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7 Questions – Jill Strachan (Capitol Hill Arts Workshop)

Today on “7 Questions,” we have with us … Jill Strachan, Executive Director of the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW), which provides educational, exhibition, and performance opportunities to all ages. And which also happens to be just a few hops from my home.

1. What was your most interesting recent project, initiative, partnership, or event?

CHAW is approaching its 40th Anniversary Year in 2012. As part of our planning, we are engaged in connecting and, in some cases, reconnecting, with our constituents through a series of small events. We are also interviewing 40 people associated with CHAW over the last 40 years. Although we’re just beginning to develop our format, this information will become part of our year-long celebration.

2. What else are you up to?

I sing in an a cappella group, Not What You Think, play and watch tennis, walk my dogs, read, and occasionally work on my pie-making skills.

3. Is there a moment, person, or event that inspired you to do this particular work?

I’d actually say that I “fell” into this work. I left a solid career in a trade association to freelance, although at the time I couldn’t have articulated exactly why I did that. I found myself attracted to work that connected with my desire to make a difference, specifically as the business manager for the Lesbian & Gay Chorus of Washington DC (LGCW) where my beginning honorarium was $50/month. From my experiences in the LGCW (which did continue to increase my honorarium!), I learned about marketing, fundraising, operations, etc. and was able to build a 20-year career in arts management consulting until I became the ED at CHAW in 2007.

4. Who is your hero in the nonprofit/philanthropy world?

I don’t have a specific hero, but I admire the type of person who has a life-transforming concept and works to implement change despite all barriers.

5. What is the single greatest (and non-financial) challenge to the work that you do every day?

I’m assuming that you know that this is a hard question, because as a non-profit manager I am always wrapped up in our financial situation. That observation makes me realize that a daily challenge is to remember the wonderful context of CHAW — 40 years of history, thousands of people whose lives have been changed. Fortunately, we are the recipients of many inspiring reminders because the people who came before us did exceptional work. We call it CHAWsome.

6. What advice do you have for other people who want to work in your field?

Keep an open mind, never assume you know the source of all your gifts, celebrate, and have fun! You’re connecting with your passions — a rare experience for many. And, rigidly reserve time for yourself.

7. What’s next?

More innovative programming that takes our mission of building community through the arts to new levels. The arts are integral to the human spirit and our work must continue to build on that grounding.

EXTRA: If you could have a power breakfast with any three people (living, dead, or fictional) who would they be?

Arthur Ashe, Teddy Roosevelt, Michelle Obama

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