Women in the Arts

Share this Story

Panel of professionals share their experiences and wisdom during Women's History Month

University News | March 21, 2019

By Laynee H. Timlin

On March 14, a panel of accomplished professional women shared their insights, experiences and wisdom with students, faculty and staff during an hour-long session in the Greer Environmental Sciences Center.

The panel was one of several events organized by VWU’s Women’s Resource Center in tribute to Women’s History Month this March. Jennifer Slivka, Director of the Women’s Resource Center and Associate Professor of English and Women’s & Gender Studies, led efforts to organize the activities in honor of this special month.

“Women's History Month is important because it draws much-needed attention not only to women's accomplishments and what they have contributed to our society, but also to the fact that women have a history of doing this,” noted Slivka. “It didn't happen overnight; women have been doing great things for a long time. They just haven't been widely recognized for it.”

Slivka says that she wanted to feature another panel of professional women sharing their experiences with our students during this important month. Last year's theme was "Women in STEM." And this year, with the new Susan S. Goode Fine and Performing Arts Center opening on campus later this month, she thought it would be great to simultaneously demonstrate the value and importance that the arts have in our society, while sharing the experiences of women working in these fields.

The panelists included Dr. Wayla Chambo, flutist and classical radio host at WHRO-FM, Karen Rudd, manager of Norfolk Arts, and Sibel Galindez, community liaison for Zeiders American Dream Theater in Virginia Beach.

The panel discussion was facilitated by Slivka who asked pointed questions of the panelists.

How can women be successful?

“Keep an open mind about what your path might look like,” said Chambo whose role as the host of Afternoon Classics and as music coordinator for WHRO-FM enables her to combine her passion for classical music with her deep knowledge of the field to help people connect with music and each other. “Learn as much as you can.”

The professional flutist, who performs locally, and music educator also encouraged women to refine their skills, trust themselves and their instincts, find mentors to support and challenge them, develop their boundaries and be persistent.

“Look at other artists as colleagues rather than competition,” she advised. “Seek ways to support and uplift each other’s work.”

For Galindez, an early internship at MTV helped position her for career success. The actress comes from a family of doctors and lawyers; however, she chose to follow her dream and passion for the theatre. She has starred in range of movies, TV shows and series, most notably portraying the role of Lieutenant Elizabeth "Skates" Hawkes and Dixie on the CBS TV Series, JAG.

“Understand the power positions, know who gets to make the decisions,” suggested Galindez. “Be self-sufficient. Create your own path.”

Rudd encouraged women to be successful by taking advantage of opportunities. As the first manager of the City of Norfolk's Public Art Program, she is also a painter who creates mixed media images. Her solo show “Yearnings” in VWU’s Neil Britton Gallery was the first exhibition of her work in the Hampton Roads area in 2011-12.

“I always knew I wanted to be an artist,” said Rudd. “I wanted to live a creative life. There are lots of ways to be an artist. It’s important to follow your vision and your heart.”

What do you think are some of the specific challenges/benefits, as women?

Rudd, who holds a BFA from the University of New Mexico, shared her experiences as a woman leader in the arts. She noted that the field was not particularly diverse.

“The arts have not been taken so seriously,” she noted. “It’s important to make sure that arts, and women, are taken seriously.”

Chambo, who earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of North Texas, thought that progress for women has been made and that recently there has been more awareness.

“It’s come to light that there is an abuse of power in some leadership positions,” she explained. “That has been challenging for women.”

Galindez, a graduate of Harvard University, cited research from the Harvard Business Review that indicated that women tend to be more collaborative and seem to take on a greater burden of work. She also discussed body type as a challenge for women in the profession.

“I think we are taking steps in the right direction, though, and are seeing more of an acceptance of all different body types for women actresses.”

What overall advice do you have for women?

Chambo shared that it’s really important to take good care of yourself – to fill yourself up so you have something to give to your work. She also talked about the importance of developing resilience so you can pick yourself up during the ups and downs and overcome difficult economic realities. She also thought women should have a little separation between themselves and their work so that rejection does not affect their worth as a human being.

Galindez suggested that women give themselves their own stamp of approval and not look to somebody else. She said it was important for women to know what they want and love to do, and  do that. And, she added, if you choose to have a significant partner to share your life, choose wisely, as that is a very precious role.

Rudd thought that to put a creative life together, women in the arts have to do a variety of things to make a living. She encouraged attendees to not get discouraged and to be sure to carve out time for the things that are really important to them. As an arts administrator, she loves bringing the arts to Norfolk and managing the City’s public arts program, but she still makes time for her active studio practice. She believes that though women in the profession have made great progress, there is still a way to go.

“We live in a society that was started by white men,” noted Rudd. “And we are making headway—chipping away at what has been established. There are a lot of opportunities for the future.”

Slivka agreed. She thought the panelists touched on the fact that women's roles in the professional world are continuing to evolve for the better, but she also thought it was important to remember that there's still a lot of progress to be made in terms of gender equity in the workforce, as well as in other aspects of our society.

“Although the experiences and advice our panelists offered came from their particular backgrounds as artists, I think that a lot of what they discussed could be applied to many other career paths that our students could take after they graduate,” said Slivka. “So, in a way, I think it underpins how much creativity and artistic endeavors are a part of our culture and how important it is to carve out those spaces in our everyday lives.”

The Women's Resource Center (WRC) at Virginia Wesleyan University provides a place for gender equity and mutual respect among all members of the community by celebrating women’s achievements, offering programs relevant to the lives of students, and providing resources to educate, support, and empower all students, faculty, staff, and community members. For more information contact Jennifer Slivka, Director of the Women's Resource Center, at wrc@vwu.edu or 757.455.3268.