“Everybody deserves to experience the arts” – Interview with Bartol Board Vice-Chair Elizabeth Wilkerson
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Wilkerson.
As part of an ongoing Q&A series, we will be learning more about the Bartol Foundation’s artistic community. Elizabeth Wilkerson is a writer, digital content strategist, and accessibility advocate. She is currently Vice-Chair of Bartol’s board, and has served on the board for four years.
Can you tell me a bit about your work in the Philadelphia arts community?
My involvement is that I work directly in the Philadelphia arts community. I am on the Bartol board, and so I meet a lot of different arts organizations. My sister has lived in Philadelphia for about 40 years and is very involved in the arts here, so I’ve met a lot of people through her. I have also worked with some disability rights activists in the area who, among other things, are active in seeing accessibility extend into arts organizations and artistic events.
What attracted you to becoming involved with the Bartol Foundation as a board member?
I love everything about the board of the Bartol Foundation, and the way that it’s managed, and the way it’s impacting the city and the community. When I joined the board, I was especially attracted to Bartol’s approach to funding underrepresented groups and organizations. I used to work for startup companies in Silicon Valley who were always talking to venture capitalists and trying to get angel financing and seed financing to launch new ventures. Bartol’s orientation just reminds me so much of how angel investors approach finding organizations, sourcing ideas and people who seem promising, and then giving them the resources, connections, support, and encouragement to help them grow. I just was really attracted by the fact that this seemed to be a big part of the Bartol Foundation’s approach in funding up-and-coming organizations. I thought that was way cool, and I still do.
What’s been the most rewarding moment from your time working with the Bartol Foundation?
This might sound weird, but I really enjoy the board meetings. I am so excited to be in a room of highly energetic, smart, engaged, and experienced women who talk through issues at a really deep level. We disagree, but not disagreeably. And we don’t exactly come to a consensus, but we take an issue and just examine it from so many different perspectives to make decisions, strategic or otherwise. It’s so thoughtful and heartfelt that I’m just really proud to be a member of the board. Beth couldn’t be a more dynamic and impactful Executive Director, so the Foundation is lucky that she’s been the ED for as long as she has. And to see how big an impact our little grants have throughout the city. We’ve become, in a sense, the seal of approval for the bigger granters who see that an organization got Bartol money and know there’s a certain level of quality behind their work, and therefore will think about funding them as well.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Another thing I like about Bartol is that, as long as we’ve been around, there’s still a certain amount of fluidity in the way we approach problems. We’re not set in stone in the way we do things. To the extent that we’re looking to partner with organizations—not even necessarily arts organizations—if we can all come to the same goal or final endpoint, which is that we are helping to bring the arts to everybody in Philadelphia, because everybody deserves to experience the arts or the creative process that’s important to them. I think the Foundation is focusing more on getting ourselves out there nationally as well as here in Philadelphia, so that people know what we do and the impact that we’re having beyond even just Philly.
To learn more about Elizabeth’s work, visit http://elizabethwilkerson.com/.
Interview responses have been edited for length and clarity.