Aray Montalvan, Graphic Artist

Aray MontalvanAssistant Art Director at Proctors Theater
Schenectady, NY
Graduated: Class of 2008
Major: Communications Design
Home Town: Saratoga Springs, NY

When I called, you followed up right away by emailing me directions to the theater. I thought this girl's sharp - she's obviously no longer in student mode.

Aray Montalvan:

I've never really been in 'student mode'; I've always been like 'I know what I want and I know what I need to do to get it, so... let's go for it!' The thing is for an artist, having to put yourself out there - you need to be confident in order to do it.

When do you think you first knew you wanted to be an artist?
I first wanted to go into medicine. My senior year in high school, I had already been accepted to UCLA, but I had to take art. I had taken dance and theater but I had never done the "visual thing." After taking art and design I was convinced, I was like "Um... Mom and Dad?"

What was the response from your folks?
I was really nervous about it because I come from a very traditional Hispanic family and I remember saying to my guidance counselor that I didn't know how to break it to them, but I've always been very independent. They said "That's fine, we always encouraged you to go into medicine because you've always loved that, but we want you to do what you want."

So why PrattMWP?
Junior to senior year in high school, I always knew I wanted to go to Pratt, and I had no idea about PrattMWP until I went to portfolio day. The line for PrattMWP was short and I found out that I could get right into Pratt from PrattMWP.

What did you think about the transition from high school to college?
It was a bit daunting, but after looking at PrattMWP and seeing what it offered, a small campus, closer to home, less of a shock of moving to Brooklyn... I was afraid that going straight to Brooklyn would have been a bit of a culture shock. I realized I could spend my first two years getting to know my strengths and weaknesses, developing my skills in a support system of professors and friends.

So when you went to Brooklyn, do you think you were prepared?
Everyone in Brooklyn knows the PrattMWP kids are ahead of the game; the students before me had set a pretty high standard. God I remember my first day in Advertising class with Joe Roberts. He asked where everybody was from and three of us answered we came from PrattMWP. He said to the other students in the class "Look at them: this is your competition"... (laughs) and on my first day of class and trying to make friends!

That's heavy
Yeah but that pushed me.

You got a job your junior year?
It was as a copywriter for a Hispanic advertising campaign - I had always complained about Hispanic commercials... and me being a Latina, I see one in English and I see one in Spanish and it's a translation, not a 'trans-creation'. The professor of my copywriting class was the head of an advertising agency. She saw my work and gave me a call. Two weeks later I started working.

Did you see that you had a talent for copywriting?

What's the most challenging part of your work?
Politics. As a creative person I always have the challenge that I might have a style in mind for a project - but it's more of my taste or what I'm comfortable doing. It might not necessarily jive with what the project needs.

How do you keep your work creative?
I have something that I've done since college. I call it my media breakfast.

Media Breakfast? That doesn't sound very appetizing.
Oh it's delicious! I have about twenty or so web pages bookmarked, different blogs and news sources completely outside of what I'm familiar with. I go through them in the morning and I draw from that.

Did you think going to PrattMWP helped you prepare for this in any way?
Oh God yes, I would say that PrattMWP and my involvement in my sorority were two driving forces behind me... being able to talk about my work, not just as a student to a professor, but as a friend to friend or to a mentor. That only works in smaller environments, that one-on-one situation which you get at PrattMWP.

Outside of your job, what kind of personal art do you make?
I started this personal project where I got 10 disposable cameras and I painted over the viewfinders. I sent them out to 10 creative people and I told them "Shoot - take a photograph of whatever you find interesting". With no viewfinder they had no control; they couldn't compose the shot. A lot of people had trouble with this. At school we are taught how to do it, yet the project was about trusting their instincts. Some of the photographs are beautiful. I'm making a book of them.

Does the gut instinct ultimately make a better picture than the analytical mind?
We all have the analytical in us because we've gone through school. We're professionals and we do this for our job, but sometimes we're overly analytical. What's right and what's wrong gets in the way of creativity and we constrict ourselves by thinking too much about it.


PrattMWP is part of a tradition that dates back to 1936, when the first class of artists passed through the doors of Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute.

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