Skip to content

Leadership, Laughter, and Legacy

August 7, 2015

Today is Nicole Stutzman Forbes’ last day at the DMA.  Nicole began her career in 1999 as an education McDermott Intern, and in 2012, became the Chair of Learning Initiatives and Dallas Museum of Art League Director of Education.  This blog post barely begins to illustrate her hard work, passion, and humor (but I’ll give it a shot anyway).

Nicole

Nicole is smart.  During her time at the DMA, Nicole worked closely with the DMA’s collections – conducting docent trainings, leading workshops for teachers, designing educational and experiential resources for exhibitions, and leading tours for visitors of all ages (among other things).  I would argue that she knows the collection better than most people on our staff.  She is also very skilled at anticipating and attending to the little details while understanding the big concept, whether she is writing a grant proposal or developing a new project.

Late Night

Leading a Late Night tour titled Tips and Toes, inspired by nail polish!

Nicole is fun.  She knows when to be serious and when to laugh.  A regular fixture at Late Nights, she could be spied animatedly chatting with visitors or chaperoning a teen dance party in the Sculpture Garden.  She knows that good work does not necessarily mean serious work.  Case in point: one of our annual education retreats was held at Bowlounge, a vintage bowling alley.  What else is there to say?

Bowlounge

Education staff revisited Bowlounge for a farewell celebration

Nicole isn’t afraid to try new things.  She welcomes opportunities to experiment with different ways of teaching with art and working with partners.  Nicole was the first to co-teach the Booker T. Washington Learning Lab at the DMA, during which visual arts students split their learning between their school and the Museum, which essentially becomes a second classroom.  She embraced technology; first through the digitization and then expansion of our resources for teachers, and later through technology-based programs in the Center for Creative Connections Tech Lab.  Rather than shy away from change, experimentation, and the unknown, Nicole eagerly explores new territory and encourages others to do so as well.

Nicole plays well with others.  Perhaps her greatest legacy is the dozens of partnerships she has initiated and developed with schools, educators, community organizations, artists, museums, and arts and cultural organizations.  Nicole strives to develop true partnerships, in which all stakeholders participate and benefit equally, building meaningful relationships that strengthen over time.  I could write an entire blog post on these partnerships alone; suffice it to say that if you named a school, museum, or community organization in the Dallas area, she has likely worked with them in one way or another.

Skyline Project

At the opening of Sculpting Space: 299 Chairs, a collaborative installation created with Skyline High School and three DISD elementary schools

Nicole is a leader.  For me, she is also a friend and mentor who championed my ideas and pushed me to think bigger. Nicole leads by her words and by her actions.  She leads with integrity.  She leads with energy and enthusiasm.  She is highly respected among her peers, both locally and nationally.

But, don’t just take my word for it.  When asked to share her thoughts about Nicole, Bonnie Pitman, former Eugene McDermott Director at the Dallas Museum of Art, quickly responded:

Nicole has always been a trailblazer, an innovator and a great educator dedicated to communicating art in new ways.  In 2002-03, she led the DMA into a new domain – educational technology.   Created in partnership with the UT Dallas’s Arts and Technology programDIG! The Maya Project was one of the first ever museum interactive video games. There was little that was easy about it— as the process for this type of creative online learning through games had never been done before.

Nicole also actively sought to bring together the works of students and educators and artists in new ways for the public to enjoy and embrace. Poets, dancers, musicians, visual, and other artists have all actively  interpreted the collections and the romps, stomps, and interactive displays have been enjoyed by all.

This past year Nicole and I co-taught a course for medical students at UT Southwestern Medical School that focused on observing, analyzing, and engaging with works of art in order to assist the future doctors with their medical diagnostic skills.  The reviews of the class were amazing in large measure because of Nicole’s passion for teaching.
Nicole and Bonnie

Nicole and Bonnie

Maria Teresa Garcia-Pedroche, Head of Community Engagement, adds:

I had the privilege of collaborating with Nicole on several exhibitions and programs. She organized col-LAB-oration (December 2003 – January 2004), an exhibition that took the form of an “idea lab” where visitors felt as if they have walked into the artist’s thought process.  She invited students from Travis Academy to collaborate with Jesús Moroles on ideas with regards to sculpture. Nicole understands that true partnerships allow for everyone to come to the table and have an equal voice. These collaborative experiences take time to create and one size does not fit all.  It is a privilege to work with a colleague who respects communities at large.

This blog post could be much, much longer.  But I think you’re starting to get the point (or you’ve already gotten it, if you’ve been fortunate enough to work with Nicole): She is awesome.  We’re so excited for her and her new adventure as the first Director of Extracurricular Programs at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth.  But man, are we going to miss her.

Melissa Gonzales
C3 Gallery Manager

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Lesli Robertson permalink
    August 7, 2015 2:18 pm

    I completely agree with all that Melissa said. It has been a privilege to work with and know Nicole and to know that she leaves behind such a great legacy at the DMA! Lesli Robertson, Fibers, UNT

    • Melissa Gonzales permalink
      August 7, 2015 3:04 pm

      Thanks, Lesli!

  2. Sheila Durante permalink
    August 7, 2015 3:28 pm

    Wonderful tribute to Nicole. She is a remarkable woman who is greatly respected and loved. This docent will miss her a lot

    • Melissa Gonzales permalink
      August 7, 2015 3:36 pm

      Thanks, Sheila!

  3. Shannon Karol permalink
    August 7, 2015 3:42 pm

    Like you, Melissa, I feel so fortunate to be able to call Nicole my mentor and friend. She’s the best, and the DMA won’t be the same without her!

    • Melissa Gonzales permalink
      August 7, 2015 4:23 pm

      It absolutely will not, Shannon!

  4. August 11, 2015 12:45 pm

    Loved working with Nicole in the docent program and the Learning and Engagement Committee, but the memory I will keep is that we married with two weeks of each other at the same place.

    • Sarah Coffey permalink
      August 11, 2015 12:52 pm

      That’s awesome–thanks for sharing your memory Martha!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: