Rodneyna Hart, 34
Executive Director, Culture Candy; Curator/Art Manager, The Healthcare Gallery
- Co-curator for Prospect .3+Baton Rouge Notes Upriver Invitational, which included converting a 15,000-square-foot office space into a pop-up art gallery featuring more than 300 works of art by more than 100 artists.
- Spearheading the return of a dormant organization and unaffiliated defunct program.
- Creating and orchestrating a workplace giving campaign early in career to benefit the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge.
Active in several art-related groups, she serves as an advisory member for the Of Moving Colors Board of Directors and is a state representative for the Louisiana State Arts Council.
NAME ONE BOOK THAT HAS INSPIRED YOU PROFESSIONALLY
Christine Kenneally’s The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures explains how, in a very real and provable way, we are interconnected. This book simultaneously broadened the world and spoke about our particularly unique qualities while emphasizing our commonalities as a species and part of a large special humanity. From this I try to take a valuable individual interest in my fellow man while understanding we all have things in common that unite us.
WHEN YOU WERE A CHILD, WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP?
I have always wanted to be an artist. Art has been central to my identity for as long as I can remember.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB, HOW OLD WERE YOU AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?
My first job was working at a daycare over a summer while in middle school. It was plenty of work and took patience and lots of care. It also was a great precursor to my college days while working the graveyard shift at Louie’s Cafe, which turned out to be very similar to meal time at the daycare.
WHAT IS THE STRANGEST JOB YOU’VE EVER HAD?
Worked wardrobe for a film that is still in “post-production.” It was an independent film with an evolving script that was never fully resolved. It was a great foray into film in its Baton Rouge boom time but a strange and superficial experience. Although, I did enjoy getting the reputation of being “part MacGyver” for coming up with great solutions on the fly.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE FOR A BUSINESS LUNCH IN BATON ROUGE, AND WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DISH THERE?
Driftwood Cask and Barrel has quickly become my favorite downtown spot. I’m partial to their Cold Smoked Shrimp Roll, served with the best remoulade I have ever had. The staff is friendly and the space is welcoming. Plenty of room for a business lunch, drinks with the coworkers, or a post-work snack.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?
Resurrecting both the defunct organization Culture Candy and the Stabbed in the Art program, then merging them to create a thriving cultural touchstone for Baton Rouge. The future of each is bright with much more programming on the way.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST FULFILLING MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER SO FAR?
When the New Orleans Prospect+3.0 Biennial announced they would be hosting satellite events throughout the state. Raina Wirta and I produced a pop-up exhibition featuring more than 100 artists from around the nation, converting a 15,000-square-foot office floor generously donated to us by the Chase Building II downtown, into an art gallery. We did this on a shoestring budget with support from the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge covering insurance, PPG donating paint, nearly 100 volunteers assisting in painting and prepping the space and staffing the gallery’s visiting hours, and a $1,000 sponsorship from The Healthcare Gallery. This Herculean task paid off in creating a beautiful and unique experience on that national stage replete with installations, video art, sculptures, paintings, new media and much more. We were able to engage with school groups, tourists and those who were just discovering the vast untapped potential of Baton Rouge.
WHAT WAS YOUR PROFESSIONAL “AHA” MOMENT?
Learning that you get nothing if you don’t ask for anything. Sometimes you have to go out and make your own opportunity. If you want to live in a better world you have to make it.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED THE HARD WAY?
Failure means opportunity. There may be some false starts or missed opportunities but it’s not the end of the story, only the beginning of a new path.
WHAT GIVES YOU PROFESSIONAL INSPIRATION?
Mentors, having strong examples of leadership and success, as you measure success, keeping them close and following their example. They come in many forms but the willingness to listen intently and act in compassion is meaningful.
WHAT IS THE BEST COMPLIMENT YOU’VE EVER GOTTEN FROM A COLLEAGUE OR BOSS?
“You have a magnificent eye for color.”
ARE YOU ACTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA? IF SO, ON WHICH PLATFORMS ARE YOU MOST ACTIVE?
Facebook is checked multiple times a day, Instagram a few times a day, LinkedIn, Google+, Snapchat and Twitter about once daily. I am active on social media and use it to promote arts and culture in the city and surrounding areas.
HOW MANY TEXTS DO YOU SEND ON AN AVERAGE DAY? HOW MANY EMAILS?
Too many texts, and emails as needed. I hate to leave things unresolved, so if I can take care of it now I will.
HOW LOW WILL YOU ALLOW YOUR REMAINING PHONE OR COMPUTER BATTERY LIFE GET (IN %) BEFORE YOU HAVE AN ANXIETY ATTACK?
I will talk until it dies, then plug it in ASAP. I am a constant user of the battery conservation feature. But then too, I have an older iPhone which means the battery life is not what it used to be but I love the size and do not want a larger phone.
HOW MANY UNREAD MESSAGES ARE IN YOUR INBOX RIGHT NOW?
50,576. I should probably do something about that…
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE APP AT THE MOMENT?
Google Drive. I love having access to all of my documents, images and projects in one place.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENT OF THE PAST DECADE?
