Alumni Story: Abbie Adams

Abbie Adams is a 2013-2014 PULSE alumna, and participated for a second year in 2014-2015. In this interview she discusses her experiences in PULSE in regards to creating community, developing leadership skills, serving in Pittsburgh.

What about the PULSE program was attractive to you? Was there anything about it that surprised you?

When I started to plan what I wanted to do after college, gaining more experience in my areas of interest was more important to me than getting a full time job. For that reason alone PULSE was a great option for me-there is a lot of work and consideration put into matching fellows with non-profit organizations. Location was also an attraction for me and is one of the reasons why I think PULSE is so successful. All of the program’s resources have been put into the city of Pittsburgh for nearly 25 years and the network and connections that the PULSE staff have made are vast – I have definitely benefited from this since leaving PULSE!

What was the best part of your PULSE experience?

I was placed at Union Project-an arts and community organization. Being on a small staff allowed me to get a lot of hands on experience my first year, and even more during my second. I worked primarily in space rental, but gained experience in everything from marketing to data collection. The experience that I gained was very practical, and I have been able to implement the things I learned in other jobs since then. I also lived with and met really wonderful people during my PULSE years who have become dear friends. Moving into a built-in network in a new city make a huge difference and Pittsburgh quickly became home for me.

How were you impacted by your PULSE experience?

Because of PULSE, I ended up staying in Pittsburgh for four years. I lived and worked in the same neighborhood (East Liberty) as the PULSE house I lived in my first year. During my first year in PULSE, I enjoyed getting to know more about East Liberty through seminars with local leaders, participating in Redd Up Days, and studying its history. The neighborhood was also the subject of a lot of the artwork I was making at that time and I loved exploring the streets. By the time we moved away from Pittsburgh, East Liberty looked very different that when I first moved there. When I read headlines about “the new” East Liberty, it is made more complex when I think of my neighbors and the people who would wave to me on my walk home from work, or the houses and buildings I drew that are no longer there. My time living there heavily impacted the way I see and think about issues of revitalization, gentrification, and transitioning neighborhoods and cities.

What kind of work do you do now?

Right now I am freelancing while teaching English in Spain.

How did PULSE prepare you for what you are doing now?

PULSE gave me time, space, funds, and so much support during my first two years in Pittsburgh into growing what would become my business. After I graduated with my degree in art, I kept making work for pleasure. My first year in PULSE I worked at Unblurred: First Fridays (a monthly art and entertainment crawl on Penn Avenue) in what was then the PULSE gallery. It connected me to the local arts scene and was a great way to meet artists and community members. At the end of the year, I had a solo show called the Euclid Avenue Project. I drew all of the houses on Euclid Avenue which runs through East Liberty and Highland Park. Euclid Avenue residents came to see the project, find their house, and meet their neighbors at the show. I am still in touch with people I met through that experience! My second year Chris helped create a program that supported my goals of growing my artistic practice. I was able to spend the seminar hours developing my personal work and use educational funds to take more classes. I left PULSE knowing that by intentionally setting aside time and resources for my personal practice, starting a business would be possible. I also knew Pittsburgh was a very supportive place to try things out in and in 2016 I left my full time job to start freelancing.

How have you stayed connected with PULSE?

In the years since PULSE I have worked on a number of design projects for the organization. I also have shared my experience with people considering what to do after school-I am an advocate for PULSE because I believe it is a quality program that gives people experiences they wouldn’t necessarily get in a more service-oriented program or their first 9-5 job. Plus, Pittsburgh is a great city!

Story by PULSE.  Read more Alumni Stories.