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Monica Leap
Chief Mudslinger

06/01/16
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



 Monica Leap of Manchester is the founder and programs manager of Studio 550 in Manchester, an art studio for beginner and advanced artists. She’s also the “chief mudslinger” there, which is the pottery instructor.

Explain your current job.
I am the programs manager of a community arts center in downtown Manchester and I’m also a pottery instructor for kids and adults. … I oversee the staff here, which means I help with marketing, with visioning for the organization, with coordinating all the staff and planning the events and workshops and everything that the studio does. … It’s a small organization, so it’s really a space that’s meant to be nurturing to people who are complete beginners in an art form, which I find is a lot of people. … We have a clay studio, we have a dance studio, a drawing and painting studio and then a stained-glass studio. In addition to that, there’s space for artists to rent out private artist studios.
 
How long have you worked there?
The studio itself has only been open for about three and a half years but it’s probably been about six years in the making.
 
How did you get interested in this field?
I started when I was in high school. I took one of those one-credit art classes and I kind of haven’t stopped since then. … When I was in college, I ended up switching my major to ceramic arts as a focus. And the only way I could really justify getting studio art as a major instead of something like business or medicine or architecture … was if I could use it to impact the community somehow. So I could use it to be involved with people versus just working in a studio solo. It seemed kind of self-serving and solitary.
 
What kind of education or training did you need for this job?
A lot of the learning happened while we were in the process of [setting up the studio]. I’ve been throwing on the wheel for 13 or so years now, so there’s training there to teach the pottery segment. … I have a BFA in ceramic arts and also a … one-year residency program where I was focused on nothing but throwing on the wheel and working in the studio. So, I guess those five or so years of really rigorous ceramics work that has really carried me through.
 
How did you find your current job?
I kind of made it up. … I’ve been to a lot of different art centers throughout the country and actually abroad as well, so I’ve seen a lot of different models and studied in some ways how they worked, and which programs worked best for them. … As far as how I picked Manchester, I grew up in New Hampshire. So my parents actually owned an Asian grocery store in the space we’re in right now. That was back in the ’90s, I think. … So, it’s kind of come full circle. 
What’s the best piece of work-related advice anyone’s ever given you?
I’ve gotten a lot of advice from past employers and mentors. … One thing that is pretty critical to me is that time is your most valuable asset. Money and things, if you lose it or if they go away, you can get it back eventually. But time, once it’s gone, it’s gone. So, you should use that really well.
 
What do you wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?
For this specific project … I wish I knew… just how important it is to pick a good general contractor. … Surround yourself with people who do their job well from the very beginning. 
 
What is your typical at-work uniform?
I wear pants and close-toed shoes and a shirt. … When I’m teaching in the pottery studio, I wear an apron. 
 
What was the first job you ever had?
I worked for my parents when they first opened their grocery store here, when I was in sixth grade. And my first non-family job was Auntie Anne’s at the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua. I was selling pretzels and making lemonade. — Ryan Lessard 





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