UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 03 Fall 15 Library
Hoos For Art


Wright Harvey (College ‘05) and his wife Calvine (College ‘08) met at the University in 2004, when Wright was finishing up his degree in Economics and Studio Art and Calvine was starting the studies that would earn her a degree in History and Studio Art. Theirs was a match made in art lovers heaven, and they would develop a passion for printmaking that fuels their personal and professional journeys still today. Calvine is a specialist in the Old Master Paintings department of Sotheby’s. Wright spent nine years at J.P. Morgan in Asset Management, working mostly in business development and corporate strategy, before striking out on his own to open Sugarlift, an online art gallery geared toward inspiring and supporting young artists to create vibrant and interesting new work, while at the same time inspiring young collectors to help get that work out into the world.

How were you first bitten by the art bug?

Wright: When I came to UVa, I was interested in traditional studio art. I remember how fortunate I was to learn drawing and painting from Richard Crozier, Phil Geiger and Lincoln Perry. At the same time I was pretty focused on Economics, both because I liked it and because my Dad, who was also my scholarship to UVa, was giving me advice on how to get a good job after school. Between my third and fourth year, I was talking to my parent’s neighbors in Florida whose son had been an art major at UVa and was now enjoying a great career in advertising. Tyler Whisnand said that I had to meet Dean Dass and look into the printmaking department. I thought of myself as very passionate about the arts, but didn’t know much about printmaking at the time. I took an Intro to Etching course in my fourth year and I was hooked. By second semester, I was taking two or three printmaking classes and spent most of my time in the printmaking shop.

Calvine: Wright and I met during my first year, and I knew I wanted to be a studio art major, and was taking an intro to drawing class toward that goal, but I ended up spending a lot of time with Wright in the print shop and loved it from the start. By the time I started my second year, I knew that printmaking was going to be the focus of my art major.

What about your UVa Arts experience do you value the most?

Calvine: I feel very lucky to have had a full four years with Akemi Ohira Rollando and Dean Dass. One of the most rewarding parts of the printmaking program is their regular Friday afternoon “camp,” where printmakers get together for three hours or so and have a presentation, often on old master prints, and we talked about the history of printmaking – what it means, how it has been developed through the years – as a way to get inspired in our own art practice. I fell in love with Old Master prints, and when I moved to New York, I got a job working for David Tunick, an important Old Master prints dealer.

Wright: When he first hired Calvine, he showed her two Durer prints, one an etching and one a fraudulent copy of the etching. Apparently it was a very hard test for most of the people he hired, and thanks to her experience with printmaking at UVa, it was a walk in the park for Calvine. 

What inspired you to start Sugarlift?

Wright: When I first moved to the city, I was spending all my nights painting. I really wanted to be an artist, but there was no reasonable way to do it. As a young professional at J.P. Morgan, I had been around the gallery scene enough to know that art was just not that affordable,even for a young person with a good job. So, I wanted to figure outhow to solve that problem. My colleague, Bart Piela, and I were a goodcreative team, and really liked the idea of finding a project and anindustry we were both passionate about, and where we felt a real need existed. So we started Sugarlift, which is New York’s online art gallery,and we recently celebrated our first anniversary. I can’t say I plannedmy career this way, but I’m excited to get to use my art and business backgrounds every day. Our goal is to help create great and lasting artwork that will hopefully have a place in major museums long after we’re gone. And to share this with Calvine after meeting ten years ago at UVa, and given our shared passion for art, is amazing.

How has the UVa Arts network in New York impacted your lives and careers there?

Calvine: I have been blown away by how many alums have really fascinating careers in or passion for the arts here. It was actually a UVa connection that got me to Sotheby’s. When I was working for David Tunick, I got a call at the gallery one day from Christy Williams (College ‘05) at Sotheby’s, who I hadn’t seen in years and actually didn’t even realize was working in the art world. A few weeks later, she let me know that she was transitioning to a new role in the company and asked me to come in and interview for her job in the Old Masters department. Five years later, we are still colleagues at the auction house and now great friends. And when I shifted into a different role in the department a couple years later, we hired Rachel Kase (College ‘10) to join our team. So we had three UVa hires in a row!

Wright: The UVa network has been extremely important to us, not justin our art careers, but also socially. We just made our first full-time hireat Sugarlift about a month ago. We got over 300 resumes and ended up hiring Siobhan Donnelly (College ‘14). I tried not to be biased, but she stood out from the pack! I have also been involved in the UVa Club since I arrived in New York and was president for a couple of years. As part of the club’s commitment to the arts, we started an arts-focused wing called Studio, which was created to bring like-minded alums together to experience all New York has to offer culturally, and also to raise awareness about all the incredible arts happenings on Grounds. 

Read the next story

Julie Bargmann & URBN Development