The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School is renowned for its multitude of cross-disciplinary partnerships with other schools and opportunities for students to pursue joint degrees, but Clark Edmond L’19 took an especially unconventional approach to interdisciplinary study after her 1L year.
Edmond interned at the Smithsonian Institution the summer before beginning law school, where she discovered a passion for art she never knew she had. So after her first year at Penn Law, Edmond decided to take a leave of absence from pursuing a JD to earn her Master’s in Art Business in London at Sotheby’s Institute of Art (SIA), the education wing of the storied auction house.
After graduating from Penn Law, Edmond founded Crate, an innovative online gallery platform aimed at empowering younger patrons of the arts to become collectors. Crate promises “socially conscious advisory practices” aimed at equitably supporting the diverse perspectives of emerging artists, particularly those hailing from demographics that have traditionally been underrepresented in the arts.
The Law School’s Office of Communications spoke with Edmond about how her legal training has helped her succeed in the art world and about why art is an indispensable part of any struggle for social justice.
Office of Communications: Legal training places an emphasis on reason, while a career in the arts demands that one be in touch with one’s more intuitive, imaginative side. How do you manage this tension in the path that you’ve chosen to pursue? Do you even perceive it as a tension?
Edmond: Since my interest in a career in the arts developed later than most individuals in the industry, I initially assumed that there was a tension. However, having completed my Master’s at SIA, I now understand the reason and strategy behind the arts.
From dealers to museum directors to entrepreneurial artists and investors, reason is required to succeed in an industry that is driven by supply and demand. Like any other industry, the art world exists in a capitalist society and functions as such. Furthermore, although the arts allow for more outward expressions of creativity – which I love – being a good lawyer requires creativity, intuition, and empathy. From my experience, being able to access these two seemingly conflicting attributes is invaluable in both the law and the arts, so I try to embrace both of these interests.
Office of Communications: Art collecting can be an investment strategy, an expression of personal taste, a way of supporting social causes, or some combination of these (and other) things. How do you advise people to balance these different approaches to collecting?
Edmond: Every collector has different motivations and interests, so I advise people to consider all of these approaches and decide accordingly. Much like advising a legal client, every decision is ultimately theirs and my suggestions only go so far. Every collector is different, and their motivations and interests may change depending on the artwork. I would usually advise someone to balance all three equally, but ultimately purchasing art is a very personal experience and one’s approaches may be regularly subject to change.
Office of Communications: Why do you think young people can sometimes feel intimidated by the art world?
Edmond: I believe that young people who aren’t familiar with the arts or do not have access to the arts through social and familial networks can feel intimidated by the art world due to the immense knowledge and/or wealth of its participants.
Besides museum and non-profit exhibitions and programming, I personally have not seen a lot of opportunities for young professionals to access the art world in a substantive way. Without a platform that welcomes newcomers who are not high net-worth or ultra-high net-worth individuals, the art world essentially leaves out other social and economic demographics. My partners and I started Crate to fill this space, and we’re looking forward to increasing young peoples’ involvement in the arts.
Office of Communications: What do you think attorneys stand to gain from increasing their exposure to the arts?
Edmond: Attorneys are humans, and their connection to multiple ways of thinking and being is vital. Exposure to the arts not only improves creativity and empathy that translates into one’s representation of clients, but it also makes life more fulfilling!
My father always tells me to make sure to regularly do something – anything creative – simply to maintain peace of mind. I urge all law students and legal professionals to incorporate creative expression into their lives for their mental health and well-being. People may think that they can’t enjoy art unless they are purchasing it or understand its nuances. But I say look at a work and see how it makes you feel, what it makes you think, and go from there.
I also think that discourse around the arts would interest many attorneys. From conceptual topics to the legal structures surrounding the arts, there is a wealth of discourse to be had. In law school, I took Cultural Heritage & the Law with Adjunct Professor of Law Sharon Lorenzo, which was the ideal space to engage in these conversations.
Office of Communications: Were there particular experiences you had at Penn Law that had a pronounced impact on your career trajectory?
Edmond: Although I chose not to pursue a legal career immediately upon graduation, I had so many amazing experiences and professors that it’s difficult to name all of them. Still, there are a couple that immediately come to mind.
During my 3L year, I was a Law Student Counselor in the Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic with Clinical Supervisor and Lecturer Michael Murphy and Practice Professor of Law and ELC Director Praveen Kosuri. Not only did I have amazing clients (my partner and I represented a band that performed at Franklin Hall), but that experience also instilled the confidence required to start my own venture rather than pursue a legal career immediately upon graduation. Kosuri and Murphy were very supportive of my personal interests and the entrepreneurial mindset. They never questioned my ability to succeed even when I did, and I’ll always be grateful for that.
Additionally, Associate Dean for International Affairs Rangita de Silva de Alwis had a substantial impact on defining my path in the arts. While I always had an interest in social impact and how it relates to the arts, her class “Women’s Peace & Security: International Human Rights” provided a space to solidify these links. I had the opportunity to write a paper on cultural expression as a means of transformative justice, which I presented to a UN representative. Voicing an argument for further inclusion of cultural expression into the framework of UN policies was a life-changing experience.
de Silva de Alwis recognized my interest and encouraged me to innovate and to dig in my heels on that particular subject: cultural expression in pursuit of justice for women. When anyone suggests that art is a superficial endeavor, I look back to this experience and can say with conviction that the arts impact greater social, political, and economic structures. In this regard, I credit de Silva de Alwis’ high expectations of her students and unyielding pursuit of justice to my personal enlightenment.
At the Gittis Center for Clinical Legal Studies, students get hands-on experience by working on real cases at some of the most innovative law school clinics in the country. Read more about clinical and externship opportunities at Penn Law.