Alumni Profile: Julie Hall Friedman

Alumna Julie Hall Friedman, BA ARH 1981Julie Hall Friedman (BA ARH 1981) is an old hand at supporting the arts. For most of her adult life, she has volunteered and raised funds for every area of the arts, from theater to ballet to visual arts, in local and statewide organizations. Recently we asked her to tell us about her life experience and if she has some advice for aspiring professionals in the field of the visual arts. And, we wanted to hear what her memories are of her years in the Department of Art and Art History.

Friedman graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts in art history and a minor in history from UA. “I had Joe Bolt, Robert Mellown, Eloise Angiola and Anna Spiro. Honestly, I loved all of them. I think I took every class offered in the department. I took a good many studio classes with Richard Brough and Al Sella. I also took some art education classes.”Alumna Julie Hall Friedman, BA ARH 1981.

Back in Mobile, she volunteered with many arts organizations. In 1995, Friedman was appointed to the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA) by Governor Fob James and has served in that organization for more than two decades, as member, as council chairman and currently as chair of the Grants Committee. Along with her service with the ASCA, she has been involved with local arts organizations and in support of Alabama writers. Friedman has served on the boards of the Mobile Ballet, the Mobile Opera and the Alabama Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She also helped establish the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame.

Now Friedman is a board member of the Mobile Museum of Art, the Alabama Contemporary Art Center and the Mobile Committee of Alabama’s Bicentennial. She is currently the chair of UA Libraries Leadership Board, a board member of the Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art at The University of Alabama and serves on its acquisitions committee.

Her tenure with the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA) has allowed her to meet a wide range of practicing artists in all areas of the arts as well as arts supporters across the state.

The Arts Council is the official state agency for the support and development of the arts in Alabama. A primary responsibility of the council is to make decisions on grants awarded to support art programs and arts education throughout the state. Members come from diverse areas of the state and have diverse backgrounds: our membership ranges from art educators to professional artists to community arts volunteers.”

Friedman’s experience as an art student, in working closely with artists of all kinds over the years and in advocating for the support of artists gives her a unique view on what it takes to be a successful professional artist. We asked her if she has any advice for Department of Art and Art History students and new graduates who want to make a career in art.

What I tell people when they ask about an art history major, I can think of no other discipline that exposes a student to a broader range of subject matter. To really understand an artist, you have to understand the times he lived in. That means you have to study everything from their culture, religion, and mythology, to the politics of their time, the system of government, economics, and everything in between. A solid liberal arts degree can give a student a solid foundation for a myriad of advanced degrees. I would love to see individuals interested in art history combine their that degree with a degree in business, or go on and to acquire an MBA. There is a big need for professionals in the art world with business backgrounds. We are always looking for individuals who can write grants, manage budgets, run large companies, handle fundraising, and do all of the other functions that go into running a business. Professionals with a background in the arts combined with business expertise are not easy to find.” 

Image captions and credits (top): Friedman in 2009 with ASCA officers in Washington, DC, for the unveiling of the Helen Keller sculpture in the capital rotunda; (right) and in 1979 after receiving the Mary Morgan Art Award with Dean of Arts and Sciences Doug Jones. Photos courtesy Julie Friedman.