Countless names come up when talking about women of the arts in Frederick.
From visual and public art, to entertainment and music, the industry spans far and wide and the women who make it what it is all deserve to be recognized.
Unfortunately, time and space do not allow for an infinite showcase of all of those significant women, but we chose to highlight five (listed alphabetically) who are strong, successful forces of nature who shape various aspects of the local arts scene in their own unique ways.
Working her dream job
Before stepping into her role as marketing manager of the Weinberg Center for the Arts in 2018, Barbara Hiller was losing her passion for her work.
She had spent her career in health care, was in the midst of a seven-year stint as a marketer and simply wanted a change.
“It seemed like a dream come true when I found the job listing for a marketing manager at the Weinberg Center,” she said recently via email. “I had been coming to performances at the Weinberg since I first moved to Frederick many years ago and was thrilled at the idea that I could work in the Arts at this beautiful and historic theater right here in Frederick.”
The move posed a “learning curve” at first, she said, as entertainment and health care have their differences. But she caught on quickly, and two and a half years in, she is excited every day to come to work.
Hiller’s job includes marketing for the theater and its performances. She is involved heavily in the day-to-day operations and is the point of contact for events, which has been extra challenging during the pandemic.
Fortunately, Hiller said she has not faced any hurdles as a woman in her field, expressly given that females are strongly represented in arts marketing positions. However, she has had conversations with other females in like positions about a lack of women in artistic and executive theater positions across the country.
“The belief is that there is a subconscious bias regarding the work-life balance for a position that requires long irregular hours and a working style that doesn’t easily combine with family life,” she said. “Although this isn’t a struggle for me at this point in my life, if we in the theater industry can openly address these issues, it will allow women with families to remain in the Arts and have the same advancement opportunities as their male counterparts.”
Hiller added that it is important for women to have representation all across the arts field.
“For the local Arts & Music scene to prosper and grow it needs to be influenced by all those who choose to consume what it has to offer,” she wrote. “That means making a concentrated effort to have as many women as men in decision making roles and making sure they represent our diverse population. If we, as women, want to live in a community with a vibrant arts and music scene that speaks to us, we need to bring our unique perspective to those groups and venues that plan and present local arts and music events here in Frederick.”
Uplifting and connecting
From many of the pieces that adorn the streets of downtown, to live performances at Sky Stage, the Frederick Arts Council is responsible for much of the public art across the county.
And the person who has kept that ship running as executive director for nearly five years is Louise Kennelly.
She comes from an arts background, specifically a nonprofit one in Washington, D.C., which set her up perfectly for her role as head of the local organization.
“It can be challenging for anyone to to be in the arts and specifically the arts nonprofit world because there often are not enough resources for what you are trying to achieve,” she said recently via email of being a woman in her role. “While the arts are appreciated in American culture, artists — and the journey to becoming an artist — is not always appreciated, which is ironic because ours is … very creative in so many other ways.”
Kennelly is a female in a lead arts role, but it is not so much her gender, but her experiences and attitudes that help her in her career.
“I will say that my experience as a mother may influence my approach because I believe strongly that everyone should have art in their lives at all ages and I know firsthand how joyful and key to human development having art and making it can be from raising my own children and from my own childhood experiences,” she said. “But I really had that belief before I had my children and my husband shares this understanding.”
Kennelly said she wishes women were more prominent in art history, though.
“When I was studying art history in school, the vast majority of art that we studied was produced by men,” she explained. “And the same was true of those represented in galleries and museums and the same was true of most of those who owned the galleries and who curated the museums. There is no doubt that has been changing over the years but not quickly enough. There have always been women artists but they were not included in the record.”
She added that while some aspects of society have become more progressive with gender roles, others have actually digressed, which is disappointing. However, she said she is encouraged that societal norms seem to be moving away from a binary understanding of gender, which she said will impact how people think.
In any case, she believes that women — and all people – need representation in the arts to help communities thrive.
“Art has extraordinary power to uplift and connect people and to thereby strengthen communities — it needs to be in constant dialogue with all of a community’s members to be successful and it can help communities work through challenging issues together when it is practiced authentically and inclusively,” she said.
Flexibility, determination and direction
Catherine Moreland is a feminist.
But as the CEO of the Delaplaine Arts Center for the past 25 years, she has not really had to tap into the side of her that wants to fight for fairness and equality for women — at least not for herself.
“I have never felt that being female was a problem or provided an obstacle,” Moreland said recently while talking about her role with the local gallery. “There are a lot of females in arts administration, so that barrier was broken through several decades ago.”
Not to say that all barriers are gone, though. Moreland said she is surprised that some professions still do not treat women as equals, specifically with salaries.
“It still surprises me that we aren’t fully equal,” she said. “And I’m fortunate enough to be in a field where I don’t see that in my daily life but many times when I step out of my professional role I can see that women are still struggling to be treated equally. Salary-wise, it’s my understanding. Again, I haven’t had personal experience with that [but] I’ve talked to family members who are very definitely paid less than their male colleagues.”
Moreland added that while she believes more women are finding their strides in the arts, that was not always the case.
“I think what I see in the arts that’s different is sort of art history is respecting women artists much more and we’ve always made an effort to when we highlight an artist from the past, we try to mix it up so we’re getting all styles, all people,” she explained. “When I took art history in college, there were very few women in the text book and they’ve made a huge effort to change that. There’s still a long way to go but I’m very pleased to see that women are acknowledged as being important in a history book.”
And like other women in significant arts roles, Moreland said being a mother has helped bring a unique perspective to running a downtown arts gallery.
