Denise Reagan changes careers but sticks with her love of arts
Veteran journalist Denise Reagan's career path has always pushed her firmly toward visual design.
In December, the former editor of Folio Weekly finally put both feet in the arts industry, becoming communications director for Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, 333 N. Laura St.
"I've had a lot of people say, 'Oh you're leaving journalism,'" said Reagan, a 23-year newspaper visual designer.
With journalism facing tough times, though, Reagan opted for a career switch that kept her close to family in Jacksonville.
"I don't think I could have done this for some company that made widgets, but the arts have always been really important to me," she said. "I knew that was something I could get behind."
At Folio, Reagan was focused on art and the Downtown scene, two coverage areas she felt her publication could really own. The job naturally brought her to Downtown events and put her in touch with artists.
"Until then, I didn't know how many working artists there were in Northeast Florida who actually earn a living making art, which to me would be absolutely the scariest thing you could do," she said. "Thank goodness for those people. Without them, our lives would be so much sadder, duller, uglier and less interesting."
Now at MOCA, Reagan can similarly share some of the art museum's untold stories.
Like the fact that MOCA this year will reach out beyond its local stage in its mission of illuminating the trends in contemporary art. Reagan expects that two planned exhibitions, one showcasing artworks that employ found objects and another showcasing New York Times Magazine photography, will draw interest regionally.
Also, the museum engages children in its arts exhibits with educational programs where they critique works and create similar works of their own.
"MOCA plays a huge role in Downtown Jacksonville and it's an exciting time for the museum," Reagan said. "I've been fascinated by our exhibition plans, and learning about how that gets put together. It's an opportunity for me to see the inner workings of a museum."
It's a change from where Reagan originally thought her career would lead.
About 27 years ago, Reagan attended the University of Florida to become a reporter. The school hired Pegie Stark Adam, an icon in page design, and journalism students had to take her class.
"I had done stuff like this for our yearbook in high school and junior high, but I didn't know you could get a job in it. I just thought it was fun," Reagan said.
At the end of the semester, Adam pulled Reagan aside and told her she should consider doing it professionally.
"I liked it because it was about everything," Reagan said. "I always liked everything about journalism, and this was the whole package."
For her first job, Reagan was hired as a page designer for The News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne, Ind. It was about the same time the Gulf War began and a great time to be designing the front page.
That led to design jobs in Detroit, Minneapolis, Savannah, Ga., Fort Lauderdale, and finally in her hometown of Jacksonville, where she worked six years as an assistant managing editor at The Florida Times-Union. That was followed by 18 months as editor of Folio.
Now on the communications side of the profession, Reagan seems happy with the change.
"I have another 25 or 30 years I have to work. And I'd like to do a lot of that in Jacksonville, so my daughter can grow up with her grandparents and her aunt and cousins," she said. "This job lets me continue using the skills I've gathered over the last 25 years, and also add to them, where I can stretch them and use them in different ways."