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Thought Leadership

10 inspiring insights by women in arts & culture


Read/View Time6 min

On International Women’s Day we pay tribute to the inspirational women in the field of arts and culture who work to empower artists, audiences and communities. These words of wisdom come from a selection of leaders and Innovator Series speakers from within our Tessitura Network community.

1. Renée Fleming

Internationally acclaimed soprano 
Creative Consultant, Lyric Opera of Chicago
Chicago, Illinois

Renée Fleming delivered her talk, “Knocking on the Door of the Mainstream: Cultivating Engagement with Arts in the 21st Century,” live at the Tessitura Learning & Community Conference in Orlando, Fla. in 2015.

“In a more secular world, we have lost a sense of community.

It’s been widely shown that people are feeling more lonely and isolated. We can provide that sense of community, but we have to make our programs social.”

View Talk >  

2. Sarah Ogle

Marketing & Communications Director
Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse
Liverpool, UK 

Sarah Ogle riveted the audience at the 2017 Tessitura European Conference in Cardiff, Wales with her talk, “The Audience π.”

“Think about your audiences. Understand their motivations and have a conversation.

How does your organisation bring joy? Collaborate with your colleagues and tell great stories together. And take courage!”

View Sarah's Talk >  

3. Catherine Devine

Chief Digital Officer
American Museum of Natural History
New York, New York

Catherine Devine discusses “Serendipity in the Museum Experience”:

“This is what makes museum visits so wonderful – when you discover these things that are not what you came to look for, things that you didn’t expect to discover.” 

View Catherine's Talk >

4. Annie Burridge

General Director
Austin Opera
Austin, Texas

In her previous role as Managing Director of Opera Philadelphia, Annie Burridge gave this talk called “Embracing Innovation by Partnering for Success.”

“While we are fortunate to have lots of tools in our toolbox to navigate our path forward — the thing that has propelled us the furthest is our belief in partnership.”

View Annie's Talk >

5. Elaine Chia

Chief Executive Officer, City Recital Hall
Sydney, Australia

Elaine Chia discusses creating spaces for audiences in her talk, “Warning: Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater.”

“We’ve consciously programmed in the gaps, not in competition with our hirers who we don’t want to lose.

We’ve visualized our foyers not just as transit spaces, but as inviting places to pause, relax, and as an entertainment spaces in themselves. We’ve invited new visitors and audiences in with activities which are spontaneous, free of commitment, and free of cost. And we’ve kept what was, and is already successful as we reimagine the venue.”

View Elaine's Talk >

6. Gabriela Jirasek

Director of New Media, Goodman Theatre
Chicago, Illinois 

Gabriela Jirasek illuminates the realities of marketing in her talk, "No More Free Lunch: The New Realities of Facebook & Social Advertising." For example, she says:

“We’re strategic about the content we promote and the audiences that we target. It takes planning, research and a commitment of resources to be successful.”

View Gabriela's Talk >

7. Nicole Keating

Assistant Vice President of Business Intelligence
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
Miami, Florida

Nicole Keating uncovers how “A Commitment to Accessibility” can have benefits far beyond what you might imagine.  

“Will you go beyond the bare bones requirements of effective communication and embrace a philosophy of excellent customer service for all? Will you do your job just a little bit better in order to dramatically improve someone’s life? 

View Nicole's Talk >

8. Nancy Yao Maasbach

President, Museum of Chinese in America
New York, New York 

Nancy Yao Maasbach discusses the power of visitor and membership data in her talk, “Michael Wong, have you eaten yet?: The Journey to Knowing Ourselves and Our Members.” She spoke live at the 2017 Tessitura Learning & Community Conference in San Diego, Calif.

“I had come across 12 different Michael Wongs in the first few weeks of my job with MOCA. All unidentifiable, all without clear donor giving, and all without any ounce of relationship management color...

And I realized that any good intentions were lost. Anything I could do, at this point, was, at best, superficial.” 

View Nancy's Talk >

9. Martha Gilmer

CEO, San Diego Symphony
San Diego, California

In her talk, “Find Your Music™: Building Audiences through Community,” Martha Gilmer notes:

“We have made it our first priority to provide programming that engages audiences and ignites their curiosity. I believe that growth starts with programming. We must be artistically led.”

View Martha's Talk >

10. Heather Walker

Project Director, Visitor Experience
Royal Opera House
London, UK

Heather Walker asks organizations to think more carefully about their visitors' perspective in her talk,“The Journey from Customer Care to Visitor Experience.”

“Another thing which defines a visitor experience is a carefully considered design of the end-to-end journey.

To do that authentically, we have to place ourselves in our visitors’ shoes and be prepared to challenge structures, reporting lines, roles, uniforms, desks — the lot!”