Tell me a little bit about your background? When did you begin working for BOPA?
I began in 1985 as an event coordinator for the Baltimore Office of Promotion and Tourism. I oversaw the Baltimore Farmers’ Market, Kid’s Stuff Program, July 4th & New Year’s Eve fireworks, and worked on the Preakness and Thanksgiving Parades. I left briefly to go to the Baltimore Convention Center where I worked as an account executive, then I returned to BOP (Baltimore Office of Promotion) in 1989 as the Assistant Promotions Director. We didn’t become BOPA until 2001 when we merged with the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Art and Culture (MACAC). My role progressed to Director of Promotions, to Deputy Director, then Chief Operating Officer, and now interim CEO.
What does a typical day look like for you? Actually, my days vary and are multi-faceted. They are most often a mixture of pressing matters that need immediate attention and action, combined with items that require long range planning. I usually have a full schedule of meetings in and out of the office. So in many ways, my typical day is not typical. I also get a lot of calls from people outside the office who want to do an event and need help finding a contact or seeking information on logistics.
How has your role changed since assuming the position of Interim CEO?
My role has changed significantly. In addition to serving as Interim CEO, I am overseeing finance during this interim period. Also, as Interim CEO, I interface more with City Hall by attending cabinet meetings and regular touch-base meetings with the Mayor’s Office.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve dealt with since becoming Interim CEO?
I think the biggest and most exciting challenge right now is keeping the momentum going at an effective, productive and creative level. BOPA never has a slow time of year, so solid organization is key. During this period, Festivals Director Kathy Hornig, who has now become interim COO, has been doing an excellent job tracking and organizing all the current issues that need to be addressed. Kathy, Chief of External Affairs Donna Drew Sawyer and I meet on a weekly basis to go over any pressing issues. I find this helpful to keep everyone in the loop, get answers quickly, and maintain steady lines of communication. This is vital because, as you know, we move at a very fast pace here. In addition, we have stepped up our meetings with the department directors, which used to be monthly, to occur bi-weekly. Most importantly, we are very fortunate to have such strong, committed and creative staff here at BOPA to help meet our goals.
What is the most rewarding thing to you about your job?
I find it very rewarding to see the tremendous positive impact our events and programs have on the Baltimore community, both on the arts community and the community at large. Sometimes, we ourselves take it for granted, because when it’s your job, you don’t always stand back and look at the positives, but when you see the media coverage and the economic impact, you realize what a big deal it is. Our reach now, especially with Light City, is becoming more national. We’re getting even more international artists and I hear that in the international light artist world, people are talking about Baltimore. Through our grants, arts programs and festivals, and facilities, we are able to enhance the Baltimore experience and produce good news for our city. It’s good to work at a place where you’re always planning positive and meaningful programs that affect the community and in fact, make people want to come to Baltimore and live here. You can’t do that everywhere.
What are your hopes for BOPA’s future in the next five years? My hope for BOPA in the next five years is that we can continue to do the good work that we do, that we build on our successes and reinforce the BOPA brand. For so many years we’ve done these large events and didn’t say that they were produced by the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts. Not everyone knows about BOPA and we haven’t always been good about putting ourselves out there. Now, we realize how important that is that people understand the BOPA brand. It’s also important that sponsors understand we are a nonprofit when we’re going out to raise money, so we can keep our events free and open to the public. I would like to grow our events and programs to include an even larger audience on a national scale, to expand our reach to more national sponsors, and to provide more employment opportunities for Baltimoreans. We employ a lot of Baltimore artists, as you know, and a lot of people through our events, so I would like to expand that.
Anything else you’d like to add?
My answer, if someone asked me why I wanted to work here, would be that you just can’t do this kind of thing anywhere else. It’s very rare that you can work somewhere where you’re doing arts programming, annual events, running facilities, helping to plan a Super Bowl parade or a Fan Fest for the World Series. It’s very unique, and always changing.
