Brushing Up: A Conversation with Ashleigh Coren, Head of Education, Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative

a woman speakingAshleigh Coren is a passionate advocate for the arts and culture sector. She wears multiple hats, from her involvement with educators and students nationwide to their dedication to unearthing and sharing the untold stories of remarkable women. As part of the Smithsonian Institution and an avid collaborator, she brings a unique perspective to the intersection of art, history, and leadership. Here she shares some insights on the essence of her work and the qualities that define successful arts leaders, while also addressing critical challenges facing the field. Read on to discover the driving force behind her commitment to making art accessible to all.

🤩 What’s your favorite thing about what you do?

“This is a hard question because I love everything I do: from meeting educators and students from across the country, discovering and sharing little known stories of women, and working with my colleagues from across the Smithsonian and beyond.”

🌟 What is one way arts leaders can enhance their impact? OR what are the top qualities you see in successful arts leaders?

“Wonderful question! The leaders I look up to the most are: able to connect and inspire different groups of people together over a shared cause, have excellent conflict resolution skills and see discomfort as a learning opportunity and not a barrier, create a culture of trust and appreciation among their employees and volunteers, and are nimble.”

💡 What is the greatest need facing your organization and/or the arts today?

“This has always been an issue, but pay equity and the lack of permanent or long term employment opportunities for all museum practitioners. I see amazing people leave the profession out of necessity and it’s pretty heartbreaking.”

🌈 Why is making art accessible important?

“There are so many fabulous museums I’ll never get to visit because they are too far away or have limited hours. Digital collections and exhibits, along with mobile museums and traveling exhibitions allow more chances for all audiences to engage with art objects in different ways.”

🎨 Concluding thoughts:

Ashleigh’s work is a stellar example of the positive impact one can make in the realm of arts and culture. By embracing diversity, fostering trust, and harnessing the power of technology, we can make art accessible to all, transcending boundaries and enriching lives across the world. How can we, as individuals, support and engage with the arts in a way that fosters inclusivity and accessibility? 🤝🌍

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