Lisa Nelson Haynes
Associate Director, Painted Bride Art Center
I hate titles, reject them totally, and I think it’s because of my venomous distaste for labels that my vocation has saddled me with a whopper of a misnomer: “Art Administrator.”
I am not an art administrator. The term sounds like some sort of bureaucratic paper-pusher.
But if I’m forced to self-identify, then I need to find a more appropriate title for myself, something a bit more fitting to reflect the hoodoo of the voodoo that I do. Here’s what I’ve come up with: art pusher, cheerleader, facilitator, conduit, and on my truly spectacular days, transformation specialist.
I have one of the best jobs in the world, second only to maybe Oprah’s. Every day my job gives me the opportunity to work with brilliant, incredible, creative, often crazy and sometimes neurotic artists. I help them actualize their vision, sometimes through all the stages from conception to exposition. This may include helping to secure funding to create the work, or identifying opportunities to show their work beyond the walls or stage of the Bride. Sometimes it’s as simple as finding the words to describe the work. All the while, I’m trying to get in the artists’ heads and under their skin to fully understand their work and creative processes in an attempt to help the artists fully recognize their dream: to get their work exposed to the audience that most needs to see and experience it.
The flip side of this grand supporting role is not glamorous, and is often challenging. The mundane but necessary tasks include: writing grants, which means getting the artist outside of his or her own head long enough to give me the necessary information to complete an application; reminding the artist of the importance of meeting and respecting deadlines; and simply listening.
But as frustrating as this can sometimes be, I’ve come to understand that these duties are the necessary yin to balance the euphoric yang I experience when an artist we’ve worked to support fulfills his or her vision, or when I have the opportunity to take artists beyond the performance stage or gallery space and witness a transformative moment between them and their audience. These are the moments that affirm, for me, why I truly dig the hoodoo of the voodoo that I do.
Published May 2006