1. Where are you from originally?
Baltimore, Maryland. I’m a local Northeast Baltimorean. I went to college in High Point, North Carolina to follow my passion for Interior Design, but realized it was a little difficult to find employment with local Interior Design firms in my hometown. I then transferred up here to Baltimore, graduating from Sojourner-Douglass College with a BA in Business Administration and then received my Master’s in Public Administration specializing in nonprofit management from the University of Baltimore. I’ve been in the nonprofit sector for about 18 + years and have experience in fundraising/revenue development, strategic planning, training/development, budget administration and marketing and relationship management.
- What are some of the things you’re responsible for as Assistant Development Director?
My role was a newly created position to provide support to the Director of Development as she is out in the field raising funds. I’m responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Development department. We have a team of seven people, and I’m responsible for making sure the team strategizes in regards to raising funds through foundation, government, and city partners, corporate sponsors and individual donors. In addition, my role requires me to work closely with our finance department to reconcile cash receipts, pledges and provide accurate reports to close out the month.
- Where were you before BOPA?
Before BOPA I served as the Associate Director of Development at House of Ruth Maryland for about two years. Prior to the House of Ruth Maryland, I worked for the United Way of Central Maryland. Throughout my nonprofit experience I fundraised for human services, but now I’m fundraising for the arts, which is so much more relaxing and fun!
- How is that different?
Human services can focus on prevention as well as remediation of problems or specific needs. During my time at the House of Ruth Maryland I fundraised for women and children who were involved in intimate partner violence. As a survivor I wanted to work closely with an organization that I am very passionate about which allowed me to educate individuals on domestic violence. Prior to that I worked for United Way of Central Maryland and our goal was to fight poverty in central Maryland with programs encouraging self-sufficiency. I guided various state and city agencies in their fundraising efforts for the workplace giving campaigns. We were really trying to engage individuals to give back to the community. That was a good and challenging experience for me because it is hard to get people to give through back especially if they felt underpaid. Employees had specific nonprofit organizations that they supported, but the good thing about the United Way campaign it allowed an individual to pick up to five charities to give to at the end of the year and have it deducted from their paycheck. Coming to BOPA, because I’m a Baltimore City resident, I really wanted to help beautify the city, through the murals, the art and the cultural programs that we have in the city. I’ve always been a very strong advocate and participant in all of the festivals and events, but I didn’t have a clue as to what took place behind the scenes here at BOPA. Now I have such huge respect and admiration because I didn’t realize all the small, intricate details that took place.
- Is this the career path you pictured for yourself?
No, I actually studied interior decorating, but when I transferred back I had to find a job to put me through school so I started working in the undergraduate admissions department at Johns Hopkins University. I worked there for a total of 8 years at Hopkins, which in my last 4 years I worked in the graduate admissions department enrolling students. During my time on the campus I decided to help the Black Student Union with one of their events. They needed someone to help them raise money and I found my niche in fundraising. I had the relationships with local businesses and I knew wealthy individuals. Eventually I just stepped out on faith and left Johns Hopkins University. I found a job at the American Red Cross fundraising for Anne Arundel County. I traveled around the United States for national disasters and on occasions I was gone for a month on more depending on the disaster. I actually left the organization right before Katrina, but I was working for the American Red Cross when 9/11 hit. It was really easy to fundraise for the American Red Cross because whenever you have a natural disaster like that, everyone is opening up their wallets.
- What are some of the most challenging parts of raising money for BOPA’s programs? What goals does BOPA have for fundraising annually?
The challenging part is trying to get donors and sponsors to understand our mission and our goal in raising funds, simply because people think of us as a city agency when we are a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization. We are currently fundraising a little differently now that we have a new team. We are packaging BOPA as a whole and sharing with our partners everything that we do in regards to events, festivals and cultural programs. We want to make sure each partner understands our need and they are matched up with proper events and programs that aligned with their mission. The development department is responsible for raising 10 million dollars annually.
- What are some of your favorite parts of your job?
