Alumni Profile: Karin Goodfellow

Infinite Careers is a new collaboration between Career Services (CAPD) and the MIT Alumni Association to explore career paths and the non-linearity of career decision making. Read profiles of alumni with unique career paths, hear their stories and network at a series of talks.

Karin Goodfellow 

Education

  • Dartmouth College, Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art, 2001 
  • Harvard Graduate School of Education, Master of Arts in Education, 2006 
  • MIT Sloan School of Management, 2014
Karin Goodfellow

Biography

As Director of the Boston Art Commission and Boston AIR, Karin Goodfellow drives all public art initiatives and policies for the City of Boston. A leader in the arts in the Greater Boston Area, she is a relationship builder, connector, fundraiser, and arts advocate. Karin leads the Boston Art Commission, housed in the Mayor's Office of Arts and Culture, to commission and approve innovative and transformative art and promote its accessibility to enrich the lives of Boston’s diverse citizens and visitors.

She has reinvigorated the City’s portfolio of artworks to engage in contemporary trends and dialogues with an emphasis on artistic excellence that reflects the diversity and values of Boston’s neighborhoods. An artist herself, Karin fosters involvement of Boston’s arts influencers, cultivates collaboration, curates projects, leads community engagement, and manages all aspects of operations.

Since 2008, she has succeeded in increasing transparency and procedural clarity by removing obstacles to improve artistic performance and experience. In 2016, she grew that work to include projects funded through the City’s capital budget with the creation of the City’s first Percent-for-Art program. She also spearheaded the City of Boston’s first Artist-In-Residency program, Boston AIR, now entering its fourth year. Through this expanding program, Karin cultivates new approaches to familiar challenges in city government by supporting local artists as agents of reflection, collaboration, and activism. A graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she has a background in project planning and design, policy and implementation, and visual arts and social practice.

Interview

What influenced your choice of undergraduate major? How has it shaped your career choices and professional ability?

I had always loved art, and I was confident that I would find a way to make a career in the arts. During my undergraduate studies, I supplemented my academic work with real world experience involving networking, grant and proposal writing, program design and development, and project implementation and follow-up.

What influenced your choice of graduate program? How has it shaped your career choices and professional ability?

I was looking to balance my experience, as well as deepen my understanding of the work I was doing in the arts.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently or more of while you were at MIT?

I wish I had kept a better sleep/exercise schedule and made more connections outside my program. I exhausted myself.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?

I work at the local level and am able to immediate results. While I am in a leadership position, I still am able to do creative work designing programs and developing policies and processes.

What motivates you to do the work that you do?

I believe that public art allows us to define and communicate our values across experience and time. I am motivated to ensure Boston's expressed values are reflective of who we really are.

What is the biggest challenge you've encountered in your career? How have you managed or overcome it?

Working in a political atmosphere on public projects offers unique challenges and holds me to a really high standard of transparency and dedication to mission.

Making decisions, especially important-feeling career decisions, is really challenging. What strategies have you used to make career decisions?

I was interested in following my dreams but also was really interested in financial stability and ethical fulfillment in my work. I made some compromises and was strategic with my choices and kept long-term life goals in mind when I made choices, even if I didn't really have a plan or map.

What professional development experiences or opportunities shaped your early career?

The projects I did through grants as an undergrad are most similar to the work I do now.

What professional development activities do you find really useful these days?

At this point, stepping back is my best professional development and really leaning into my personal life. I worked so hard for so long, now I do my best when I'm happy and supportive of those around me.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve received?

Stop apologizing. Tell people you are doing your best.

What career advice do you have for current MIT students, or those interested in entering your industry?

Whether government or the arts, get your foot in the door if you can find a position, even if it's not the one you ultimately want, and kick its butt; go to free events and network; get to know who the players are and see if you can get them familiar with you.

Do you have any tips for networking or job searching for current students and recent graduates?

Tailor your communication style to your audience, but share something that makes you unique. Also keep in mind that everyone will google you.

What do you like to do outside of work for fun/relaxation/inspiration?

Mostly running and yoga. I've been pushing myself to read more fiction and draw and paint again.