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Julie Hersh on Radical Collaboration

Categories: TACA Blog

At the 2018 TACA Silver Cup Award Luncheon, Silver Cup Award Recipient, Julie Hersh, calls for “Radical Collaboration” to move our city and community forward.

“Thank you so much, Walter. Wow. Thank you to TACA and everyone here. Thank you Don Stone for the honor of receiving the award with you and Melinda Johnson for being the love-able chair that no one can resist.

I am an immigrant to Dallas, but the arts have made Dallas my home. When I moved here in 1990 from San Francisco, it didn’t seem a short, dark-headed, sarcastic, high-tech nerd whose favorite shoe designer was Nike fit the profile of an arts woman in our city. But somehow, Dallas opened its arms let me chisel a spot in this most innovative hotbed of culture. Thank you for this. Among you, I have found my people.

I’m so grateful to Dallas arts leaders who have nurtured and stretched me including Robyn Flatt, David Lozano, Zenetta Drew, Bonnie Pitman, and of course, the Dallas Theater Center (DTC). DTC has done more to broaden my perspective, electrify my soul, and make me break out in hives than any arts institution in this city. It’s led by two men who have leveraged the long history of DTC into an era of Tony Award-winning innovation and inclusion: Jeff Woodward and Kevin Moriarty. The artists, staff and board members at DTC have added texture and vibrancy to my life. Thank you.

Thank you to my children, Daniel and Rachel, for being so independent they didn’t show up today and my mother in law, Dr. Mona Hersh Cochran, a constant arts supporter. Thank you to my friends who have come to shows because of my nagging and now buy their own tickets. Thanks to my parents, no longer with us, who instilled the yin-yang of compulsive service AND great parties.

My final thank you goes to my husband of 27 years, Ken. Ken gives me the runway and strength to be the person I am. He listens to my exasperation, offers sound counsel that is almost always painfully right, but most importantly, Ken makes me laugh. I accept this award on behalf of both of us.

Today I have a challenge for all of you, a call to action. We need to practice Radical Collaboration. Breakthroughs in thought, whether in art, science or leadership are not linear. The arts force us to look at the world differently, whether it be to understand the challenges of another, sharpen our vision, feel the steps, or hear the rhythm. This multi-sensory experience breaks down the dulling drone of sameness.  The arts communicate mystery in a Radical Collaboration of the senses.

Radical Collaboration requires all of us to lift our heads from the intense focus on a particular project, institution or personal need and figure out if we can work together to multiply our efforts. It requires trust, investment, imagination and sacrifice. Radical Collaboration happens on the stage in Dallas. Here is my question – can we apply that same creative energy to the business challenges of the institutions, the foundations on which this art is produced?

There are lots of areas for collaboration, but today let’s talk about Radical Collaboration to build audiences.

We MUST simplify access to the arts to keep pace with the explosive expansion of our city. In 2017 over 100K people moved to Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Uptown is hopping with young professionals, and Klyde Warren Park is packed every weekend. We have content that is internationally recognized, innovative, and socially relevant. A brief look at the news or social media shows a human hunger for positive connection, stability and civil discussion. Culture is the cure. Yet we have performances and exhibits that are under attended. Why?

The people in this room know how to find out what is playing, where, how to get a ticket, where to Uber or park, where to meet friends for a drink or a bite before or after. But what happens If you are a visitor to Dallas with a free afternoon? A millennial or student with a limited budget? A person who lacks transportation? A retired person who has free time but does not know where to start? A busy business person or teacher who does not have time to sort through the options in our arts community to see how the arts might impact employees or a curriculum.

Today you need a personal guide to navigate the arts in Dallas, and my guess is everyone in this room has acted as that guide. Thank you for doing this and please continue. To reach broader numbers, we need better ways to make the experience easier. Can we Radically Collaborate with businesses: consulting firms, banks, restaurants and schools so that more people experience the art that is created here? Can we Radically Collaborate with our City to improve signage and walkways through the Dallas Arts District? Can we Radically Collaborate with the Chamber/DFW and Love Field Airport so that the arts options get exposure for conventions and visitors? Can we Radically Collaborate to create a central, sort-able online and physical presence for all arts happenings, so that someone can have access for what’s happening today, next week or or month with ease?

Can the people in this room personally reach out to someone outside of this room to help solve this problem?

Here’s a secret, my involvement the arts happened by accident. 16 years ago, my family vacationed at the Four Seasons hotel in Mexico. I convinced Ken and the kids to hike up this to this little guard house where where you could see a 360-degree view of the peninsula. There was a path down the down the other side I’d never taken – and – no surprise to anyone who knows me well, I insisted we take it. A half mile down on this steep path, it disappeared. We didn’t want to climb back up so we clawed forward, through the brush, to the road that led back to the hotel. They were ALL mad at me. We were scraped up, tired and cranky.

Tom Fagadau, an oil-and-gas-business friend of ours from Dallas, happened to be returning from an excursion on that same road. They were probably dolphin watching or golfing – something a little more Four Season-ish than bivouacking through the wilderness. Tom convinced the van to stop and pick us up.

On that ride, Tom asked – why aren’t you on a non-profit board? I’d never served on a board. My family of origin raised 5 kids on a military salary. My dad’s family had 13 children and his dad Anastazy worked on the Chrysler assembly line. Although my parents were generous with their church and in their community, we did NOT discuss art non-profits at the family dinner table.

Tom didn’t know this; he only saw person with potential. He recruited me to be on the Dallas Children’s Theater board. To be honest, I wasn’t happy in Dallas at the time. I’d grown up on the east coast, worked on the west coast, married Ken and moved to his home town in the center of the country. Despite having lived in Dallas for over a decade, at that point I still felt like an outsider, an immigrant to a city that felt like everyone knew each other and spoke the same insider language except me.

That one conversation with Tom changed the trajectory of my life. Neither of us could see it at the time, but that one, personal interaction set off a chain of events that led me to a source of joy and inspiration in my life. The Arts turned me into a Texan and a Dallasite. But remember this: the journey started with a bad hike and a chat with an oil guy.

That conversation was a Radical Collaboration. As you leave here today, look up, look out and see the world with new eyes. There is someone you will meet outside this room who could set off a spark to change the culture of this city to unify our city. Give that person a ride, embrace that person, welcome that person to Big D. Someday, that person might be at this luncheon, thanking you for a chance to help.”

Julie Hersh
TACA Silver Cup Award Luncheon
March 20, 2018

Julie Hersh was awarded the 2018 TACA Silver Cup Award on March 20, 2018 at the Hilton Anatole. Before Julie’s award speech, she was introduced by Walter Elcock, a TACA Silver Cup Award Recipient in 2017.

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