. That’s very different from the account manager role where you are essentially the hub of communication on the team. Good account people make it look easy, but it’s definitely not.

What are the most important skills from your previous jobs that transferred over to an art producer?
Any job where you’re dealing with people can translate fairly well to another. Knowing your audience is key and that’s something one of my first bosses taught me when I was starting out in advertising. That and how to use excel. My team now makes fun of me saying I must have worked for Microsoft in a former life. But I love keeping things organized! It makes my job so much easier.

Did you always know you wanted to work in advertising?
Not at all. I always knew I wanted to do something creative, and I was passionate about art from a very young age. But when I was applying to college a good friend of mine told me that I should choose advertising as a major because it was a way to do something creative while still assuring my parents that I could get a job after graduation.

Did you ever consider becoming a photographer yourself?
Ha, never. I always appreciated photography, but I mostly used graphite when I would craft an image. Regardless, I have always appreciated subtleties in light, texture, and composition. Now I shoot a bit for fun but my eye for those things sometimes translates nicely to photography. Having said that, I understand the hard work and dedication that photographers put into their craft and would never consider myself a true artist. There’s also something to be said for earning that title as so many these days have a sense of entitlement thinking they can go from obscurity to shooting the next big campaign. A bit of humility goes a long way.

We all grow up with influences that make us who we are today.  Can you share one or two experiences that have influenced your art producer style?
Hands down my love of art has influenced my production style. I believe that you can teach someone the fundamentals of production in terms of logistics and process. But you can’t teach someone taste. And it’s such a subjective thing. But I honestly believe my exposure to the fine art world has helped and keeps helping me refine my eye. I value that side of the job so much because I think the best work comes out of true collaborations between the producer and creative teams. And honestly, the best work comes out when a producer does their job right and their creative input is considered and valued by their team.I also think being a twin has made an impact on my work style in general. I am a big fan of teamwork and everyone coming together for one singular purpose. I think the people you work with really make a difference–working with and being surrounded by good people has always been very important to me. 

Do you have a personal aesthetic that comes through in the photographers whose work you are drawn to?

It sounds so abstract but similar to when I listen to music, I look for artwork that makes me feel something. That could be any genre or aesthetic. I am just drawn to something ownable, artful and unique. Well crafted imagery speaks to me whether bright and poppy, more muted in palate, very energetic or more quiet in tone. I truly believe someone’s passion can come across in their photos.  As long as I can sense that passion I will likely be drawn to the image.

Also a clear point of view makes an impact. It is great it a photographer can “do it all” but that instantly makes them more forgettable to me as well. If an artist has a unique perspective I will likely remember them and that will pay off down the road.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
There are a lot of challenges but I think it is particularly challenging when I work with a team that doesn’t bring me on early enough to properly do my job. If I only have a few hours to hire a photographer for a concept that I was barely briefed on, chances are that the outcome will not be very good and no one will be happy as a result.Also, as our media landscape changes, I feel like I am constantly relearning how to work. The needs for social media content being cheap, fast and good is a bit of a struggle. I find myself trying to balance lower budgets with the same creative expectation which can be difficult. But it is also an exciting challenge to find new, up and coming artists who want to work in that space and still create interesting and unique imagery.

What are you known for on your team?
I’m known for consistently going to galleries and always having ideas for new places I want to visit or see. Although these things inadvertently help me with my job, I can’t help but do it regardless. My love of art is inherent and part of my DNA. I am just lucky enough to have found a career that allows me to integrate that into my daily life. 
I am also known for being extremely anal about paperwork. I have a crazy amount of charts and documents to keep everything organized and clear. I feel passionately about being clear with clients, artists and agents. I think clear communication is important to manage expectations and make sure everyone is on the same page. Integrity is extremely important to me and half of that comes with open communication, honesty and being forthright.

What do you love about your job?
I love working with artists. I am constantly inspired seeing how creative minds work and how someone can translate a brief to reality. I love helping to craft that reality. To physically manifest an idea that was initially conceived in someone’s head is very exciting. Every project I work on I learn something new and am consistently amazed by the talent that exists in our world. From established, big names to those who have yet to be discovered, working with people who are passionate about creating beautiful imagery still makes me happy after all of these years. And there is nothing like seeing something you’ve worked so hard to create out in the world. That feeling is unparalleled.

What one word describes your style as an art buyer?
Collaborative and creative –  it’s hard to choose just one!

What is your favorite thing to do on a Sunday?

Is this Sunday during the summer or winter? 🙂 I love to go to museums and galleries on the weekends, so most Saturdays and Sundays you can find me for at least a few hours perusing the latest art shows in the city. Otherwise I like to go vintage shopping, check out a movie or catch up with friends I don’t get to see as often during the week. But let’s face it..most often I am inside cleaning my apartment. It’s not fun but has to get done!!


And, thank you Hunter Freeman for the images!

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