Office Tour: Mike Fleming of The Fine Arts Series

The Union is full of various entities and departments that work together to provide the best possible service to the UNT community. The Mary Jo & V L. Lane Rawlins Fine Arts Series is one of the most unique and vibrant programs. For the past 115 seasons, the Fine Arts Series has brought amazing visual, literary, and performance artists from across the globe such as; Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York, Laverne Cox, Alfredo Rolando Ortiz, Jad Abumrad, Bobby McFerrin, and many more. These artists come from their respective places to share a bit of their world. That being said, each event is full of intriguing and special surprises.

The Fine Arts Series coordinator, Mike Fleming is the man in charge of making all that magic happen. We recently popped into his office to ask him some questions about his background, the ins and outs of his job, and the importance of engaging with art. He gave us a tour of his office space too which is full of quirky, beautiful symbols of his adventurous life.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Knowing that I’m an arts warrior and behind the arts, promoting the arts and making sure people encounter the arts, especially people that maybe wouldn’t usually. Art is one of the most important things to keep people openminded. I believe that art can have a lot of good, positive power, so feeling like I can do that and that I can make those things happen is pretty cool.

What are some of your favorite events that the Fine Arts Series has put on?

Jad Abumrad was really good. His whole of blending the audio with his own talking and the visuals was very cool. He had a great story and was really vulnerable about his struggle. A lot of our art workshops have been cool we’ve done a build your own Theremin synthesizer workshop. We just did an expressive charcoal workshop. Wayne White was really cool, intense, but cool. That was a good example of seeing the impact of students and how they worked with him during that week. It was cool to hear some of the students say how life-changing that experience was for them.

What are some things you learned about being an adult that you didn’t learn in college?

Probably everything. I feel like I wasn’t an adult at all in college. The first thing that came to mind was how there was a lot of pressure to accomplish everything and do everything which I did kind of do for a while, but you don’t need to do everything. Being reasonable about what you can accomplish in a day or what kind of goals you have.

What college and/or adulting advice do you have for students and/or artists?

Internships and shadowing and being exposed to jobs you didn’t even know existed, strive for those as much as you can. We don’t know enough about what is out there. I guess this ends up contradicting what I said before, ha. I worked a lot of freelance jobs and got to do different things and I think that was helpful. I never had a desk job before this one. This is my first one and I’m learning a lot. There are a lot of stereotypes about desk jobs, but it’s not all bad. There are a lot of positive things about being in this environment. There is a lot of emphasis on knowing your strengths and developing them and pushing yourself to keep learning. It feels good to know that I can always make a change. Things don’t have to be the same way they were last year. I’ve found that I’m really interested in personal growth. This job is really good for that. It’s super team-oriented and collaborative.

Why do you think more people should engage with art regularly?

It’s experiential. If you go to watch a musical performance, then you’ll just feel it. I mean I guess its all those cliche things. It transcends everything. It is immediately accessible. From visuals to language to audio or whatever the medium is, everyone can respond to it. Even if you don’t think about it that much, but you feel good while listening to music, then that is like 40 or 60 minutes that you felt totally different then you usually do. You may not directly be able to say how it affects you, but it definitely does even in subconscious ways.