From USITT to NYC: Katy Fetrow

March 9, 2020

Photo Provided by Katy Fetrow

We sat down with designer and USITT19 YDMT Scene Design Award, sponsored by Rose Brand, winner Katy Fetrow last year in Louisville to discuss her big win, mentors, and how the women in her life have proved to be some of her biggest inspirations.

What does it feel like to win this YDMT award?

Oh my gosh. It's kind of a shock really. I come from a non-theatre background. I've always been kind of scared to jump in the theatre world. It's always been the five-year plan. Receiving the award has been really validating for myself as an artist and the security of knowing this is the career I'm supposed to be in. Validating is the word, I would say. It was really exciting to meet Rose Brand, my sponsor. They've been wonderful and have made sure I meet people. I've loved meeting all of the other emerging designers. It's been a great networking opportunity for that. Everybody's been super awesome.

Is this your first time at USITT?

Yes, this is my first time. I've been to design conferences before, but nothing like this.

What has been your most valuable experience so far?

I'm part of the emerging artist's forum and the young artist's forum. It's been a nice warmup to interviewing. The networking aspect has been a good warmup for that. I also just took Donyale Werle's model-making workshop, which was awesome. Oh my gosh, I felt like, "I just want to be you." We work the same and at the same pace and that's been an amazing connection to make.

She was here last year, sitting in the same seat!

That's crazy! I haven't gotten to do a lot of Stage Expo stuff because the young artist forum has kept me busy, but it's been awesome.

Tell me a bit about your path and how it's led you here.

I knew I wanted to be a set designer when I was nine years old. My sister was in Anything Goes, and my mom took me to the set build. I fell in love then, but I decided to pursue interior design and architecture in my undergrad, which gave me tremendous skills and connections. I got to travel and study abroad, which is a big part of who I am. I enjoy traveling and connecting with other cultures. It really influences my perspective on things and my empathy for everyone.

After I graduated from Kent State University with my interior design degree, I went on to design for architectural firms in Boston where I did a lot of corporate design. Then, Miami where I did a lot of hospitality and entertainment things.

The move to Miami was really the move to build my portfolio because I was considering grad school at that point. I asked around whether I needed to go to grad school, which led me to make some connections with a lot of Carnegie Mellon alums and it sounded like I should. I had the skill set there but needed some of the storytelling skills that I hadn't gotten in my undergrad.

I applied and got in and it's been a crazy whirlwind of ups and downs and very challenging, but I've found that my professional experience really has set me apart from some of the other students and has made learning the skills I don't have a lot easier because I can work faster and focus on what I really want to focus on to become a better artist.

Being an older grad student, you tend to know what you want out of your education. Younger students don't always. I see myself going off into television/film because that incorporates my interior design skillset. I shied away from having that experience for a while because I felt like I needed to grow in another direction, but I've been seeing it come back in production design. Site-specific theatre has become a great interest for me and immersive art and exhibit design or art installation.

The all-360-encompassing design aesthetic is where I see myself. Hopefully New York, not Los Angeles.

Why not Los Angeles?

New York is more my speed. I'm very fast-paced.

Who are some of your most influential mentors to date?

My sister is one. My oldest sister is an opera singer. The arts run in my family. We're very musical. She has been a great sister, but also a great role model for women in the arts and advocating for herself and self-promoting because it's an exhausting career. Any artistic field is. She's been an awesome mentor and friend.

Also, my mentor Susan LaFleur, who is an interior designer in Miami. She always knew that this was my plan and she's very sad to see me go but she pushed me to interact with clients and really helped me grow as a designer and thinker, in terms of that.

I would say all my faculty have been, at various times, wonderful people to look up to. Anne Mundell is the mom and she's been a great emotional and creative collaborator. Lots of women. All the women.

I'm taking a leadership class and I've gotten to reflect on who my mentors are and I've realized they're all women and they're all artists. It's empowering. My mom, of course, is also one of my mentors. Shout out to my mom!

How do you find a work-life balance?

For me, it's simply getting enough sleep. I know that I need eight hours of sleep a night, then I can function in every other aspect of my life. Carving out time to go visit my family and spend time with family and go expose myself to new, different things, really feeds me creatively, too. It's a give and take.

Through grad school, I have learned that it is important to take care of yourself. I've been sick a lot because Pittsburgh isn't the cleanest city in the world. You have to take the time and make sure you're healthy because you can't do anything, you can't be a functioning human if you're not.

Surrounding yourself with good people that encourage good, healthy habits is most important, especially because I'm an empath and I tend to cling to people and it's like, "I feel everything you feel." Surrounding myself with positivity is most important to me.


Since we last spoke to Katy at USITT19, she has become a member of USA829 and is currently working on the television show FBI, and has done work on a handful of pilots in NYC.