Thelma Golden

GREAT ADVICE

 

Thelma Golden

Director & Chief Curator, Studio Museum in Harlem

 

Art guru Thelma Golden discusses what she learned from answering telephones, why preparation is important and how a board game inspired her love of art.

 

My love of art history comes from…

One Christmas, friends of my parents gave my brother and me a gift to share: the board game Masterpiece, which involved a mystery about great works of art. My brother was almost instantaneously disinterested, but I found the cards — which featured reproductions of iconic works of art — endlessly interesting. Since the game was clearly never going to be played, I took the cards and stuck them on the walls of my room with Fun-Tak — my first curatorial effort!

 

Lessons I learned from my first job…

My very first job was working in my father’s insurance brokerage office when I was a teenager — I had the very important job of answering the telephone. I took this job very seriously: I had to be on time; I had to complete my work in a very orderly fashion; I had to keep my desk neat; and I had to be able to juggle multiple jobs at once. Most importantly, I really perfected a good telephone voice and the ability to take detailed and clear messages — valued in the days before voicemail.

 

The best advice I ever received…

My mother’s first response to any challenge or opportunity was: “Be prepared.” She was saying that I could do many things, but I could not do them to the best of my ability unless I invested in preparation.

 

Studio Museum in Harlem is important because…

It is the world’s leading institution devoted to art by artists of African descent. A diverse group of Harlem residents, civic leaders, philanthropists and artists founded the Studio Museum in 1968 as a place to not only see art, but also to create, engage and learn. The Museum is renowned for its curatorial innovation, leadership in arts education, unique artist residency program and commitment to diverse audiences.

 

What’s inspiring me now…

Art! This spring and summer have been filled with amazing exhibitions by artists I love and admire. I’m also continually inspired by my amazing husband, Duro Olowu. He is a brilliant fashion designer and a wonderfully creative individual. I feel lucky to be able to wear his work.

 

If I could own one piece of artwork it would be…

As someone who has had the joy of working with great works of art, it is hard for me to pick just one. What I can say, however, is that when I wake up I see one of Glenn Ligon’s paintings, and I can’t imagine my life any other way.