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YCP@Work: Rita Whitney '10, Cultural Alliance of York County

November 14, 2023
Rita Whitney on her motorcycle

Rita Whitney graduated from York College in 2010 with a B.A. in Fine Art. She is the cofounder of The Parliament Arts Organization, a York nonprofit working to inspire collaborative art projects to better the local community, and has been the past board director for the Mt. Gretna School of Art, ReSource York, The Grotto Community Center, and Create Karma. She is currently the Director of Communications and Community Engagement for the Cultural Alliance of York County.

What made you choose to pursue a degree in this field? 

Creating art simply felt like home. I was fortunate to have the support of family to encourage me along the way, which could offer me a safety net as I explored the possibilities of what an art degree could offer.

Describe a typical day on the job.

Every day is different. My work environment is 100% self-created, so a typical day could hold meetings with artists and strategic meetings with donors and organizational leaders, but also a balance of the less glamorous marketing work designing graphics or sending press releases. Our organization works out of a co-working space in Downtown York called The Grotto Community Center, and so there is a lot of sharing of ideas. Many of the people working around me are creative entrepreneurs, making their entire living in the arts, and so being close to them day-to-day feeds into the passion I have for my own work, which builds grant systems and support structures to make York County an easier place for artists to live and work.

How have you used your York College education since graduating?

Yes, I’ve used it all the time, most clearly through the networks I've built. I have built professional relationships with most of the arts professors [at York College] and have worked with most of them in the professional world in the years since graduating.

What is most challenging about a career in this field?

The arts are essentially a "create-your-own adventure.” There is no set path, and that can be challenging as you have to be incredibly self-motivating. When I moved into arts funding professionally, that's a whole other ball game and presented its own challenges.

What do you like best about your career?

It both fulfills me creatively and pushes me outside of my comfort zone. I often say I have the best job in the world. I'm an artist who continues to make art while also working for an incredibly progressive organization that is working to change the entire way the arts are supported in our county and state.

What advice would you have for a student who is just starting out in this major?

Treat your career path the same way you treat your art. Try many different things to gain experience and learn, while not making any one thing too precious too early. It is MORE THAN possible to create a life for yourself in the arts—you can flourish, you can have abundance. Don't let the "starving artist" stereotype dictate your life.