A farewell interview with Executive Director Jessica Pierotti

Photos by  Ryan Edmund

Photos by Ryan Edmund

This month we are featuring Jessica Pierotti, our Executive Director. She will transition out of the position in January and we are very excited to have a talented and enthusiastic incoming ED to announce then. In the meantime, we wanted to let Jessica share a bit about her time at LATITUDE and celebrate her hard work and impact on the space and its staff.

What changes have you seen at LATITUDE that you’re most excited about?

I’m excited to see the organization stabilize and strengthen all around. It’s satisfying to work with a scrappy, young nonprofit like LATITUDE and be able to see so much change and growth occur so quickly. We have a savings account now! And an accountant! And a really well organized Google Drive!

Aside from organizational changes, I’m sure you’ve experienced a lot of personal growth within the past three years. What have you learned about yourself? (i.e. new perspectives on life, art, management, interpersonal skills, leadership skills, identity, foods you used to hate but now love, etc).

I came into this position, honestly, pretty underqualified. I showed up with enthusiasm, a lot of opinions, and a stubborn streak that kept me motivated through the tougher days. With the support of outgoing Director, Pepper Kelly, I jumped into a lot of firsts right away. LATITUDE is like nonprofit management boot camp! I’ve learned a variety of tangible skills like grant writing and how to properly handle a mural print, but I think my most significant growth has come from the management and leadership aspects of the job. Working in a truly collaborative work environment has been so incredibly inspiring and productive for all of us! I can honestly say that I have an amazing group of coworkers who believe in the work they do and care about each other. Good management is figuring out the strengths and weaknesses of people around you and creating the environment for them to thrive. Think, more like a garden, less like a farm.

Something we have all admired about you is your knowledge, ability to lead and create change, and provide the opportunity for staff and lab assistants to grow. You have also done an exceptional job at being a proponent for LATITUDE’s mission of shared education and inclusion. Do you have any parting words of wisdom for the staff, lab assistants, and community?

Listen to each other. Don’t shy away from a challenge. When it doesn’t go quite right, recover well.

How about your art, how’s that going? Any future plans?

After transitioning out of LATITUDE I will be continuing to teach at UIC and SAIC, and at least for a couple of months, trying to keep my schedule relatively open. I have recently wrapped a book project, I CAN NOT BE SEEN LIKE THIS, and am looking forward to starting something new. Goals for the New Year? More sleep, more studio, more books, more writing!

List three things that changed the way you look at/think about/or make art.

1. My Conceptual Art History class with Chip Sheffield at RIT. It was the first crack in my understanding of art that then led to basically everything I make and enjoy now.

2. Teaching! The classroom is such a cool experiment and I love seeing ideas develop in there. My students inspire me to step outside of my comfort zones creatively as well as to be more patient with myself. I don’t know how many times I’ve told a student to take a deep breath and trust themselves a little more - and then I remember I better take my own advice from time to time.

3. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s basically a self-help book for creative people (aka humans) and has been really impactful for me. You can be cynical about that, but isn’t cynicism off-trend right now anyway?

What art, film, music, food, etc are you currently into?

I am looking forward to seeing the Nauman show at the MoMA in January. I am currently reading Fasting and Feasting, a biography of the author/artist Patience Grey who lived a fascinating, rebellious, and creative life. During my upcoming semi-employment window I want to learn to make a quiche, and sourdough bread. Some records on repeat this year: Courtney Barnett’s new release, Tierra Whack, Mitski, and always Radiohead. Also, just caught Parquet Courts live and it was such an excellent show!

Staff FeaturesColleen Keihm