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YP Spotlights of the Month

September: Arts and Culture

We are honoring ABNY YPs contributing to the Arts and Culture sector of NYC.
Congratulations to our August Spotlights of the Month, Peter Vergara and Melissa Diaz!

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Peter Vergara

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale Administrator, Sotheby’s
How did you get to where you are today?

From a young age, I have been curious about art – losing myself in museums and books, learning about painting, sculpture, drawings, and more… During college, I was fortunate enough to have exciting internships at the Met Cloisters, the Hispanic Society of America, and Sotheby’s. Not only did each job teach me a great deal of art history, but I also learned what tremendous variety of jobs there are in the art world. Of all my experience I was most fascinated by the art market, specifically, the auction house.

What are you most proud of?

During college and since I graduated a year ago, I have continued to give tours at the Met Cloisters for kids of all ages – some as young as five! While I love my day-to-day job, I usually work with the art from a logistics point of view. Giving a tour at a museum is a good way to slow down and appreciate a work of art without distractions. I am proud to be keeping up this practice, and that I get to share the art with kids who are seeing it for the first time and asking genuine questions.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in your field?

Cast a wide net! The art world, especially in NY, is far vaster than I ever expected. There are more museums, galleries, organizations, foundations, auction houses, and centers than one would care to count – all looking for young and eager talent. For me, some of the best and more formative experiences were in the internships and jobs I did not expect to have… but applied anyway!

When did you realize that you are a New Yorker?

When a colleague referred to the “west coast” and – embarrassingly – the Hudson River came to my mind before California!

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Melissa Diaz

Director of Government Affairs, American Museum of Natural History
How did you get to where you are today?

Very simple: asking for help + doing the work. Doing the work came quickly to me as a kid, it’s something I’ve had for a while and was part of my upbringing. My mom came to this country from Peru in the ‘80s, so my sister and I grew up in Texas consistently hearing that you have to put the work in. It has made me kind of a workhorse, I love a challenge, so that has definitely been part of the path. But you can’t really go the full distance on your own, and that hard work mentality can only get you so far. Eventually, I learned the valuable lesson of asking for help – and acknowledging that it’s ok to do that! Turns out, people want to help you. So I’m here because of those who were willing to help.

What are you most proud of?

It has been incredibly meaningful for me to have had opportunities to serve this city and our country throughout my career. Choosing a career in public service is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. It hasn’t always been easy: I’ve been that unpaid intern waiting tables nights and weekends just to stay afloat, and I’ve definitely been that 5th grade teacher grading quizzes well into the night (only to wake up at 5:00am the next day and do it all over again). But choosing to work in this sector, and the places I’ve been fortunate to serve in–from the classroom to Washington to City Hall to the halls of this Museum–has been such a privilege. Both New York City and this country are very near and dear to my heart, so being able to contribute to making New York City the greatest city in the world has been a dream come true.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in your field?

There’s really nothing like New York: it’s this strange yet fascinating series of ecosystems that all connect and count on each other to survive, so if you’re interested in the field of Arts and Culture, I’d first advise to learn about these systems. Watch as much NY1 as you can. Learn about the Council, the Mayor, what happens in Albany, the agencies, the budget, and yes, of course–go visit the museums!

When did you realize that you are a New Yorker?

I grew up in Houston and I’ve been in New York since 2006. I’m celebrating 13 years this week. As a certain New York Senator once phrased it, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession.” Sure, I could have stayed in Texas. But this is New York. And to be a part of this place, to make my life here and my career here, I think it took me ten years before I realized that this city is who I am. Just a pizza-folding, jaywalking, opinionated woman who’s really trying to cut down on the cursing (I promise, Mom). So I suppose that makes me a New Yorker.

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