I am rarely separated from my phone. It is a tether and a connection to the rest of the world.
WHAT TECHNOLOGY DO YOU WISH WAS NEVER INVENTED?
There are no technological advancements that I could categorically not like, technology is neutral it is the way it is used that can make things unpleasant.
WHAT TIME DO YOU GET UP ON WORKDAY MORNINGS?
I am up around 8 a.m.
BREAKFAST AT HOME? BREAKFAST ON THE GO? BREAKFAST AT YOUR DESK? NO BREAKFAST AT ALL?
Usually skip breakfast and grab a cup of coffee at work.
THE SAYING GOES: “BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD.” SPECIFICALLY, WHAT ARE YOU “BEING” TO MAKE BATON ROUGE BETTER?
I am present and active in the local cultural community. I want it to grow so I show my support, I want it to thrive so I create ways to enrich it, I want it to create the bridges we need and break down barriers to access and provide opportunity.
WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU WERE “GROWN UP?”
When others in my peer group started having children.
WHAT WAS THE BEST VACATION YOU HAVE EVER TAKEN?
Cruise with three stops in Mexico.
FAVORITE GIFT YOU WERE GIVEN AS A CHILD?
When a general store with a large art department closed, my mom bought the entire display of Prismacolor colored pencils. I created so much art with that gift. My parents never missed an opportunity to encourage my love of art.
WHICH TALENT OR SUPERPOWER WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO HAVE AND WHY?
Accumulating wealth is not really a focus of mine, but I would like to have exactly the right amount of dollars and cents in my pocket (or that amount on a debit card) every time I pay for something. Why yes, I would like to buy this house…is cash okay?
WHAT’S A NICKNAME YOUR FRIENDS OR FAMILY MEMBERS HAVE FOR YOU?
If you knew me before high school, I am NeeNee. Neyna since college.
WHAT ARE YOU SUPERSTITIOUS ABOUT?
I am not actually superstitious, but I am a Louisianian so I am culturally superstition.
WHO FASCINATES YOU?
Everyone. There are very few people I have met that has not been compelling in some way.
WHICH FICTIONAL CHARACTER DO YOU MOST IDENTIFY WITH?
After my debating over literary, film and popular culture characters, and even taking two online quizzes, I am going to have to go with Susie Carmichael from Rugrats. I would absolutely stand up for those babies and not let anyone bully them.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BAND OR SONG?
My dad is a musician, drummer in the Late Evening Band, so I grew up with a house full of music. When I was in high school, I developed my love for Tool. Now my musical tastes vary from Nina Simone, anything Janelle Monae, to Ramstein.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE?
“Stranger than Fiction”
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE?
I would love to be played by Issa Rae.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR 18-YEAR-OLD SELF?
You were right, making the goal to show your art every month is worthwhile. Don’t bother with the extended cable package while in college as you will not have the time or the interest in watching it. P.S. Invest in something called Google as soon as it goes public, you will thank you later.
I live with two cats, though I take little ownership of them.
My work and play look the same: I put on art shows.
TELL US ABOUT A MOMENT THAT CHANGED YOUR LIFE.
In 2003, I put on a fashion show made of clothing I designed and sewed. I’d worked for weeks creating the clothing, doing photo shoots, securing the location, music, model fittings, just soup to nuts making an event from nothing. I still carry the confidence of that successful event. I remember standing on the stage exhausted but jubilant knowing that this was the first of many successful events to follow.
WHAT’S THE NEXT BIG PERSONAL OR CAREER CHALLENGE YOU PLAN TO TAKE ON?
I want to unite the city through art. I understand this is a tall order but Baton Rouge has a great deal of potential in this area. There is a great deal of talent and with the right nurturing we can levy that into more jobs, more connectivity and access.
WHAT CONCERNS YOU MOST ABOUT THE FUTURE?
The world has become vast but the depth is sometimes lacking.
WHAT GIVES YOU THE MOST HOPE ABOUT THE FUTURE?
Young people. That so many of them are interpreting the world for themselves. Their limitless potential is heartening.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ADVICE FOR FUTURE FORTY UNDER 40 HONOREES?
Keep doing good, sometimes people notice but do it even when they are not looking.
DO YOU PLAN TO BE IN THE CAPITAL REGION FIVE YEARS FROM NOW? WHY OR WHY NOT?
Yes, Baton Rouge has been great to me and I want to give that back.
IF NAMED QUEEN FOR A DAY, WHAT IS ONE CHANGE YOU WOULD MAKE IN BATON ROUGE?
All cultural institutions would get underwriting so they are free to the public.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE QUALITY OF LIFE IN BATON ROUGE; WHAT WORKS AND WHAT NEEDS IMPROVEMENT?
Our roads are bad. Not NOLA bad, but still…
DO YOU HAVE A BUCKET LIST? IF SO, WHAT ARE THE TOP 3 THINGS ON IT?
I want to be a lifelong explorer, living a life full of travel. I would like to pursue a Ph.D in cultural preservation and learn a new language, but not yet decided which one.