(L to R) Becky Beaulieu, Alecia Kintner and Jodie Gates on ArtsWrap with Alecia
Hear the full discussion with Becky Beaulieu and Jodie Gates on episode nine of ArtsWrap with Alecia, available wherever you get your podcasts.
As new directors of the Taft Museum of Art and Cincinnati Ballet look to make an impact, they are surprisingly focused on the same thing: storytelling.
According to Harvard Business Publishing, they might be onto something: scientists are discovering that chemicals like cortisol, dopamine and oxytocin are released when we hear stories, allowing us to better feel, understand and learn from the experience.
Becky Beaulieu, Louise Taft Semple President and CEO of the Taft Museum of Art, sees art in a larger context than the gallery in which it is placed. "I see directing museums as activating art and objects to tell a story about culture. My background is steeped in understanding cultural history. We want to look at: what was the story? What was happening economically, socially? What was happening in terms of gender roles? There's a whole story there besides what you're seeing within a frame," she says.
Surfacing untold stories equally inspires Jodie Gates, former Joffrey Ballet Principal Ballerina and recent Director of the Glorya Kaufmann School of Dance at University of Southern California, and now Artistic Director of Cincinnati Ballet. Gates explains, "it's incredibly important for us to see the relevance of ballet now," She adds "to tell stories in a new way; tell new stories; bring in a community of BIPOC artists, marginalized artists, that can collaborate together. I'm attracted to emerging artists coming into our field that have a different point of view...using ballet in a different way."
Beaulieu wants to shine fresh light on the works by Robert S. Duncanson, a suite of murals in the museum's front hallway. She explains, "These were commissioned, originally, by Nicholas Longworth, who was a lawyer, a vintner and an abolitionist, in about 1850." She notes, "We have to remember that there is a huge lineage of Black creation in this country that may have been recognized outside of the mainstream... To have a Black artist recognized as a fine artist in the tradition of European painting, in the pre-Civil War era, commissioned for a fine home in an area like Cincinnati, was really unusual. To be able to help tell that story is incredible."
Both Gates and Beaulieu take their storytelling responsibilities seriously. "I consider all of us changemakers, shape-shifters," Gates says. "To activate change takes all of us having conversations and understanding each other."