As an artist, one of my favorite aspects of going to the theater is experiencing all of the set designs. I think of it as reading a play through someone else’s imagination. Holly LaGrow, Scenic Charge Artist at Syracuse Stage, is a huge part of that process. She interprets the surface finishes of a model and translates it into a full scale set for the stage. That is quite a power indeed, to take an illustration or a model and turn it into something life-sized and realized, tangible enough to stand alone—yet leaving just enough room for the actors to complete the scene. Holly also gets to collaborate with people on an artistic level and be a part of something bigger than one person could ever complete on their own. She describes her daily work routine as “fine art meets house painting meets faux finishing meets craft day.”
Watching Holly and her team work I realized they are a tight family unit, passing on tricks and tips, listening to the radio with paintbrushes in hand. Sure it’s hard work, but most jobs are just that. The trick is to find where you fit in the career scheme of things, with all of your strengths and weaknesses, joys and passions.
Holly’s advice for young women who hope to follow in similar footsteps:
“People who end up in shops as scenic artists tend to ‘find home.’ Often people don’t realize it is a career option until they stumble into it. There are tons of different ways to fulfill the work of a scenic artist. Humility! No matter what your artistic background is, scenic painting has a way of challenging everything you’ve built your skills on. Be open to continually learn and experiment with new materials and techniques–do it safely–and always be willing to be corrected or have your skills tweaked by someone who has been doing it longer, bigger or better than you. It’s a great community of people to discover with, work along side and contribute to.”