I just love the BOPA team. We are very family oriented and very close knit. I love the fact that everyone rolls up their sleeves and gets the work done; we are all hands on deck. You don’t find that in too many organizations. Also, fundraising for BOPA has been so rewarding because I’m actually going out and telling sponsors and donors what it is that BOPA does as a whole because people really don’t have a clue. They think of us as a city agency and we’re trying to change that mentality.
- What do you hope to see BOPA accomplish in the next 5 years?
Creating a strategic plan for our department, because when I came on board the development department did not have a strategic plan. So my goal ultimately is within the next 3 years to have a strategic plan for development department.
- Do you think BOPA will continue to grow?
Oh yeah, definitely. We really have set the bar with Light City Baltimore. Light City showed Baltimore City and BOPA’s potential to generate revenue and increase partnerships nationally and internationally. I think with the new administration under Mayor Catherine Pugh’s leadership she will keep BOPA in the forefront since she is such a strong advocate for the arts and culture.
The Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts is seeking a dynamic, people-oriented individual with outstanding organizational skills and experience coordinating public art projects to apply for the Community Arts Specialist position. The Community Arts Specialist is a full-time regular, exempt position reporting to the Director of Cultural Affairs. The position is a member of the Public Art Program team. Submit your cover letter and resume (with your name and job title in subject line) as one pdf document by July 24, 2017 to: firstname.lastname@example.org. No phone calls accepted.
Image Credit: Sunflower Village in Franklin Square, Jessie Unterhalter, Katey Truhn and Emily C-D, 2012 Transformative Art Prize Recipient
- What is your role as BOPA’s exhibitions manager? What does a typical day look like for you?
I manage three exhibition spaces for BOPA. With three gallery spaces and a studio residency program, School 33 Art Center is the largest and most complicated operation- I also manage exhibition spaces at Top of the World Observation Level and the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower. At Bromo, we rotate shows every six months, and once a year we open a new show at Top of the World. School 33, on the other hand, turns over all three of its gallery spaces every two months.
So a typical day or week would be a balance of doing studio visits with artists, booking new shows, working with communications to publicize these shows, working with artists and curators to build the shows and to facilitate the needs of the artists, and then of course installing the exhibitions and holding opening events. Those are the basic things, with many little moving parts working to make those things happen. I also manage calls for entry. Every year we have a dual call for entry for two concurrent exhibitions. We hire nationally recognized curators and advertise the call nationally as well. From there the curators choose select groups of artists, responding formally and conceptually to what comes in. Additional calls for entry go out on a yearly basis for our Project Space and Members Gallery.
Every two years, we hold our School 33 Studio Resident Biennial. School 33 has a very robust studio program with nine beautiful spaces, and currently we have ten incredible artists in those studios, working in a variety of visual media. Residents work with a mentor/curator, who does a round of critiques with them, then going on to build an exhibition based upon what the artists are currently exploring with their work. Mentor/curators can be professional artists or curators, critics, or professors (and sometimes all or a combination of the above). So that’s what we have coming up starting on June 30, with an opening event on Friday, July 7 from 6-9pm. The Biennial exhibition will run through August 19.
Upstairs at School 33 we have our Project Space, for which artists propose installation work, projection, and sometimes even mini exhibitions. We work with the artists to realize these works, which are tailored to the existing space. We work with artists of all skill levels- from emerging to nationally recognized artists, so it’s a bit of a mix.
- Where were you before BOPA, and what led you here?
A lot of different forms of experience led me to this position. I am an artist myself- I create large-scale installation and performance works, having graduated from the Maryland Institute, College of Art with a degree in Fibers. I began curating in my early twenties, working with a collective of artists to form the live / work / gallery space The Whole Gallery at the H&H building (in what is now the Bromo Arts and Entertainment District), where we held many group shows and worked closely with three other floors of artist collectives who each had their own thing going- theatre, music, visual art, et al, to schedule building-wide events. During this time and for about a decade after college I worked in theatre, in all manner of costume- wardrobe, production, design, and management all over the Baltimore and DC area. For about twelve years after this I held a management position at an interior design workroom in Baltimore. I managed the workflow, placing items into production, scheduling site visits and installations, and dealing with clients and designers. The hours were very reasonable, four days a week, so I was able to maintain a robust studio practice and exhibit my work widely. At the same time I was developing and teaching garment and performance based courses at MICA in the Fiber department, and teaching Stage Production at Baltimore School for the Arts as part of their TWIGS (To Work in Gaining Skills) program. I managed all of those things concurrently for a good number of years.
