Creative Conversation: Margie Johnson Reese

Recorded On: 10/16/2019

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About this Creative Conversation


2019 Selina Roberts Ottum Award for Arts Leadership 

Margie Johnson Reese

The Selina Roberts Ottum Award for Arts Leadership recognizes an individual working in arts management who has made a meaningful contribution to his or her local community and who exemplifies extraordinary leadership qualities. Margie Johnson Reese, museum educator and arts educator was selected as the 2019 Selina Roberts Ottum Awardee. In addition to her work in Wichita Falls, Margie continues to touch lives and influence cultural policy in cities across the country  and around the world, creating a network of proselytes who pay it forward by following her approach to service. She is most proud of those she has mentored over the years – the young leaders who because of Margie’s guidance have learned to think boldly about their role in public service. Joined by Arts and Culture Leaders of Color Steering Committee Member, Phil Chan, the two will discuss how the past is shaping the future of arts leadership and learn more about Margie and her journey in the arts and culture field.


About the Series

For 2019 National Arts & Humanities Month we are taking Creative Conversations to a new level. To engage with leaders in the field, this year’s National Arts Awardees will be in conversation with fellow leaders to discuss issues relevant to today’s community-based arts administrators. Responding to this year’s Creative Conversation prompt, “how is the past shaping the future of the arts?.” awardees will give their insight on how their work impacts their community and organization.

Margie Johnson Reese

Executive Director, Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture

Margie Johnson Reese is an educator and life-long advocate for children and the arts. She has over 40 years’ experience in the field of arts administration, more than 17 of those heading a local arts agency. Margie received a BA from Washington State University in Pullman, Washington and an MFA in Theater from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, grounding her education in the arts.

Margie’s career in arts administration and reputation as a leader was established within some of the field’s largest public institutions, including service as Director of the Office of Cultural Affairs for the City of Dallas and General Manager for the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs where she held her position under three Mayoral administrations. Her expertise as a grantmaker was tapped by the Ford Foundation to advance cultural projects in West Africa. Based in Lagos, Nigeria, her three-year appointment centered on cultural policy development and the conservation of West Africa’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

Following her service in West Africa, Margie returned to Dallas and took the position of Vice President for Programs at Big Thought, a renowned arts learning organization she helped create 30 years ago.

Today, she is leading a new venture to establish the Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture, a burgeoning local arts agency in Texas, as its executive director. She also manages MJR Partners, a private consulting firm focused on coaching and advising arts leaders and organizations in all areas of cultural management and policy development. Her firm has served a wide range of clients including the Houston Arts Alliance, One Columbia or Arts and  History, the Asante Children’s Theater in Indianapolis and is currently conducting a Cultural Equity Audit of the grant making functions for the City of Sacramento.

Margie shares her expertise in arts administration as a faculty member for leadership programs organized by the National Guild for Community Arts Education and the Western States Arts Federation. She is a sought-after presenter, moderator and keynote speaker for meetings and arts conferences around the globe where she shares best practices and trends in the field. In addition, she has been an adjunct professor at the University of North Texas and continues as an adjunct professor at  Goucher College in their graduate school of arts administration.

Over the years, Margie has contributed her time and talent to the boards of numerous nonprofit organizations, most notably as a member of the International Music Council in Paris; as an advisor to the International Council of African Museums; as a Fellow at the Salzburg Global Institute; Mid America Arts Alliance; and, as a 25-year member of the board of Americans for the Arts, where she chaired the Board’s Diversity Committee which authored the organization’s first Cultural Equity Statement.

Margie is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and has two adult children, a cherished grandson and a new one on the way.

Phil Chan

Director of Programming, IVY

Phil Chan is the co-founder of Final Bow for Yellowface, and currently serves as the Director of Programming for IVY, connecting young professionals with leading American museums and performing arts institutions. He is a graduate of Carleton College and an alumnus of the Ailey School. As a writer, he served as the Executive Editor for FLATT Magazine and contributed to Dance Europe Magazine and the Huffington Post. He was the founding General Manager of the Buck Hill Skytop Music Festival, and was the General Manager for Armitage Gone! Dance and Youth America Grand Prix. He served multiple years on the National Endowment for the Arts dance panel and the Jadin Wong Award panel presented by the Asian American Arts Alliance, and is on the advisory committee for the Parsons Dance Company. He also serves on the Leaders of Color steering committee at Americans for the Arts.

Websites: www.yellowface.org 

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