Staff Connections: Louise Brooks, Manager of Community Relations and Volunteer Programs

Running a museum takes a whole team of professionals whose different skills help make the Rubin Museum of Art one of the premiere places to visit. To get to know us a little more, and to explore different careers in the arts, each month we will be asking a Museum staffer/intern to answer six questions about their position at the Museum, their favorite artworks or exhibitions on display in the museum and other personal attributes.  As the first installment of we’re going to be introduced to Louise Brooks!

RMA: What is your title and what do YOU do here at the Museum?

My title is Manager of Community Relations and Volunteer Programs. I manage community relations broadly (relations with the neighborhood, civic groups, and local elected officials) and also outreach targeted to specific audiences including senior citizens, tourists, immigrant communities, dharma-related and other religious communities, and people with disabilities. I also manage the museum’s volunteer program. We are lucky to have a large pool of talented, passionate people who lend their time and talents to the museum.

RMA: Where are you originally from and how did you end up at the Rubin?

I grew up on 14th Street and 7th Avenue so it was an arduous, three block journey. Actually, after some years away from New York, I was working for a social-purpose staffing agency in Brooklyn placing people with barriers to employment into jobs. I am also a painter ( and have always had an interest in Buddhist philosophy. So, when a community outreach position opened up at the Rubin it seemed like the perfect way to bring my love for art and interest in Buddhism into my working life as a community organizer.

RMA: What is your favorite thing about your job?

I love learning about and connecting with so many different and overlapping worlds within New York City. I’m fascinated to see glimpses of what life is like for a senior citizen in this city, or a recent immigrant, a devout Buddhist, a small business owner, or someone who is all of those things.  Most of all, I enjoy finding ways that our museum can be a resource for people from such different backgrounds.

RMA: What is your favorite piece of art or exhibition in the museum and why?

I love the Green Tara sculpture from the 13th Century in our permanent collection. She’s seated in this incredibly graceful posture with so much movement to her. She seems to be leaning backwards, forwards, to the right, and to the left, even as she is sitting still and smiling the calmest and most beatific smile. She’s made out of brass, and yet her garment pools around her leg in beautiful, liquid folds. She’s amazing.

RMA: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to follow the same career path?

Probably best to discard the notion of a career path. Before starting at the Rubin, I’d worked as a recruiter for a non-profit staffing agency, a newspaper writer, a campaign manager and community organizer, a photographer’s assistant, a counselor at a group home for severely emotionally disturbed adolescent girls, and a bartender. All those experiences inform what I currently do. I think that if you pursue what interests you and what you’d like to learn more about, then someday you’ll figure out how those interests and skills can coalesce into a rewarding job.

RMA: Do you have a secret talent or a hobby that you enjoy?

I love to garden. I worked for the last four years on turning an empty lot in Harlem into a garden with cherry and magnolia trees, raspberries, vegetables, and flowers. It’s not such a secret, since I bore my friends to tears with descriptions of pruning and compost-making successes. I also play basketball.

RMA: If you could travel anywhere in the Himalayas where would you go and why?

It’s hard to choose. Someday I’d like to visit the Tibetan plateau. I have a love affair with Montana and have spent a lot of time there. Pictures and descriptions of the Tibetan plateau often remind me of Montana, so that feels like a place to start.

This entry was posted in Staff Connections. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.