Boston Architectural College (BAC)

Boston Architectural College (BAC)

Boston, MA


BAC Alumna Helping Preserve Heritage in Essex County

By deancascieri
Jun 11, '18 11:13 AM EST
Anya Wilczynski, BDS-HP '16
Anya Wilczynski, BDS-HP '16

Anya Wilczynski, BDS-HP '16, didn't know she wanted to pursue a design career when she applied to college. Originally from Ashburnham, MA, Anya began college at Fitchburg State University, studying Education for the first semester and Political Science for the second. It wasn't until a friend encouraged her to look into design school that Anya discovered the BAC. The BAC spoke to Anya about her passion for design, her time at the BAC, and what she's working on now.

Tell us about the experience with your friend that led to you pursuing a design career.

I was exploring an abandoned farm house in Fitchburg, MA, with a friend. I was gushing over all the historic details still intact and kept talking about the potential that the old house had. At this time, I was attending Fitchburg State, but was unhappy there. After hearing about my passion for the old farm house, he encouraged me to look into studying design.

My love for that house carried all the way through the BAC and I ended up using it as a case study for my Historic Preservation degree project.

That's fantastic! Tell us about your Preservation Degree Project and the house that inspired you.

When I did my degree project, I had been working for Preservation Massachusetts, which provides great state-level advocacy experience, but I felt out of touch with the grassroots preservation side of things. I was also feeling disenchanted by preservation getting a bad rap in the urban planning and community development circles. So I wanted my degree project to step outside of "preservation," and with that I ended up exploring placemaking, community activism, and emotional capital concepts.

Going back to the beginning, how did you find the BAC, and what made you want to study here?

My dad was the one who found it. I was interested in going to school out of state, but my dad mentioned "a small architecture school in Boston" one day, so I attended an open house and experienced the vibe at the BAC; I was sold!

What was your BAC experience like?

The work ethic and grit required to get through working and going to school while cultivating a designer's eye is tiring, but really worth it. It was, without a doubt, extremely beneficial to study under a practice-based curriculum. Making professional work a priority in line with attending class and getting good grades was the best motivation the BAC could have provided to a young professional. At one point during my time at the BAC, I had five jobs at once! Granted they were all part-time or gig-related jobs, but five jobs plus four classes was a heck of a lot to juggle and yet I did it and made it through.

Now as a working professional, nothing is ever as hard as the hustle I had to put into the BAC. I currently have one full-time job at a non-profit and do some volunteer work on the side, so adding anything else to my schedule is a piece of cake! I'm so glad I went to the BAC and got to experience living, working, and studying in the heart of Boston.

I understand you're working at Essex Heritage. When did you start there?

I started in January 2018. Previously I had worked for Historic Salem, the city's non-profit preservation group, for almost 2 years. In my role at Historic Salem, I was the operations manager and the sole full-time employee. I oversaw all aspects of the organization: from bookkeeping to social media, membership to events, and occasionally preservation!

Now in my role as manager of membership and programs at Essex Heritage, I have the unique task of supporting and communicating heritage stewardship activities efforts through a variety of programs and initiatives.

How has your background in Historic Preservation informed your work at Essex Heritage?

My education focusing on Historic Preservation has given me experience dealing with technical aspects of the field that I now deal with every day, like the Community Preservation Act and the Department of the Interior. It also trained me to think creatively and open-mindedly about developing and reenergizing projects and initiatives that support the bigger picture of preservation. Getting people, whether they are long-time residents or one time visitors, to engage with culturally, naturally, and historically significant sites is key to these sites' longevity and relevancy in the heritage area.

One of the programs you're overseeing for Essex Heritage is Trails & Sails. Tell us about this program and how it plays into preservation.

Trails & Sails is an annual event held during the last two weekends of September. During Trails & Sails, over 150 hosts coordinate 200+ FREE events throughout Essex County. These events range from guided trail walks, educational talks, behind the scenes tours, voyages along the coast, hands on activities for all ages, and more!

I oversee the collection of information from hosts; the promotion of materials, both print & digital; and the brainstorming and networking process between hosts. Trails & Sails is a vehicle that sites and groups in Essex County can utilize to provide visitors with a taste of what they have to offer throughout the year. In doing this, we hope that visitors continue to support these sites, learn about the area, and continue to engage with the heritage of Essex County year-round.

What is your ultimate goal or dream that you would like to accomplish through your work?

I'm living my dream right now which is really awesome! I've always wanted to support historic places and natural sites and with my work at Essex Heritage, my colleagues and I get to do that every day. It's a wonderful mix of solving challenging problems, networking resources and talent, and connecting people to amazing places in Essex County. My experience at the BAC really set me up with a great skill set to support heritage preservation and visionary thinking simultaneously.

But I'd also love to reinvigorate an old mill into a bed & breakfast; I am currently accepting donations of underutilized factory buildings in need of some TLC!