I’ve been a part of the performance and visual art community in Baltimore since I was a teenager, working both solo and in many collaborative situations, and in that time I have built up a lot of connections, partnerships, friendships, and resources that I am able to bring to the table. I mounted two large projects at School 33- with my predecessor, René Treviño- A solo performative, participatory installation in the first floor Main Gallery in 2010, and a collaboration with Kelley Bell and Linda DePalma for the Co-Lab(oration) Project- Funded by a grant from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in 2013. I have always loved School 33 and all that it has meant to generations of the Baltimore art community for so many years, so In fall of 2014, when I heard that the position of Exhibitions Manager was coming up I thought it would be a good fit for me- and it definitely has been. All of the different things I’ve done so far in my life as an artist, facilitator, curator, teacher, manager, and maker have contributed valuable skills that I use every day on the job here at School 33.
- What, in your opinion, makes BOPA different from other organizations?
We are pretty unique, but I think we are best defined by the incredible amount of things that we do, how those things are connected, and the impact we have on our community. There are so many different types of opportunities for artists through the programs and grants that we offer, and also so many opportunities for the public to engage with art via our programming- School 33, our Public Art and Mural programs, Artscape, Light City, etc. One thing that I talk about with my fellow BOPA Cultural Affairs colleagues a lot is how we are able to offer a path of potential growth for artists through the funding and opportunities that we offer. For example, an artist might have a solo show at School 33 and realize a lot of new concepts and ideas through that experience, while gaining a diverse audience for their work. Then they might decide to apply for Artscape and get a little bit of funding to make a project that can be seen and experienced by thousands of people. Perhaps they then get a large commission to participate in Light City, exposing their work to hundreds of thousands of people and possibly garnering international attention- then moving on to show their work internationally or win more large scale, permanent public art commissions.
The mentorship and the resources that we offer- along with the freedom that comes with not being commercially driven- enables us to focus on putting on great shows and events for the public while offering as many opportunities as possible for artists to develop and share their vision. There is nothing quite like what we do.
- What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of your role as Exhibition Manager?
I’ll go with rewarding first. I really enjoy working with artists and being able to spend time with them and understand their process. Since I’m an artist as well, that’s really inspiring to me, too, in my own work. Helping to enable artists to make or do something that they need the time and space and resources to make or do is really fulfilling. One of the best moments of my job is when an artist, no matter their level of skill or experience, is putting a finishing touch on something that they’ve built- when its all finally coming together- just seeing the look of satisfaction on their faces. Sometimes they even squeal or do a little dance! I know what that feeling is like, and it’s amazing to be a part of that. Then of course, seeing viewers’ reactions to their work- and seeing the artist seeing their reactions… absolutely priceless.
At BOPA, the most challenging thing is that we all wear a lot of hats and manage a lot of things, but sometimes it can add up to too much of a good thing. Between working on projects for School 33 and for festivals- facilitating large-scale temporary public art projects for Artscape and for Light City, and running an exhibition program and coordinating an art center, it can be a lot at times. The main challenge is finding that balance- I think that’s a common struggle for all of us. We love what we do, but it’s always about energy and timing.
- Being an artist yourself, does it make it difficult sometimes to try to see things impartially?
