Arts Alumna Molly Findlay is a key player in Dean David Yager's energized New York alumni network. Taking time from a soaring career as a set designer with the prestigious Manhattan photo agency Marek & Associates, Findlay worked closely with Dean of the Arts Yager and Arts Development Director Lesley Brander to pull together a successful alumni reception last month at New York's Royalton.
"I studied fine art at UCSC," Findlay recalls, "with an emphasis in sculpture and installation art." After graduation in 1995 Findlay went to New York "on a whim—to be in a play a friend was producing." Not destined for stage stardom— "I was a terrible actress"—Findlay continued theater work. After doing costumes on yet another play, Findlay worked on films before landing a job with Harpers Bazaar, one of the preeminent high fashion magazines based in Manhattan. "I was in line to become a junior editor but fashion was just not a great fit for me." After doing a few assignments as prop stylist for Harpers, Findlay found herself catching the attention of famous photographers. "They credited me, and pretty soon I had a resumé. I had to decide whether to work in fashion or do set design."
An Eye for Detail
Set design won out. "I chose it because it was more interesting conceptually," Findlay explains. "And then Marek found me."
Working with the photography group allows Findlay to create intricate visual contexts for high fashion products and events. Her work is rich in contrasting textures and unexpected combinations of color and domain. "I don't have a signature style that I use, it completely depends on the project," Findlay says. "I problem solve. Each shoot is different—and that's why I love my work."
"Sometimes the project is huge— we will build a whole house inside the studio. Sometimes there's travel involved, or perhaps the work is really quite small." Findlay admits she doesn't travel as much these days— "now that I have two little girls."
Findlay is excited about her recent reunion with the UCSC Arts community, and tributes Dean David Yager with rekindling a relationship with her alma mater. "Truthfully I would have always been interested in working with alumni development, but it was only when David reached out that it worked, that it all came together. I wasn't sure how to approach UCSC, and it had just seemed too daunting." Now Findlay finds herself planning future visits to the campus.
Arts Alumni in Manhattan
"David and I went to lunch several months ago, and we talked for hours," Findlay recalls of the initial contact between Arts and alumni. "Then I helped the Arts team get other alumni involved."
Findlay looks forward to coming back to the UCSC Arts community and talking with current students. "It might be comforting for them to know they don't have to have a perfect plan for life after graduation," she laughs. "UCSC teaches you how to think and to be flexible." The visual designer plans to stay in touch with her fellow alums in New York. She cites, alumna Johanna Burke, of Burke and Pryde, who does windows for Bergdorf. Another alumna is an art restorer who works for the Met. "Many are my closest friends."
The UCSC Arts graduates in New York form a vibrant alumni community. And thanks to the recent event in New York, convened by Molly Findlay and David Yager's strategizing, more relationships are destined to grow between the coasts.