Working in the arts is not for the faint of heart.
Especially if you are a woman.
Particularly, a woman of color.
Specifically, an immigrant woman of color.
With this identity, people assume the story is the same for all immigrant women of color. In doing so, they put me in a box based on their preconceived notions of a biracial woman in America. I’ve had to navigate a new home in a way that pushes back against these boxes, while not getting boxed in as “the angry black woman.”
I’ve had to build relationships and maintain my confidence and perspective, while meeting people where they’re at so there is room for us to chart a path together. I have an authentic curiosity in understanding why things matter to other people, and how the arts intersect with our communities and makes them stronger. I find a common entry point by learning what is most meaningful to them.
People doing the work from the grassroots to the grass-tops have fantastic stories to share, whether they are directors of museums or facilities managers. We can find commonality through learning what matters to others. I have already met with 90 members of my 104 full time staff in the six weeks that I have been here, and have had an additional 35-40 external meetings.
I have learned what is important for me through the arts: whether it is a hobby or a profession, the arts allow us to tap into our own voice and find what is meaningful. It is an extension of who we are, and it is reified in the world through words, music, paintings, and movement. The arts tune us into the thing that makes us tick. It gives us the power to listen to our own selves, to truly go in and feel. In a world where everything is external, the arts are a reprieve—a moment to lean in and go deeper. The arts give you a confidence to listen and to chart your direction. With a better understanding of my own self, I can make connections and lead this organization more effectively. I see myself as the Jackson Pollock of arts administration—at first glance, one might think it’s chaotic, but there is intentionality behind every stroke.
Through creating sincere connections and developing networks, I have been able to build my own brain trust—a group of women and men who have mentored me at various stages in my career. I encourage other women to align yourself with leaders who can see you for what you can become. Align yourself with women who will care about your journey and invest in you. As women in the field, we must support each other.
If we cannot lift each other up in the arts, where else are we going to do it?
I am excited to be a nonprofit arts leader at this time. I’m ready for uncomfortable moments because that means I am growing.
So, bring it on.
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