Who to Watch: Rodneyna Hart
State museum director Rodneyna Hart is creating a safe and educational enrichment environment in a world that has seen isolation, pandemics, and division. She's one of The Drum's persons to watch.
Rodneyna Hart, 38, worked as an artist, board member, exhibitions manager, preparator, and curator for various galleries and museums throughout Louisiana.
Hart created pop-up art events open to all, advocating for more inclusive and intersectional cultural spaces. These events also included an educational component providing resources for emerging artists. Hart reestablished and served as executive director for the not-for-profit organization Culture Candy. She received a gubernatorial appointment to the Louisiana State Arts Council in 2017 and served as one of the Council’s and Baton Rouge Business Report’s 40 Under Forty.
Now, as the Louisiana State Museum division director, the Baker, La., native is responsible for four history museums throughout Louisiana.
Meet Rodneyna Hart, one of The Drum’s eight persons to watch in 2022.
What moves have you made: Since 2019, I have worked on adding structural support to the future success of each institution in my charge through programming, promotion partnerships, and exhibitions that strategically meet the needs of the communities I serve. At Capitol Park Museum, we just closed the Smithsonian exhibition “The Negro Motorist Green Book.” This exhibition and the 27 programs we created in conjunction with partners throughout Louisiana showed our ability through words and deeds to gain meaningful engagement with our community, grow the museum’s visibility, and show that our state deserves and appreciates blockbuster exhibitions that highlight the lived experiences of BIOPIC individuals.
What to expect in 2022 from you: This is a growth year where we show that our efforts were not a one-off, but part of a movement democratizing our cultural spaces. Museums are no longer the keepers of all knowledge but we still have a responsibility to share uplifting narratives and voices of our forebears with honesty, dignity, and equity.
Personal resolution for 2022: Among other pursuits, to complete the Masters of Business Administration program at LSUS
Life/business motto: “Arts, history, and cultural spaces are for everyone, and they should be inspirational, aspirational, but most of all relevant to the communities they serve.” and “Grow where you are planted.”
Business resolution: To create a relationship with my community where the museums are less a venue and more a cultural hub. A place where everyone feels comfortable, reflected, and enlightened by the museum’s offerings.
What is your #1 priority right? Being of service. I am creating a safe and educational enrichment environment in a world that has seen isolation, pandemics, and division.
Best advice you’ve ever received? In one of my darkest times, I was given fantastic advice that was just what I needed to hear. The brilliant Gerri Hobdy sent this to me in a message: “Know that you are going to find or CREATE work where your genius is supported. Take a moment to breathe.”
What do you want people to remember/know most about you? My kindness and passion to nurture the well-lived lives of all I touch.
Role Models: My parents, Rodney and Theresa O’Conner of Baker, La., are my rock. I have had mentors, found brothers and sisters in friendships, mothers, and Ts who have guided and loved me through my growth as well as culture bearers who have paved the way so that I would not stumble.
What has been a deciding moment or an experience that pushed you forward--especially during the coronavirus pandemic? At one point in time, we created a Salubrity Program focused on the physical and mental well-being of our patrons. At the height of the pandemic we had become socially starved and needed recharging. This program focused on outdoor socially distanced yoga, meditation, and movement-based experiences. We also created an outdoor socially distanced movie night in conjunction with the Downtown Business Association. We have tried to be responsive to our community’s needs while weighing the real and present threat of the pandemic. We have a responsibility to engage while keeping safety at the forefront and have canceled, modified, and rescheduled things as needed in response. The word of the pandemic has been ‘pivot’. Building in flexibility and managing expectations for the museum has been essential.
What music are you listening/dancing to? My musical style is eclectic. I love metal, alternative, and Afropunk bands. I also love opera, symphony, and R&B. Then bring me to a musical and we will be best friends. According to Spotify, my favorite bands include Tool, Adia Victoria, Thundercat, Dir En Grey, Tyler the Creator, Janelle Monae, Portishead, SiR, aYia, Tobe Nwigwe, ANOHNI, Poly Styrene, Lil Nas X, Lianne La Havas, Tank and the Bangas, Bad Brains, Willow Smith, Yo-Yo Ma, Acid Bath, FKA twigs, Childish Gambino, Frank Ocean, Anthony, and the Johnsons, Rammstein, Michael Foster Project, The Mars Volta, Otep, The Smiths, Tune-Yards, Quiana Lynell, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and Thou
What are you reading? We had a book club for the Green Book exhibition. I could not get to those during the program, so I am making up for lost time reading Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel In America by Candacy Taylor. I am also reading the Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. Also on my nightstand is The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and History Shape Our Identities and Our Futures by Christine Kenneally.
What’s entertaining you? I am a ravenous consumer of media. I love a good film, everything from art films to blockbusters. By the way, have you seen Encanto? Everyone needs to see Encanto. I will marathon TV shows and consume podcasts. The podcasts that are most compelling to me right one are 99% Invisible, Stuff You Should Know, Lore, and StarTalk Radio
Social media: I am EASILY found and followed at @Rodneyna, #Rodneyna, Rodneyna
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