Art Talk: Sheila Womble, Executive Director of Arts for Learning

Ms. Womble is a Miami native and has over 15 years of arts leadership experience. She drove Arts for Learning through a significant period of growth and transition by increasing the annual budget over 55% in one year as a result of expanding programs and evaluating initiatives. Her leadership has helped Arts for Learning develop programs that serve children from infancy through high school, allowing Miami’s youth additional opportunities to grow with the arts.

She previously managed a private art collection, handled artists, and community relations and marketing services for ArtCenter/South Florida. She holds a degree in Art History & Anthropology from the University of Miami, and she studied at the Institute for American Studies in Aix-en-Provence, France.

Chat Travieso, students and Sheila Womble

Division of Cultural Affairs (DCA): Why did you choose a career in the arts?

Sheila: I chose a career in the arts because the arts are important to me; they are ever changing, reflecting, challenging and most importantly an endless source of provocation, interest, and beauty.

DCA: How long have you worked in Florida?

Sheila: I am a Miami native and have worked here for 25 years.

DCA: What is the best part of your job?

Sheila: Leading an arts organization, particularly a youth arts organization, has many brilliant and demanding components. The part of my job I enjoy the most is supporting my team, ensuring that they can thrive and succeed.

DCA: Tell us a little bit about your organization. What are you currently working on?

Sheila: Arts for Learning is an amazing organization with the mission of advancing teaching and learning through the arts. Our vision is that Miami’s youngest residents, from infancy through high school, are empowered by the arts to thrive in the world with knowledge, creativity and passion. We deliver programs at preschools, schools and out-of-school locations to reach more than 5,000 children each year. We currently have two very special initiatives. We have partnered with Easter Seals South Florida to work in all of their Head Start Classrooms to make sure our youngest and often most vulnerable residents can thrive and develop key social-emotional skills through the use of the arts in the classroom. We also are in the final stages of working with teens from the Liberty City community to create public works of art that honor the history of their neighborhood while also investigating the remnants of a segregation wall from the 1930s. The students explore the policies of that time that still affect their community, families and schools.

DCA: In your opinion, what is the greatest contribution that your organization makes to your community?

Sheila: We give children of all ages and abilities the chance to create. It seems like a simple concept but having a child conceive of an idea, conduct research, learn new techniques (in any artistic discipline) and create a work is to give them a voice and a platform. It is powerful.

DCA: What do you think of when you hear “Culture Builds Florida?” Why are the arts and culture important to our state?

Sheila: Culture is everything, without culture there is no foundation to build mutual understanding or communication. It is the soul of a community or entity. The arts are a critical part of culture; they help define and shape us as people. When I hear “Culture Builds Florida,” it reinforces what really matters which is how we live our daily lives including what we should prioritize, invest in and nurture.

Arts for Learning video

The Division thanks Sheila Womble and Arts for Learning Miami affiliate for their participation in this interview. To learn more about Arts for Learning, visit their website: http://www.a4lmiami.org/.

Interested in being featured on Culture Builds Florida? Please fill out this form: https://goo.gl/forms/3sMwuJWA3bM1orPl2 (Note: submission does not guarantee inclusion.)

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