Art History alumna puts her fine arts education to work as an attorney

Monday, April 3, 2017

Sammetria Goodson sits at a white table with a view of downtown Dallas behind her.Through Art History, Sammetria Goodson (B.A., Art History, 2004) learned a formalized knowledge of looking. She learned how to deconstruct things—to look at a canvas and see the layers, what the work represents, the brushstrokes, the materials, the time period and culture in which it was created.

Now as an art lawyer, Goodson said she does the same thing to solve problems for her clients.

“I take a problem at face value. Then I deconstruct it to figure out how to solve that problem,” she said. What area of law is this? Is it a federal or state issue? Is this a temporary or long-term problem?”

“It’s a process,” Goodson said. “The ability to visualize what needs to happen, to understand your medium and master your medium. Those are concepts I learned in Art History, and I use them every day.”

Goodson practices law with at Maddrey PLLC in Dallas, a firm that represents artists, creatives, arts-based organizations, nonprofits and start-ups, which are often started by artists. Other clients include graphic design firms and sculptors, who make work and sell to corporations. This work also includes a fair share of copyright and trademark work, as well as preserving the rights to artists’ work.

“To actually be able to sit here and serve artists is wonderful. “The practice keeps growing and changing. For established mid-career artists who are doing well, we think about what happens when they pass away. We can set up trusts and foundations,” she said. “The difficult part is finding artists before they get to the point when they need help because something has gone awry.”

Goodson’s love of the arts began as a child, when her mother, also a UT Austin alumna, would take her to museums, galleries and the theater.

“I remember my mom trying to explain the process of looking,” Goodson said. “I developed this love of looking and reading art as a child, and so when I found Art History at UT, that for me was kind of everything coming together in what I’d grown up doing. My mother didn’t have the art-specific vocabulary for it, but she knew she enjoyed it.”

But Goodson didn’t leave UT Austin knowing that law was where she wanted her career to go. She actually double majored in marketing with intentions of getting into the business side of the art world at a company like Sotheby’s or Christie’s.

After four years bouncing around the country in the corporate sales world, Goodson landed in Philadelphia in 2006 and graduated with her law degree from Temple University, Beasley School of Law in 2011. She came back to Texas and worked as a personal injury trial lawyer, where she honed her litigation skills. Although trials are not theater, Goodson recognized the usefulness of theater principals in presenting cases to juries. Armed with that experience, and impacted by the loss of her brother, Goodson knew she was ready to fully pursue art law.

Today, much of the work she dives into is on the edges of current legal systems—laws related to social media, startups and technology are still catching up to emerging issues. But again, Goodson said her fine arts education prepared her to brave the unknown. In studio art classes, she learned not be intimidated by a blank canvas.

“When you’re used to creating things out of nothing, it’s not so daunting,” she said. “This fine arts education has allowed me to work on the cutting edge of the legal world.”

Aside from her full-time position, Goodson also supports the community and Dallas’s growing arts scene. She supports Arts Counsel Texas, which offers monthly seminars to the public on basic legal information, and Goodson volunteers for Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts where she helps Dallas-based community theaters obtain nonprofit status. Through her membership in the Leadership Arts Institute class of the Business Council for the Arts, she forms connections with business professionals and the arts.

“In the end, artists just want to work, collaborate, and be recognized for their contributions. I am blessed that I get to work with artists and creatives to both facilitate and protect their work. My Art History education provides a framework from which I can better serve my clients…and having arts literacy has enriched my life."

Photo courtesy of Sammetria Goodson.