I don’t know if it’s my job to be impartial- I think everyone brings a piece of themselves into this type of work. I believe that being an artist is a definite strength in this position. As a fellow artist and maker I’m able to know what to expect, how to trust someone and their individual process of working. As someone who has worked collaboratively with artists in many other creative situations I know when to jump in and when to lay off- when questioning something would be an intrusion and when it would help. With my knowledge of many different materials and processes, I also know about the time, labor,energy and emotion it takes to create something. I am also well aware of the financial sacrifices it takes, therefore I do what I can to help mitigate some expenses for artists, especially those mounting new and site specific projects here at School 33. I just try to offer as support as possible, to make the projects that I take on the most rewarding experiences that I can for those involved- experiences that I myself would want to have as an artist.
- Tell me a little bit about yourself and where you were before joining BOPA
Before joining BOPA I was a touring author. I had just written a book called “Provenance” and was on the book tour circuit. I started the book eight years ago, and it was published at the beginning of 2016. I’ve been a museum administrator working at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum in D.C., and the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia. I was also a vice president for the Arts & Science Council in Charlotte, North Carolina. So I’ve spent the better part of two decades either raising money for the arts or working in the arts and directly raising money within an institution. So it’s been an interesting journey. I came originally from the corporate world. I was with AT&T and Young & Rubicam advertising. After getting some experience with some arts donations we did with Young & Rubicam, I decided I wanted to work in the nonprofit world. But my first job in the nonprofit world was with Sesame Street. I was their Director of Communications. I worked there for a couple of years until my husband took a position in Norfolk, Virginia and that’s when I joined the art community.
- What led to your decision to join BOPA?
The mission [of BOPA] was the number one reason, and number two was the people. I always said if I take a position it has to be with people I want to hang out with every day. That was the overarching decision for me.
- As Chief of External Affairs, what is the main thing that you will be handling or will be focused on?
My main areas are communications and development, and everything that that entails. Right now my main objective is to find a new development director for BOPA. Really my first order of business is to see where we are and what is going on within the organization.
- With your help, where do you see BOPA in the next three to five years?
I would like to see BOPA have a better brand. So that when you say BOPA, people know what you’re talking about, and anticipate that anything BOPA does is the level of quality that we have already established that they’re just not aware of. So my overarching objective is the branding of BOPA not only in Baltimore, but nationally and internationally as well. Because we have great product, people just don’t know it’s ours. As I said, I started off in advertising with Young & Rubicam, and one thing about working at a Madison Avenue advertising agency is it’s all about brand.
- You wrote the book “Provenance” in 2016 and the main character in your novel is an art collector in the 1930s. Tell me more about the storyline.
“Provenance” is about a young man who finds out at the age of 17 he isn’t who he thought he was. He grew up believing he was a wealthy, privileged young white boy and then his father was hurt in an accident; and as he was dying told his family he had been passing all these years. It starts in 1917 when you find out why the father did what he did and then in 1930 is when the young man finds out who he really is. He flees to Europe because he lives in Richmond in the segregated South, and then he gets in with the art crowd in Paris in between World War I and World War II and becomes a renowned art collector. It’s really a coming of age story and it’s also a story about how art heals. The main character’s name is Lance Henry Withers, and his timeline is filled with historical characters that are real and mixed with fictional characters.
- Was “Provenance” your first novel?
Yes. I had never written fiction before. I had this idea in my head and was like, ok this is a book. There was a writing center in Bethesda where I lived, so I just signed up for a class: “Advanced Novel Writing and Memoir” – and I had never written fiction. I had written plenty of non-fiction before – a lot of press releases, white papers, backgrounders, everything – but never fiction. I had to have 35 pages of a working novel to get into this class. So I sat down and wrote 35 pages and got into the class, and from there, the book came. I found five other writers who were about the same stage I was, we formed a writing group, and we shepherded each other through our books. I think in order to be a good writer observation is key, but that’s also true with art, communications, and development.
- What is your favorite event that BOPA produces? Or your favorite location that BOPA manages?
