By Sally Deering
Artist Meredith Lippman seems the perfect fit for her position as Program Development Specialist for the Hudson County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs/Tourism Development. Lippman empathizes with the artists she advocates for and she works diligently to help them connect with the Hudson community and grow their careers through workshops, newsletters and updates on venues where they can exhibit works.
Hudson’s Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs provides advisory services, technical assistance, grant programs, audience development initiatives, artist round tables and networking events for artists in the community. The Office also hosts tours and lectures on Hudson’s history, promotes historic preservation and presents events that celebrate Hudson’s cultural diversity. Joining Lippman on staff are Eileen Gaughan and Robert Kakolewski, and director William LaRosa.
Lippman and the crew work out of well-worn offices on the first floor of the Brennan Courthouse building in Jersey City, and even though her office may date back to the 50s, Lippman, like the rest of the staff, is in the cultural loop. On a recent Wednesday afternoon, she took a break from her busy schedule to talk about her work on behalf of Hudson’s artists and the eight years she has spent as Program Development Specialist.
RVO: What are your responsibilities in the cultural affairs office?
ML: I’m a program development specialist. There are certain things I do that are focused on the arts and the arts community like professional development workshops. The early ones I did focused on basic business skills like how to write a write a statement about your work, and how to help your career in terms of business, or focusing on what you want your work to say; the problems of being an artist in a sense. I had a panel of museum Curators talk about what kind of packet (artists) should send them, what they look for. I had a panel of gallery managers who discussed the kinds of work they were showing, the things that interested them and how to approach them. We had a financial advisor talk to artists about how to do your taxes and set up your business.
RVO: Do you work with other artists besides visual artists?
ML: Yes. I’m interested in theater and dance groups, too, and I’m always asking what can we do to help those groups? I’ll take surveys and send emails asking what would you like a workshop on? What are your concerns? What can I do out of our office that will help you with your goals?
RVO: What is your educational background?
ML: I studied philosophy at Adelphi and I went to SUNY Purchase and was in the fine arts program. I did the final at Empire State SUNY and earned my BA. I did about a year full-time studying Public Art in their graduate program and now I’m going for a Certification in Creative Placemaking out of Ohio State University. That was a program that started at Rutgers.
RVO: Can you explain Creative Placemaking?
ML: Creative Placemaking is how to meld business and culture to help define a city, a municipality, a village, a town. Think of Red Bank, New Jersey. Red Bank was a sleepy little town, I was there in the 70s and as more arts, music and theater began to develop there, Red Bank became more known as a place to go for culture. This impacts the area economically as a plus and it helps to define it, show it as a place that has cultural activity. If you’re looking at public art and looking at how art and culture help a place economically, then you’re also talking about urban planning. If you were going to curate a county for public art, you’re curating it in terms of planning. What type of piece would I put where? How does it reflect the community? How does it interact with the community? I’m very excited about that. It affects how I think about my job and how I think about the community at large and what else I can bring to the art community and the public.
RVO: As an artist, what do you bring to your position that’s special or unique?
ML: The easiest answer is I’ve lived the life. I’ve had worked accepted and rejected from shows, I’ve had money problems not earning enough. When I talk to an artist, I know what they’re talking about. I came from the artist community. When I took this job, I packed up my studio. Why? Whenever I worked a job, I always wanted to be in the studio. This time, I wanted to give this job all I had. I wanted to be fully-committed to the job and I felt it was an opportunity for a new phase in my life, which it turned out to be.
RVO: Is there anything new and exciting coming up for Hudson artists?
ML: We’re excited about Superbowl 2014 coming into the county. What this means is we’re getting 150,000 visitors to the area. It’s an opportunity for the business and cultural communities to benefit from that exposure.
For more info:
Hudson County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs/ Tourism Development