Katerina Vitaly: “Create opportunities when you are green”

Create opportunities when you are green Staring at the blank page always feels strange and intimidating. The first thing I do when I illustrate is I doodle a total mess and then I fill in the spots with the flow of satisfying illustrations. I try to use the same approach for creating projects. Sitting with friends […]

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Create opportunities when you are green

Staring at the blank page always feels strange and intimidating. The first thing I do when I illustrate is I doodle a total mess and then I fill in the spots with the flow of satisfying illustrations. I try to use the same approach for creating projects. Sitting with friends and bouncing ideas, playing around in new software or building a 3D model can spark an idea for an entire project for me. The feeling of low-stakes play is very important, so choose the medium that actually excites you.

And then, most importantly, follow up and make these ideas into opportunities. I like how Naval Ravikant delivered this thought in his podcast, Naval, that went “impatience with actions, patience with results”. Very often, inspiration doesn’t stay for as long as we would want it to. So chase your idea with hunger and impatience and make it into a palpable opportunity: do your research, reach out to as many people as you can, talk about it and then sit back and patiently watch the magic happen.


As a part of our series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist” I had the pleasure of interviewing Katerina Vitaly.

Katerina Vitaly is an NYC-based multimedia artist, working primarily with video design for live performances and animation. With the shift to online platforms over the past year, Katerina’s process shifted entirely to online platforms.


Thank you so much for joining us. What is the “backstory” behind what brought you to this point in your career?

Thank you for having me!

What brought me here was hard work every day, really. When I was a kid living in Siberia I had a strong vision of where I wanted my career to go. I didn’t have much exposure to art growing up so watching western film and TV was really my only way to sense the world outside of mine. It’s how I learned English and it’s what inspired me to work in the entertainment industry. It seemed ludicrous for someone where I am from to envision these ideas but my family was my strongest support system and they believed in me even more than I did. I knew that taking the challenge of moving to New York and starting a completely blank slate would be exactly the experience I needed to prove myself I can achieve anything I put my mind to.

Moving to the city really felt like having cold water dumped on me but I was ecstatic to work and study in a non-stop mode. And because I love competing with myself and raising the bar as I go, I’ve gotten to where I am now.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

Working at the Downtown theater every workday is a story ha! Honestly, though, I would note that the most interesting switch for me was with the start of the pandemic: programming and designing the first zoom performance I worked on at Dorset Theater Festival in Vermont was such a rush. I was building some 3D elements and layering them over actors when streaming through OBS. It felt like I was a part of the ultimate innovation in the field. It’s quite funny looking back upon learning more, especially realizing that gamers/streamers have been taking some strong creative advantage of the platform long before theater joined the scene.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

In October 2020, we started the development of a multimedia campaign called Haus Of Dust, which was recently selected to be a part of the Laundromat Project residency. Brought to the team by the creator of the project, Gabriel Torres, I function as an animator for the cognitive games we are developing over the next 6 months.

Haus of Dust is a multimedia campaign aimed at supporting and projecting the realities of a Queer-Latinx community that is struggling with substance abuse, physical and emotional addiction, redemption and rehabilitation through an interdisciplinary artistic lens. With the cognitive developer, Josh Friedman, programmer Raghav Bashyal, and illustrator Juan Da Velásquez we are creating an online platform to provide resources, data, and personal stories to engage participants and de-stigmatize conversations surrounding drug abuse in the community as well as a possible development of an on-site immersive theatrical experience.

Working with Gabriel and the team has been so inspiring: every Zoom meeting is fueled with desire to level up, and find creative solutions to go an extra mile for the community. I am humbled to be a part of this team and thrilled to see the impact of the Haus of Dust campaign as it develops over the upcoming months.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

In December 2020 I worked as a video designer on a production called “String Theory” conceived by Orange Grove Dance at the youth theater called Andy’s Summer Playhouse. At the opening night, after the young artists completed their warm-up, Jared Mezzocchi, the artistic director of Andy’s and one of my favorite collaborators, popped into the Zoom meeting. Jared took a moment with young artists and offered to repeat some affirmations. They started with “I am enough, I am a human being filled with love, filled with pride, filled with dignity…” and ended with “Yes i can. Yes I can. YES I CAN”.

It was a very moving experience to witness. When I was a kid, I didn’t experience this conscious approach of support or encouragement from teachers or facilitators. Being present in the Zoom meeting with all the young artists and observing their nerves stripping away and being replaced by confidence and love was something I felt honored to experience.

Where do you draw inspiration from? Can you share a story about that?

Music brings me into a feeling that fuels my creative process. So much of the performance is about delivering the feeling by the performers, and I always like to be on a similar wavelength with the team I am working with so music assists me in tapping into the core feeling of the piece.

Of course, the music largely changes for me depending on the project. Right now is the second time I am working with one of my favorite directors, Matt Dickson, on a play about the Amish community, called “Everything is Wonderful” at the Juilliard School. Of course, the playlist I have for this show is very different than the previous show Matt and I worked on at EST called “Mike Pence Sex Dream” where Vogue by Madonna was written into the play itself.

