Meet Client Relations Manager, Ti DInh

Interview with Client Relations Manager,
Ti Dinh

By Asaad Miller

I sat down with Ti this week to learn about how they came to The Yard, their perspective on public art, and what they’re looking forward to at The Yard.

The Steel Yard (SY): What’re your name, title, and pronouns?

Ti Dinh (TD): My name is Ti Dinh, and I am the new Client Relations Manager for Public Projects. My pronouns are she/her.

SY: When or how did you learn about The Steel Yard?

TD: When I moved here, the first thing that I did was just look up ceramic studios in the area. So I found it through that first, and thats how I found the workforce program, by poking around on the website.

SY: You said that you were originally looking for ceramic studios, but was there anything about The Yard and its reputation or work that especially encouraged you to get involved?

TD: You’ve heard this story before, but I was carless until last year. I had no idea what Public Projects was actually producing, I just knew about the workforce program as a way to enter the trades. While navigating hard commutes between jobs, I came across amenities that were fun and considerate. In that time period I was questioning if I was supposed to be here, but seeing those amenities and public art made me feel that I was being considered, and that maybe I was in the right space after all.

SY: You started this past week–so far as you understand it, what does your position as Client Relations Manager entail?

TD: I will be the main point of contact throughout the whole process of interfacing with clients. My goal is to help realize their vision, listening to them to understand what they’re actually looking for, sometimes that means looking beyond what they’re saying and identifying the underlying needs of the client. We want to get to a place that feels good for all parties: clients and the public projects team.

SY: So it sounds like there’s a feasibility aspect, in addition to the human element that you have to navigate. You’re understanding different personalities and how to work with people from varying backgrounds.

TD: Exactly, thats a great way to synthesize everything!

SY: Its still pretty fresh, but what are you most excited about in your new role?

TD: In general, I really like how people experience things that I produce. I want the experience with that client or project to feel consensual and informed, making sure that we’re all on the same page.

SY: That bike rack that you made was really amazing!

TD: Thank you! It was the first project that I oversaw from beginning to end–but now Im realizing that there’s more that goes into the beginning of a project that I couldn’t see just working in the shop.

SY: Any Industrial Arts experience before coming to The Yard?

TD: I had never touched a power tool before last summer! Ive come a long way. In terms of art spaces, my practice was in survival mode due to covid, capitalism, capacity, etc. All of it. It’s been a big change to have access, time, and capacity since moving here and being involved with The Yard.

SY: From an outside perspective looking at where you started vs where you are now– your progress has been very indicative of a curious and engaged personality! You’ve jumped right into things. Have you always been curious about these new practices, or were these new found interests?

TD: I wanted to do more with my hands. I wanted to do something tangible and impactful; I wanted to do something real. When I found the playground that was The Steel Yard, my inner child truly blossomed! I find play to be very sacred, and the ability to really lean into that has been so restorative. Making mistakes and making breakthroughs is such an amazing feeling.

SY: Maybe this is too early to know, but can you identify any challenges or a surprises you’ve encountered since being here? If not, what are you looking forward to getting out of this position?

TD: I do think it’s early to tell, but a challenge that Im having is the figuring out my Steel Yard-Life balance!  Between my ceramics residency, my job, and my creative practices, I’m here a lot, so I just have to be sure to make time for things outside of The Yard.

SY: Are you currently working on any projects outside of work? Are you doing anything just for you?

TD: Like I mentioned earlier, I’m a ceramics micro-resident, and I’m having a great time exploring this new body of work, continuing to integrate various aspects of myself (the earlier mentioned inner child) into my art. Im also working on this 40ft railing for an art park out in Syracuse. The metal parts are finished thanks to the help of my project partner John Nguyen, but I’m also being commissioned to create ceramic elements that will be woven into the railing! So those are some big things that have been filling most of my time!

SY: That sounds fulfilling! You get your opportunities to play and explore while figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

SY: We’ve confirmed that The Steel Yard and it’s immediate orbit occupies a lot of your time– what fills your time when you’re not in the office? 

TD: My family, meaning my partner and two dogs Meatball and Nando, just couch together all the time. You’ll see them soon! I also love being a chore friend– nothing brings me more joy. If a friend has a project that they’re dreading, I’m so ready to make a bad time feel slightly better! I’m often running errands with friends who need help with that.

SY: Is there anything that you are most looking forward to this year? WHat do you see over the horizon that is grabbing your interest?

TD: There are exciting projects that have been in the works since Ive been here at the Yard, and it looks like they may be coming to fruition pretty soon, so stay tuned on that. Outside of the Yard, Im going to be traveling to Vietnam for the first time with my family. This will be the first time that my parents will be back in the country since leaving. With everything happening in Palestine, I now have a new lens to take that trip with, especially since learning that there was a lot of solidarity between Palestine and Vietnam in the 70’s. Im really excited to learn more about that, and to see how it will inform my creative work.

SY:Hell yeah, I can’t wait to hear more about your trip and insights when you get back! Navigating familial history and trauma is truly important, if hard, work.

SY: This is less of a lighting round and more of a me round, but If I were a color of ceramic glaze, what would I be? Don’t think too hard, but think a little hard about it. Definitely not a test.

TD: This is hard. Okay. What about underglaze? Does that count?

SY: I’ll allow it.

TD: Black underglaze, right on the bottom.

Authors Note: I made these two years ago.

SY: Do you have any questions for me?

TD: Hmm…you were on my hiring committee. What do you think I will have an easy time with, and what will I have a hard time with?

SY: Hmmmm…I think you’l have fun working with clients and teasing out what their ultimate visions are for their projects. You’re going to get really skilled at working with all kinds of *personalities*. As far as challenges go, you already spoke to it, but just finding time to get away from your various creative projects/ spending all your time here is the big one. Its definitely a journey. I think my feelings remain the same from the hiring process: you are more than capable in this position, you’ve got the institutional knowledge, and you see public art through a very specific lens, and you approach it with a particular kind of thoughtfulness and generosity that you don’t see too often.

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