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Influential Women in the Arts: Georgina Goodlander

Influential Women in the Arts: Georgina Goodlander

I have worked with Georgina for two and a half years during my time at the Idaho Falls Arts Council and ARTitorium on Broadway. She is an amazing asset to the work that is done at both facilities. Georgina just celebrated her 10th anniversary with the Arts Council, of course, I wanted to honor her and feature her as a part of my Influential Women in the Arts series.

What is your job title?

Visual Arts Director for the Idaho Falls Arts Council

How did you get this job?

I was living in Baltimore and working at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC when my husband and I made the decision to move out west. We both loved our jobs, but we did NOT love living on the East Coast. As a Health and Safety Manager within the federal government (also at the Smithsonian), his job was eminently more transferrable than mine to any federal agency, so we decided that he should find a job first. He interviewed for several and received two job offers in one day – one in Idaho Falls with the Forest Service and one in Billings, MT, for the Bureau of Reclamation. We did some quick internet sleuthing and decided that Idaho Falls sounded like the better option! Shortly after, I saw that the Idaho Falls Arts Council was advertising for a Visual Arts Director. The job sounded like a mix of art and technology that was right up my street. I had been burned before by applying for jobs that ended up no longer being available, so I tweeted the Arts Council to double-check that they hadn’t filled the position. They hadn’t, so I followed up with an application. I did an initial phone interview with the Executive Director, but then flew out (at my own expense!) to do what was an insane full-day interview with the Director, a committee of very intimidating board members and arts supporters, and a meeting with one of the primary sponsors of the galleries. Whew! Happily, I got the job. It represented what was at the time a 67% pay cut for me, but it got us out to the mountains where I wanted to be and has been 100% worth it.

What is your educational background?

I have a BA (hons) in Visual Communication with a focus on Illustration from the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. I loved the opportunity to paint all day every day while in school, but I became very disillusioned with higher education and the fact that I learned absolutely zero about how to be a practicing artist or illustrator. They taught us NOTHING about running your own business, working freelance, or even how to pitch yourself and your work to get a creative job. I vowed after graduating that I was not going to make art for a living and that I wanted to work with art instead. After graduating, I worked for a few months in Toronto, Canada, then for a year in Songjiang, China, before securing an amazing internship at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC. The internship was a crash course in American art history and museum administration and taught me way more than formal education ever did.

Did you always want to do this sort of job?

I did! I’ve always wanted to work in a museum or gallery and to be the one to design the exhibitions! It’s an added bonus that my job also includes interactive art and technology, which is something I grew to love during my time at the Smithsonian.

Can you give an overview of the duties, functions, and responsibilities of your job?

There are two primary aspects to my job. First, I am the curator of two art galleries at the Willard Arts Center. I choose the artists to exhibit, manage all of the details, then design and hang the exhibitions. We present nine exhibitions every year in two galleries. These include an annual national juried exhibition, for which artists from all over the country submit art for consideration. The second main component of my job includes overseeing all operations of ARTitorium on Broadway, which is an interactive art center for kids. This includes fundraising, programs, staff, and interactive attractions. In addition, I run the Roaring Youth Jam, a free three-day outdoor art festival for families, and oversee eight artists in residence at the Willard Arts Center. I also serve as the grant writer for the Idaho Falls Arts Council and am often the de facto IT support person.

Is your job what you thought it would be when you started?

I don’t know what my expectations were, but I think it has exceeded them! Coming to a private nonprofit organization after over a decade with the federal government was liberating. I love that I have the freedom to develop exhibitions, programs, and attractions without twelve layers of oversight. We have a very supportive Director and Board and I love that my job never gets boring (and if it does, then I just come up with something new to do!).

What is your proudest accomplishment over the last 10 years as the Visual Arts Director of the Idaho Falls Arts Council?

