The art of the perfect fit

Working in the Arts: Anita Ragusa

Posted by Emma Restall in Interviews · February 2024

This month’s Working in the Arts segment focusses on the US and this week we spoke with Anita Ragusa who is the Human Resources Director for Karma Gallery.

So, where do you work?

I work at Karma gallery, a modern and contemporary art gallery with locations in the East Village, NY, and Los Angeles, CA.

What is your job title?

Human Resources Director for all of Karma.

What time did you wake up? What are your usual working hours?

My cockapoo wakes me up every day around 6:30 am. After our typical morning routine involving quite a bit of coffee, I usually start work around 9:30 am and end about 6pm, although travel, big deadlines and (work related) emergencies can alter my day.

What are your key tasks?

My role spans recruiting, talent management, strategic business support, compensation and benefits, and employee wellbeing, so my day typically blends most of that with in-person visits to the gallery. But, as all HR professionals can attest, the time of year can have me spending most of my day on open enrolment, performance review processes or regulatory filings.

What skills/ attributes/values do you believe are vital for roles like this?

Human resources is clearly a very human-driven function. This requires flexibility, willingness and openness to new ideas and change, and the ability to build trust across the teams and people you support. Listening is another key skill – by truly listening to people you can really delve into the key parts of the issue at hand to find collective solutions.

What was your career path to this role?

I started off in art sales and exhibition planning but found that I really enjoyed the operational side of the art business, and that path led me to human resources.

What are the best and worst things about your job?

The most rewarding aspects of my job include creating a positive environment for my colleagues in the art world to thrive in by ensuring they have the necessary tools and benefits. I also find great fulfilment in recruiting and it is truly satisfying to watch someone flourish in a role that is a great match for them. And as a painter myself, I get to be surrounded by incredible works of art and truly unique artists every day. That, for me, is priceless.

I would say one of the more challenging aspects of my job is balancing the legal requirements with the realities of how the business operates. Unexpected crises like market fluctuations or pandemics like Covid-19 also present significant challenges, often requiring rapid strategic shifts which involve very difficult decisions.

What career advice would you give to your 18 year old self with the benefit of hindsight?

There’s a lot in your career that you can’t plan for. I used to stress hard about my pre-med courses but then I ultimately decided not to go to medical school. Many of the skills you learn early on can help set foundational frameworks, but ultimately you never stop learning and should adopt that mindset.

Have you had a secret job that is not on your CV?

I worked as a researcher in a genetics lab and was on my way to med school before I pivoted back to the arts. I attended LaGuardia, an arts high school, and then found my way to The Cooper Union where I studied painting. Although it seems a bit extreme I come from a family of artists and scientists so it wasn’t that unusual of a choice.

Finally, what career advice would you give to your younger self?

Find guiding figures, alive or dead, who inspire you. Immerse yourself in their stories and dissect their core values and decision-making strategies. When faced with a tough choice, imagine what they would do and use their wisdom as a compass.

Thank you to Anita for taking the time to talk to us and look out for future insights into the art world. 

Notes from DRAW · 20.02.2024

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