The USF Museum Studies M.A. Program is thrilled to announce that Javier (Javi) Plasencia has just started as our new Program Manager! We recently sat down for an interview with Javi.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your career path? How did you make your way to the USF Museum Studies community?
I’ve worked in a variety of capacities over the years- in higher education, in museums, in arts non-profits and within the public sector, so my path to USF has been a bit winding, you might say.
While completing my graduate degree at NYU for Visual Arts Administration, I worked at two amazing organizations within the city. The first was the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing artists across all disciplines with space, tools, and a cooperative forum for the development of their individual practices. It was an exciting growth opportunity, and I learned so much from the artists and mentors with whom I collaborated. I also held a position in the Education Department at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), helping to facilitate what was then a brand new experimental space in the museum called the People’s Studio. The program still exists and provides visitors to the museum a place to explore art and ideas through engaging participatory programs.
In 2017, I applied for a full-time position at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Arts & Design Department, headquartered in Manhattan. I worked there for nearly three years, first as a Coordinator and then as a Project Manager, helping to facilitate public art projects throughout the transit system.
Last spring, family circumstances necessitated that my partner and I move back west. When I saw the USF Program Manager position listed, I knew I had to apply. Fortune was in my favor, and I was offered the job! I’ve now been in the position for a couple of months, and I couldn’t be happier!
What are some of the greatest highlights and moments of impact of your time working in the arts in New York City?
My time working at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts showed me what it means to work within a dynamic artistic community. I cherished the sense of camaraderie and shared spirit of creativity that I found there; being in that space and engaging with artists daily was so enriching. You never knew what the job that day was going to entail, or what types of conversations would take place.
Working at MTA Arts & Design was another highlight, and taught me about issues of accessibility and equity. We truly embraced the notion that public art is for everyone. We didn’t dumb down our programming or compromise ideals in trying to make the art more accessible. I will always cherish what I learned about site specific artwork, the communities being served, and how to engage and produce artwork for the public.
As we bring in the new year, can you reflect on how the challenges of 2020 have changed your perspective and goals as an arts professional?
What a tough, interesting, and wild year it’s been for all of us! 2020 has encouraged me to redefine what success means for me personally. I have come to realize that what I want most from a professional setting is a sense of community and camaraderie, and at USF I have been able to work with such a wonderful group of students and coworkers who are all so passionate about what they do. I’ve also been thinking about symbiosis and networks of mutual support– about how I can develop and grow by being supportive and collaborative. Finally, amidst the struggles for racial justice within the United States that we’ve seen play out this year, I want to continually center and further ground my professional practice around conversations of access and inclusion.
Can you share with us some of your vision for your new position in the Museum Studies Program at USF?
My primary aim is to see the program thrive. For the students, this means making sure they have many possibilities afforded to them, from the best internships out there, to opportunities to engage with all aspects of the museum world. We are training students for a new world, and for a different breed of museums. This is exciting and important work.
I am also looking forward to representing USF and thinking innovatively about how we can brand the program, attract new students, and start new programming efforts. I hope to help recruit diverse applicants so that our program truly reflects the rich fabric of our country representing a broad socio-economic, racial, religious, and ideological spectrum. When you have diverse classes, it begets fulfilling and fruitful conversations in which students learn just as much from one another’s perspectives as they do from texts or assignments.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about your background?
I have a special connection to USF. My Dad is a double alumnus (B.S. in Accounting, ‘78; J.D., ‘81), and played on the famous men’s soccer team that won two NCAA championships! As a child, he often brought me to campus. I remember walking around Lone Mountain with him as a kid. In many ways, this job opportunity feels like a homecoming for me.