ARTitorium! For the first couple of years of its operation, we didn’t know if it was going to make it. The financials did not look good and people would visit, but not more than once. It did not appear to be sustainable AT ALL. I had also had my first child a few months after it opened and realized very quickly that it wasn’t really a facility that I would be interested in taking my own kids to. This was a problem! Inspired by a timely Change Leader course with the Idaho Commission on the Arts, I led some pretty intensive brainstorming sessions with staff and board members. We wrote a new Vision and Core Values and immediately pivoted the facility. We shifted the focus away from technology and onto hands-on activities, and made a plan to replace all of the stark white walls with color and artworks. Over the next few years, we upgraded several of the interactive attractions to be more kid-focused, which, unbelievably, they had not been before. I’m so proud of it now and beyond happy that our efforts are reflected in dramatically increased participation from the community and a budget that operates in the black.

What is your favorite exhibition that you have brought to Idaho Falls?

Oof. That’s a hard one. I figured out recently that I have installed almost 100 exhibitions in my time here and I’ve honestly loved every single one of them. I learned early on that we have absolutely incredible artists who live in and around Idaho, so I focus almost exclusively on local and regional art in the galleries (outside of the annual Juried Exhibition). That’s what the community wants to see and I enjoy being able to highlight western artists in this way. I think one of my favorite exhibitions was the one I put together for the centennial celebration of the Colonial Theater in 2019. We did a call to artists for work that showed the inside and outside of the theater and combined those works with historical photographs and quotes. It was more exhibition design and planning than I usually do, and I was really happy with the result.

The ARTitorium on Broadway has been a huge success in Eastern Idaho over the last 10 years. Where do you see it going in the next 10 years?

My primary goal is that we do not stagnate. I never want ARTitorium to be a facility where the attractions do not work and/or the building feels old and unloved. We are constantly reviewing all of our offerings to see what might need to be upgraded, replaced, or retired. It’s one of the reasons why my job is always interesting! I anticipate that the next ten years will bring some new, large-scale attractions (we have at least one in the works right now) and that we continue to be a resource that parents and schools find meaningful and fun.

If you could change anything about your job, what would it be?

I honestly can’t think of anything. I have my bad days just like everyone does and a 1-star Google review can make me cry, but I feel incredibly lucky to be doing what I do.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing the arts in the non-profit sector today?

Arts organizations need to be better at honestly looking at their communities and working to provide meaningful experiences for the people that they serve. I see too many nonprofit organizations spending far too much time (and resources) on perceived social issues that actually do not have anything to do with the people in their area, OR on trying to “teach” their audiences what they think is important rather than listening to what their communities want. Sure, education is important and sure, social issues should not be ignored, but there’s a lot to be said for providing experiences that people enjoy and care about rather than in making them feel guilty, alienated, or condescended to.

What advice do you have for young women aspiring to be in leadership roles in a world largely operated by a patriarchal system?

I believe that opportunities are available to anyone who is willing to put in the work. I have never experienced anything remotely negative because I am a woman. I freaking LOVE being a woman and have felt supported and buoyed by other men and women at every stage of my career. I obviously cannot speak for other people and other industries, but the best advice I can give any young woman (or man) is to work your butt off. Don’t blame other people if you aren’t where you want to be – figure out a way to get there and then do it. And if you want to have a family, accept the fact that mothers generally have a different relationship with their kids than fathers do, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I spent over a decade putting everything I had into my career. I worked long hours, I traveled a lot, I was ambitious, I published, I networked, I did all the things, and I loved every second of it. Then I moved to Idaho and had kids and my priorities completely changed. I’m happy where I am in my career and I still work extremely hard at my job, but my family and my kids come first. As a result, I can no longer put in the insane hours or go on extended business travel, so I probably will not continue to “climb the ladder” in my career. I don’t consider this a negative thing or something that we should be fighting to change.

Georgina can be contacted at ggoodlander@idahofallsarts.org and you can learn more about her work on her LinkedIn!


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