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Ashley Sexton

Assistant Director/Exhibitions Coordinator at Arts Council of Southeast Missouri

Majored in Fine Arts

Graduated in 2019

Explain your career path

My post graduation career path was definitely not a straight line from A to B. I have done almost everything in between, but really that set me up for more success now that I'm at point B. I graduated in 2013 and immediately moved to St.Louis and picked up a great job in property management. The exact opposite of what I really wanted to do, what I went to school to do. While there I found ways to sneak art and creativity daily into my job. Out of the blue an opportunity for my partner back in Cape Girardeau opened up, and we moved back with almost no notice. After 3 months back in Cape working yet another job that had little to nothing to do with my interests a position became available at The Arts Council of Southeast Missouri. Upon applying I was offered a part time position. Recently the full-time Exhibitions Coordinator position opened up and after application and a fun interview process I was offered the position.

What was your major at Southeast and what led you to that?

I was a B.F.A. major at Southeast. I knew from day one I would be in the art department, and I knew from day one that I wanted to be a sculptor. I wasn't expecting to get involved in much else but I was pleasantly surprised at how much my passions grew outside of the small scope I had envisioned. The faculty in the department really helped to broaden my interests and lead me to grow a passion for the gallery and curation aspect of the art world.

Why did you choose to attend Southeast?

I chose to attend Southeast initially for the obvious reasons: it was close to home, it was my fathers alma mater and it made sense financially. More importantly though, I chose to stay at Southeast because of the faculty and mentorship that the art department fosters here.

Who influenced you most during your time at Southeast?

Hands down my biggest influence, and professional inspiration was Chris Wubbena. The first day of my first entry level art course I moved to the ground to work while my peers sat at their desk and Wubbena walked by and said "your a sculpture major" and that immediate connection really set the pace for my entire academic career at Southeast. He was, and still is, the outside perspective I seek out when making decisions and his career has always been an inspiration and benchmark to my own career goals.

Share your best college memory.

My favorite memory at Southeast is Fort Serena. There is an annual event where the Sculpture and Painting students takeover Serena Hall and create a unique showcase of their work. Our year we decided to do something weirder than ever done before. We turned the woodshop into a giant blanket fort. We hung sheets from floor to ceiling and brought a projector in and lived out all of our treehouse meets classroom dreams. We called it Fort Serena.

What is the most important thing you learned while you were at Southeast?

The most important thing I learned while at Southeast was the importance of creative flexibility. If this past year has taught us anything its that nothing ever goes according to plan. The ability to walk into a situation and have to change direction without warning is something I was be forever grateful to Southeast for.

Describe Southeast in three words.

Creative. Energetic. Supportive.

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

My great professional accomplishment is the successful launch of my own public art project, The Public Domain Project. With the help and support of the community in Cape Girardeau, The Public Domain Project offers original artist editions monthly for free through the use of retired newspaper dispensers. This project has been the perfect blend of art and arts administration that the Southeast art department set me up to pursue. It has been highlighted in local magazine Flourish as well as The Scout Podcast.

How did your education at Southeast prepare you for what you are doing today?

I was really lucky to be involved in Catapult Creative House which really prepares you for a career in arts administration. I had the opportunity to be the student gallery manager, I got to practice the actual real world skills I use every day but with the supervision and guidance of my professors and other staff. These opportunities are things that anyone at Southeast has access to and I encourage all current and future students to seek them out and do as many as humanly possible before graduation.

What advice would you give current students or recent graduates interested in pursuing a career in your professional field?

There are 3 huge things that you have to be prepared for in any creative field: Be ready to hear no (alot). Ask the question. Be comfortable doing things that make you uncomfortable. Every day there are situations that are some combination of those 3 things, and being able to do them successfully makes you a stronger professional creative.

What do you wish you had known before graduating and entering the "real world"?

College does not equal job training. Your degree says one thing but your skills can apply to so many other fields. Just because you have an education degree doesn't mean you are stuck to teaching K-12, the opportunities are endless you just have to find ways to showcase how your skills can apply in new ways. Every job I have had since graduation, even the "non-creative" jobs were earned by my ability to sell myself and sell my "creative problem solving".


(573) 651-2210
River Campus Seminary 306

Holland College of Arts and Media
One University Plaza, MS 7895
Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701