Well, it’s gotta be Light City right now. I think what I like the most about Light City is how much of the arts it encompasses. It’s the intellectual part with the Labs; the visual part with the art; it’s the community – all the things that the arts do for a place or people, Light City does. So I have to say, so far, I like it. I like that all of BOPA’s programs are so inclusive. Having worked at the Hirshhorn which was very exclusive – this is my preference. I want to see how art touches people. Walking around the harbor and seeing people react to the art installations was just addictive. The only thing I like better than that is talking to the artists, and them telling me what they’re experiencing and how they’re communicating that to the rest of the world.
Please use this budget form for the 2017 Municipal Arts Society Artist Travel Prize, and save as a PDF to upload on submittable.
Application available at https://promotionandarts.submittable.com/submit/80849/
1.What does it mean to be the Director of Special Events? And isn’t every event BOPA produces a “special event”?
Being the Director of Special Events means a lot to me, and it’s very exciting as you get the opportunity to be involved in international/national events such as Light City, Star-Spangled Spectacular or a Super Bowl Parade. But you also get the opportunity to do small community events like the MECU Neighborhood Grants where you have twenty people attending a small workshop compared to 100,000 people at major event. I enjoy seeing people having a good time. It’s especially exciting when you’ve booked an attendee’s favorite band, and you see them at the front of the stage dancing, singing, and jumping with excitement in seeing this band, and it’s all free. It’s so rewarding to see people’s expressions and gratitude for the special events we present.
2. How did you become the Director of Special Events? What’s your history/background? What led you to this position?
It’s very funny because I went to Villa Julie College [now Stevenson University] to become a business legal secretary. I did my internship here and was hired after I graduated. I was the secretary for the Events Manager (I think that was her title). Then a Data Process Operator, then an events assistant, then was promoted to an events coordinator, then promoted to events manager and finally the Director of Special events. So it has evolved over the years; I didn’t go to school for this or anything. So my role here has been a very interesting journey – talk about on-the-job experience!
3. How can your average Baltimorean can take advantage of, or find out about BOPA events?
I think the best way now is social media. Back in the day, you could look at a calendar listing in The Sun papers or in City Paper, but now it is most definitely social media and I think word of mouth too. When folks have a great time at an event or festival they like to share their experience, especially when they find out a person is not familiar with the event or festival.
4. What goes into planning special events for BOPA?
It depends what the event is, but some consistent things include: attention to details, a good timeline, sticking to the budget, the support of city services and the number one goal is for the people attending the event to have a good time, and plan to come back the next year.
5. What do you wish more people knew about BOPA and all the events that you produce?
I think a lot of people don’t know about us period. We need to do a better job of tooting our own horn. We do a lot of events and special projects, and offer a lot of services that people don’t know about or think it’s done by “The City” so we need to celebrate and spread the word about ourselves more.
6. Is there any particular event that you’ve had a hand in that is your favorite?
My favorite event is the Monument Lighting and the Baltimore Book Festival. Initially because they were both held in Mount Vernon and I love the intimacy of that neighborhood. However, the Book Festival is held at the Inner Harbor now and I love it on the water. Probably the most exciting was when we did the first Super Bowl Parade. That was really, really cool.
6a. Was BOPA involved in both Super Bowl Parades and just the first?
We coordinated both of the Super Bowl Parades – makes me smile thinking about it.
6b. Are you a Ravens fan?
6c. A lot of people are saying next year is our year [to win the Super Bowl again], so hopefully.
That would be fun! Another thing we’d like to do, hopefully one day, would be a parade for the Orioles. We did do one, but we won’t mention how long ago that was. A couple of years back we got excited about the possible chance of doing something, and I think we even met with the Orioles, but.. Now this is going way back, I’m telling my age. When Cal Ripken hit 2,131 [games], we did a parade for him- marching bands, floats, etc. The parade went down Charles Street, and somehow Sports Illustrated got a great picture of the float going down Pratt Street with me and another staff person walking behind the float. The picture was in the special issue of the magazine dedicated to Cal. I always said I was going to get a copy of the magazine, but never did. I’ve done and seen a lot of amazing things working at BOPA.