Past Student Trustee Ruiz drawn to business end of the art world

Former Morton College Student Trustee Michelle Ruiz is enjoying the business end of the art world just as much as the creative side.     

The Berwyn resident is the gallery administrator for Chicago Art Source Gallery, located in the city’s trendy Lincoln Park neighborhood. She’s been on the job for a little over 2½ years. Ruiz handles a number of duties for the gallery and its sister companies.    

Chicago Art Source is a private art-consulting firm, which provides art services for corporate, hospitality, health care and residential clients.

“From the art selection process to framing and installation, CAS is a unique company that has close partnerships with numerous professional fine artists from around the country,” Ruiz said.

One of Ruiz’s initiatives was creating a database that helps maintain inventory of the gallery’s 1,600-plus original pieces. The database enables the company to create custom catalogs for clients and it provides a way to locate and manage inventory. Aside from managing the inventory, Ruiz assists the gallery manager in organizing the gallery’s bi-monthly exhibitions as well as manages the framing portion for incoming artwork.

With 1-800 ARTWORK, the company’s on-line division, Ruiz manages incoming orders for clients. The site offers an array of affordable artwork for any office space and is easy to navigate based on subject, style, business type and work area, according to Ruiz.

For the other sister company, the Artists’ Frame Service, Ruiz has had the opportunity to cross-train as a corporate framer where she manages the gallery’s various framing projects. Artists’ Frame Service is the country’s largest custom framing shop.

“I enjoy working at Chicago Art Source,” said Ruiz, who graduated from Morton College in 2007 with an Associate in Fine Arts degree. “I have the opportunity to work with a number of art consultants and project managers, who I consider my mentors. I am involved with a number of unique projects that help me further my knowledge within the industry.”

Ruiz started as an intern shortly after graduating from Columbia College Chicago. Her major was arts entertainment and media management with a concentration in visual arts management, which focuses on the business end of the art field.

Ruiz caught a break in landing the internship, but she created her own luck through networking with her fellow classmates.

“A friend and I were in the same concentration at Columbia,” Ruiz said. “Chicago Art Source offered her the internship, but she couldn’t accept because of a full-time job offer elsewhere. She recommended me. After the interview process, I was thrilled when they offered me the positions. It shows how important networking is, especially in college.”

Ruiz, who graduated from Columbia in 2010, approached the internship from the perspective of a full-time employee.

“In the workplace, I tried to go above and beyond,” said Ruiz who returns to Columbia as a guest lecturer to share her work experiences with students. “I always extended myself to help my team on special projects. By doing that, I was exposed to the different stages involved in completing an art program.

“There are simple things you can do, too, to make yourself stand out at the company,” Ruiz added. “Research the company and understand the history. Ask the right questions to become knowledgeable. Learn from your mistakes. Offer suggestions for efficiency. Most importantly, understand the products and services.”

 Ruiz’s time at Morton College provided plenty of personal growth. In addition to serving as student trustee, Ruiz was involved with the Art Club and Campus Activities Board. She also assisted former library director Rebecca Schreiner with work on Morton College’s Hawthorne Works Museum.

“All my involvement at Morton College helped me develop leadership skills,” Ruiz said. “It was interesting to understand the decision and thought-making processes as the Board of Trustees would go about finding solutions. I was honored to represent the students and had the opportunity to bring up issues that were important. That was a great experience that I still build on.”

Ruiz considered art instructors Denise Bellezzo and Paula Martinez as being “influential” in her career path.

“They were pleasant to talk to,” Ruiz said. “They would listen and make recommendations as far as a career path. Overall, I really had some great experiences at Morton College.”