Iva Ugrčić

Iva Ugrčić
Iva Ugrčić (Photo by Anya Kubilus)

Iva Ugrčić moved to the U.S. in 2014 to pursue a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at UW–Madison, which she earned in 2017. While on campus, she also earned a minor in Business in the Arts from the Bolz Center for Arts Administration at the Wisconsin School of Business. She now serves in the Board Liaison and Strategic Initiatives role for the Overture Center for the Arts.

Ugrčić is the founder and executive director of the LunART Festival, a music festival celebrating works created by women. She also is the artistic director for the Rural Musicians Forum in the Wisconsin River Valley.

Tell us about your path from graduate school to where you are now.

May of 2017 marked a turning point in my private and professional life. I defended my dissertation, graduated with my doctoral degree, and married the love of my life, all while my parents and family visited from Serbia for the first time.

After these sweet moments of euphoria and pure happiness, I was struck by a dreadful truth: I did not have my U.S. resident papers. Since I had graduated, I lost my student visa and my green card would take at least eight months to process. That meant that all work opportunities, scheduled concerts, and travel plans had to be put on hold, rescheduled or canceled. This was an awful situation to be in, especially for a workaholic like me.

However, there is a sunny side to every situation, and I realized that I was given a gift of time to focus on an idea that I had for a very long time: creating the LunART Festival, an international festival celebrating women’s creativity in the arts.

After 10 months of intense work with my dear friend and colleague, Laura Medisky, LunART Festival’s inaugural season took place in June 2018 and was a great success. This propelled my career in arts administration, and I was offered the role as Artistic Director of the Rural Musicians Forum concerts series in Spring Green. Shortly after, I was also offered a position on the development team at Overture Center for the Arts. A few months into the job I was promoted to the Board Liaison & Strategic Initiatives role which I still hold.

What do you do in your current role?

I have worn many hats throughout my professional career (flutist/performer, educator, entrepreneur, etc.) and I continue to do so. Besides being still a very active solo, chamber, and orchestral musician, I serve as the Executive Director of the LunART Festival providing the comprehensive artistic, strategic, and administrative leadership. Additionally, as the Artistic Director of the Rural Musicians Forum (RMF), I lead the organizational artistic vision by selecting and programing the season, negotiating and signing contracts, and serving as the key person between the RMF and patrons, artists, and media. On top of all of that, I have my full-time job as the Board Liaison & Strategic Initiatives role at Overture Center for the Arts, where I work closely with the Board of Directors leveraging relationships and facilitating communication, developing a deep understanding of the organizational bylaws and governance policies, and coordinating strategic initiatives.

What do you like about your work? What is challenging?

Each position gives me a special satisfaction, from leading the young art organization with a strong social cause, to bringing new artistic expressions and fun and engaging concerts to the kids, underrepresented communities, or rural areas of Wisconsin. However, they all have their own challenges and day-to-day struggles. The overarching idea of making our communities a better place and providing art experiences and memorable events for everyone is extremely inspiring and rewarding.

Personally, the biggest challenge for me is creating a balance between my personal artistic expression, administrative jobs that I absolutely cherish, and finding time for my husband and my own wellbeing.

Tell us about the LunART Festival. How did you get the idea for it, and then actually make it happen?

As previously mentioned, the LunART Festival has been a vision of mine for a very long time. As a young musician from the Ex-Yugoslav Republic of Serbia, I experienced many troubling situations that nearly stopped me from pursuing music. While poor political and economic situations were among the issues that ultimately led to my departure from Serbia, one of the most troubling problems I faced was gender inequality, an issue that would follow me through my master’s studies in France and Germany.

I moved to the United States in 2014 to pursue a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The intent of my dissertation “Doina Rotaru – The Voice of Romania,” was to introduce this extraordinary Romanian woman composer to the U.S., giving her music the recognition it so richly deserves. The immensely positive responses I received validated my belief that there are many women artists who have much to say but have not had the opportunity to share their voices with the world. This was the catalyst for the creation of the LunART Festival.

The first-ever LunART Festival was held in June 2018 in Madison with the mission to support, inspire, promote, and celebrate women in the arts through public performances, exhibitions, workshops, and interdisciplinary collaboration. The LunART Festival has a vision of raising awareness of the position of women in the arts through engaging, accessible concerts and events. The artistic goal was to share works of women artists and ensure the progress of women in the arts will continue to flourish and grow, overcoming issues of gender inequity in the arts. LunART is going strong into the third season, June 3-7, 2020!

What skills from graduate school are the most useful to you in your work now?

Studying music gives you many valuable transferable skills such as creative problem solving, the ability to perform and deliver in a high-pressure situation, capability to focus on deep work for long stretches of time, as well as helps you develop a highly-valued collaboration and teamwork skills. In addition, I was lucky enough to have a mentor, Stephanie Jutt, that recognized the importance of having the administrative and entrepreneurial knowledge in order to be a successful artist in the 21st century. She steered me towards my minor in Business in the Arts at the Bolz Center for the Arts Administration.

What advice do you have for current graduate students interested in following this type of career path?

Be self-driven, hungry for knowledge and new artistic expressions, think outside of the box, and find your own voice and follow it! Being in music or any art field is hard and competitive, but deeply rewarding and gratifying. Opportunities are all around us, we just need to recognize them and take advantage of them when presented to us.

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