“I do remember saying, in addition to my professional experience, a big bonus I have for this job is I’m a single mother raising two teenage boys and … I had to approach life with so much flexibility and determination and direction,” she said of her interview for the job 25 years ago. “And that’s the same in the arts. You have to be flexible, you have to be persistent, you have to be focused, directive, all those things.”
Striving for representation
When then-aspiring actress Christine Mosere had her first meeting with an agent years ago in New York City, she was told that she was “not pretty enough.”
The comment baffled her. “‘Not pretty enough to play the quirky friend?’’ she mused. Then, for 15 years, she heard everything from “you’re too young” or “too old” to “too soft” or “too loud.”
“I learned to smile (haven’t we all) and say ‘yes’ and started to get hired regardless of being all those ‘toos,’” Mosere, who today runs local independent company Endangered Species Theatre Project, said via email of her experiences.
“I remember asking the men I worked with what they were told when they didn’t get cast in a role, and unless they were auditioning for a superhero, they never got the looks-based comments, which can do a real number on one’s self-esteem,” she continued.
Those types of comments and Mosere’s mission to break stereotyping in casting led her to launch Endangered Species in Seattle, where she lived before moving to Frederick to be closer to family in 2016. About two years after arriving in town and working for the Maryland Ensemble Theatre, she decided to start a similar theater company with the same name here, and has proceeded to stage several progressive productions featuring women, minorities and other “nontraditional” performers.
“Our mission is to enrich, entertain and create understanding in our community through live theatre that proactively focuses on diverse representation and forging connections between the past and the present,” Mosere said of the company.
Mosere said Frederick was lucky to have strong female artistic directors like Susan Thornton with Other Voices and Julie Herber with the Maryland Ensemble Theatre. However, she still noticed that she was questioned more as a female director.
Mosere, who also works as a nonprofit arts consultant, also has an ultimate goal to get more women over 40 directing and acting on local stages. Overall, she said representation is important, not just in terms of women in theater, but all minorities.
“For me, making theatre has always been about creating change and I actually get bored when I don’t see enough melting pot theatre,” she said. “I don’t want to pretend that I have hit our goals around diversity — something that is in our mission so we MUST do it — but we keep challenging ourselves and won’t stop until [the] shows … look like the community we see.”
She gave an example about deaf actors. With Frederick home to Maryland School for the Deaf, the fact that there are not many actors of that type playing parts is unfortunate.
“It takes work, and mistakes get made, but theatre has the ability to change the world and I want to be a part of that until I can no longer do it,” Mosere said.
She added that she is happy to see more women in artistic director roles industrywide and hopes the trend will continue.
“Art should reflect our society and women are 50% of society,” she said.
Creating her own atmosphere
KiKi Wilson naturally gravitates toward the arts.
Since 2014, the west Frederick native has run OUT40, a music blog and website dedicated to covering local hip-hop, R&B, jazz and other music and issues that tend to go uncovered in mainstream local entertainment news.
She began with a close team of friends and colleagues and grew in her quest to find people to relate to.
“As a poet, I was always looking for creative hiding spots and habitats in the city and in people,” she said recently via email. “I was always on the search to find my community — those who thought like me, looked like me, performed like me … I didn’t find much. Perhaps they too, were in their hiding spots. So as I found gems I began collecting them and making them home. In other words, as I found person after person in Frederick, we worked together, made art and formed friendships that lasted even ‘til today.”
Wilson said she started OUT40 to fill the underlying need of representation.
“When I looked at local popular publications, I didn’t see me or anyone who I could be,” she explained. “Minorities weren’t making headline news or magazine covers with their contributions and achievements as much as their counterparts. As a west side native, [U.S.] 40 was the poster child for crime and poverty when statistics showed otherwise.”
The publication launched an online magazine, with the initial goal of someday going to print, but technology kicked in and swayed her toward developing a virtual blog. Today, she and her team have a large following of readers and the blog is well known in the local community.
“We coined ourselves ‘Frederick’s first urban blog’ that highlights the arts, the streets, and the people of Frederick,” Wilson explained. “OUT40 discovers beauty and inspiration in the everyday places and faces of Frederick we often pass, but do not see. Its mission was always to build a regional platform to promote artistry, talent, and legacy. Though music is our most well-received content, OUT40 covers politics, social issues, local news, and local talent and stories that directly speak to our base. We also host community events.”
Through OUT40, Wilson covers a lot of male-dominated rap and hip-hop music, which she addressed as a woman in the field.
“Walking into a room of men is a typical work day and I never forget the space I take,” she explained. “Sometimes I’m admired, sometimes I intimidate, sometimes I’m challenged. All three scenarios (and more) I expect and remember to maintain boundaries no matter what.”
She added that she creates her own atmosphere and working environment.
“Respect and fun are always the top two auras I strive for when working with anyone,” Wilson explained. “Staying in control of the room is how I avoid the politics within a male dominated industry. That includes knowing which battles to engage in and when to relinquish control.”
In any case, Wilson believes it is vital for women to have a seat at the table.
“Femininity is divine,” she said. “It lends a certain ear — one of humility, patience, empathy and analytics. As a woman, having the balance between emotion and power makes your impact that much greater. My approach is an element of surprise — despite the stigmas associated with women leaders, I am the opposite by intention. I am over-analytical in my work — ensuring my credibility is intact; I move on logic and not emotion; I am open to change and handle adjustments fluidly and I can do so while still spreading love."
She added that it is important for women to tell their stories.
“Art is not exclusive,” she said. “It is to be touched and shaped by all. Women are amazing storytellers. We deserve to have our stories heard. We deserve to be authors of our lives because after all, art imitates life and we wish to be remembered as we were in our own words. We are dope uniters. And when the people come together, magic is made.”
To find out who else these women say should be recognized as significant and influential women of the arts in Frederick go to https://www.fredericknewspost.com/72_hours/.