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Professional Art Society of Stanford founders reflect on legacy, opportunities opened as group transitions to new leadership

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In 2017, Reilly Jonathan Clark ’18 M.A. ’19 and Michael Reily Haag ’18 M.A. ’19 founded the Professional Art Society of Stanford (PASS) to increase awareness of the arts on campus and provide potential career pathways for art majors at Stanford. 

Now, as Clark and Haag hand the baton to two new PASS presidents, they are leaving a legacy of several PASS-led projects that have taken place around campus. The organization has also increased its connections and engagement with the Bay Area art community since its inception. 

“PASS gives students unique, hands-on experiences that are difficult to find in college,” Clark wrote in an email to The Daily. “For example, we have executed major exhibitions, worked with artists to create new works, visited studios and private collections and most importantly, we have connected students with mentors.”

One of the many hands-on projects PASS has completed is the 2017 exhibition “Badlands,” created by students and put on display at the O’Donohue Family Stanford Educational Farm. The main theme of the exhibition was environmental justice and awareness. For new PASS Co-president Mac Taylor ’20, curating and organizing the exhibition provided valuable lessons that could be used in any future career in the arts.

Taylor noted in an email to The Daily that “PASS members organized, curated, and sponsored the exhibition from start to finish, working with award-winning artist Josue Rivas, as well as the work of other Stanford faculty and MFA students.”

“This event allowed PASS members practice with the process and act of curating, of sponsoring an exhibition, and of working with artists — all experiences not easy to find on campus, and all experiences of increasing value to those interested in pursuing the arts professionally in most any form,” Taylor wrote.

Angelica Jopling ’20, the other new PASS Co-president, said the organization doesn’t just provide hands-on experience, but is also a way to connect her lifelong passion for art with a tangible career in the field.   

“I’ve always had a strong connection to art since I was a young child,” Jopling wrote in an email to The Daily. “Stemming from the intimate and emotional interaction I had with art from such a young age, I was driven to pursue Art History at Stanford.” 

However, passion for art isn’t always enough to make a career. The connections that budding artists make with the wider community are often essential. PASS tries to streamline that process by fostering engagement with and between members of the Stanford community. Local artists also work with PASS to provide opportunities for those interested in the arts.

“Reily and I also wanted to point students towards careers in the arts that many of us never knew existed,” Clark wrote. “The art world can be difficult to access, and we wanted to make it just a little more accessible.”

The connections that students make through PASS are intended to last a lifetime, which is an added bonus considering how difficult it is to gain an entryway into the art world. PASS also provides opportunities for students who have similar artistic interests to connect and collaborate. 

“Having approached art from two directions, one of personal relation and youthful passion, and then from a more academic perspective, I still felt as though I lacked real engagement with the art community at Stanford and beyond,” Jopling wrote. “PASS gives the opportunity to not only combine these two perspectives but to add a third. This is one that is centred around creating an art community both in and outside of Stanford because art cannot be a monologue.”

But connecting with other art students and learning about potential careers aren’t the only benefits of PASS. For cofounders Clark and Haag, founding the society was in itself a challenge. Advocacy and ownership of decisions were just two of the many lessons they learned through their journey.

“Building PASS with Reily taught me so many things. I learned that at Stanford, we can’t rely on the university to do anything for us,” wrote Clark. “We have to organize ourselves and ask for what we want. And we can’t shy away from any task, no matter how big or small! I got to know so many talented people and feel deeply thankful to have worked with them.”

As Clark and Haag hand over the presidency of PASS to Taylor and Jopling, they have high hopes for the future of the society, including more exhibitions and opportunities to connect with other artists. 

“We have a spectacular new generation of executives, led by co-presidents Mac Taylor and Angelica Jopling, who will take the society to new heights,” wrote Clark. “I believe that the Stanford arts community can accomplish anything it sets its mind to. So we need to think big.”

Contact Anahita Srinivasan at srinivasan.anahita ‘at’ gmail.com.

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Anahita was a high school intern for The Daily in summer 2019.
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