Drawing inspiration through music is my quickest way into “the zone”. And in collaborative spaces of many different energies, I always want to enter with the best, most focused version of myself I can be that day. It’s all about the energy we bring into the room.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I believe theater must respond to the current events, whether it is pandemics, epidemics or inequalities we see… Live performances should absolutely act on what is happening and use it to their best capacity to bring goodness to people’s souls and minds.

Maybe I don’t always have the producorial power of conceiving the projects but as a multimedia artist, I always have the choice of what projects I want to bring my energy to. My aim is to choose collaborations with people who go the extra mile to extend their reach into helping our communities.

The project I’ve mentioned earlier, Haus of Dust, is a perfect example of responding to what is happening in the community and spreading blessings through the platforms we have access to. Or another great example of coming together for a cause through performance would be Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS company, which have been activists in theater since 1988, raising more than $300 million for essential services for people with HIV/AIDS and other critical illnesses. This past year, December 2020, I got to video edit the Broadway Cares Home for the Holidays show along with the great team of Stefania Bulbarella, Jacqueline Reed, and the director Eric Ulloa and producer Jack Noseworthy. We had the outstanding success of raising over $126,000 in 4 days. With Broadway Cares, I saw how we can always choose to extend our blessings beyond the room we are performing in.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Create opportunities when you are green

Staring at the blank page always feels strange and intimidating. The first thing I do when I illustrate is I doodle a total mess and then I fill in the spots with the flow of satisfying illustrations.

I try to use the same approach for creating projects. Sitting with friends and bouncing ideas, playing around in new software or building a 3D model can spark an idea for an entire project for me. The feeling of low-stakes play is very important, so choose the medium that actually excites you.

And then, most importantly, follow up and make these ideas into opportunities. I like how Naval Ravikant delivered this thought in his podcast, Naval, that went “impatience with actions, patience with results”. Very often, inspiration doesn’t stay for as long as we would want it to. So chase your idea with hunger and impatience and make it into a palpable opportunity: do your research, reach out to as many people as you can, talk about it and then sit back and patiently watch the magic happen.

There are ethical ways to build your network

I was always afraid of seeming opportunistic when approaching artists. I’ve taken this required course at school that gave us a ton of tips on networking which sometimes had the air of attempting to take advantage of someone’s professional position. The word “network” to me became associated with opportunism.

There was a big switch for me when I heard Gary Vaynerchuck in one of the conferences talk about networking, saying, “If you don’t know each other it’s probably a good idea to say hello”. I realized: there isn’t an equation you can teach to universally apply to all networking, but you can just chat with an open heart. Chances are, you have a connection that might grow into a collaboration or your new friend knows someone who just happened to be looking for someone like you to assist them on a project. But you never know, until you say hello.

Structure and organization will support your creative practice

Before starting my career in the field I believed a myth that artists and designers lead the ultimate paradise career when they create solely upon inspiration and never have to look at a spreadsheet.

The creative field is entrepreneurial, and creating the structure, foreshadowing the potential challenges are some of the key parts to learn along the way. Organization has the power of uplifting the process. There are a ton of videos on file organization, goal setting, scheduling out there. I have planners for the upcoming week, month(s), with goals written out, timestamps and deadlines. It helps me prioritize immediate and longer objectives when I juggle multiple projects.

Continue learning

There are more than one ways to receive knowledge. And YouTube videos were a game-changer for me. Frankly, the majority of my editing skills didn’t come from my classes at the New School but are the courtesy of guys like Justin Odisho or Ben Platt who constantly drop YouTube tutorials on video editing. Continuing self-education is the key to growing.

Cultivate curiosity

What has really changed the game for me was tapping into every opportunity that came my way. Even right now, we see theater people splitting into two camps: those who use online platforms for performance and those who find it an insufficient medium. But even if you consider it not satisfying enough for storytelling, why not give it a try? You might be surprised by what you find out. Or, doing things you don’t like will help you understand exactly what it is you want to do.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

By no means am I the first to talk about this or the one to inspire practicing it, but I would love to use the opportunity to talk about access needs check-ins.

I learned about access needs check-ins through Wingspace Design where I am part of the current mentorship program. We practice sharing access needs in the beginning of our meetings — whoever feels comfortable, has the opportunity to share with the group if there is something that would be helpful for them at the moment/flag something they might do throughout the meeting.

And I found this practice to be a very thoughtful way of starting a meeting or any conversation, really. “Access check-ins can be a great way to help create a space that values access and disability” — sourced from this website — https://www.disabilityintersectionalitysummit.com/places-to-start , which is a great resource where you can read more about where to start.

We have been blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this.

I am always puzzled by this question! How do I know if the person, too, would like to have a chat?

If I did have the chance to send an invitation though, it would have to be to Es Devlin. With every project she does, she inspires me to level up in my practice. But rather than a meal break, I would invite her to play around with building models and fantasizing about some creative ideas. I think we would have more fun doing that than chewing salad!

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

My Instagram is @katerinavitaly , that is certainly the best way to connect with me!

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Thank you for having me!


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