Saying Goodbye to Amy
Sun, Feb 8, 2009
Andy Warhol isn't the only compelling personality we're saying goodbye to this week at the Wexner Center. Amy Wharton is leaving the center after 15 years in our development department, most recently as senior development officer for major gifts, a mouthful of a title that barely gives a clue to the breadth or depth of her contributions here.
The center has always been fortunate to have had a great many talented, committed staff members looking out for the excellence and integrity of our artistic programs. Of course Amy has cared about those things, but she's alsoâ€”consistently, passionatelyâ€”championed our responsibility to make our programs accessible to our members, donors, and all our audiences.
By this I certainly don't mean that she has ever advocated shrinking away from something challenging or "dumbing down" something that might be perceived as "difficult." But she has always encouraged actions and attitudes that can help us dismantle the barriers we sometimes put upâ€”inadvertentlyâ€”with, say, esoteric jargon or schedules that ignore our potential audiences' own busy lives. Appreciating the generosity of an organization's members, donors, and sponsors isâ€”obviouslyâ€”essential for anyone working in development or, really, in any part of the nonprofit art world. Amy's devotion to our members, however, has been absolutely remarkable, as she kept a mental record of so many varieties of interest and motivation. I often thought she worked almost like a matchmaker, finding exactly the part of our activities to spark each individual's interest, engagement, and philanthropic impulses.
My first memory of working with Amy here involves crafting the language for the invitation to an opening reception for a new group of exhibitions. It must have been during her very first weeks at the center. We were in the habit then of talking about "openings": a noun that many people in the arts live and breathe, but that, as Amy pointed out, had much less familiarity to those whose lives are not quite so constantly intertwined with gallery or museum exhibitions. She suggested that we offer some clue that we were inviting our readers to a party or celebration of an exhibition and its artists. I think we settled on "preview party" that time, and we've used that and "opening celebration" pretty consistently since.
Now, after an awful lot of preview parties (and anniversary galas too), I'll miss Amy's clear vision, integrity, and championship of our members and audiences. She could always be counted on to think about and look out for the interests of members (and potential members) with children, and she brought her own family to a great many of our programs. I suspect that we'll continue to see Amy and Tyler and Leah here often in the months and years ahead. I sure hope so. I'll miss her enormously--and I'm sure many of our members will too. Please feel free to add your own thoughts to mine and join all of us at the Wexner Center in wishing Amy all the best as she takes on new challenges and responsibilities at Wexner Heritage Village.