Sherry Brown and Retirement are two words I never expected to put together in the same sentence. Sherry was here before I arrived twenty-three years ago, and I fully expected that she would be here long after I left. She is, after all, made of hearty Norwegian stock, with a quick and facile mind that can grasp the intricacies of education policy better than most mortals.
But, for reasons best known to her and her benefits counselor, Sherry has decided to retire after thirty-plus years with the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. We’re delighted to welcome Maggie Anderson as RISCA’s new Education Director starting Monday morning, January 22nd, but more on that later. Now is Sherry time.
I can’t begin to describe how empowering it is to work with a person like Sherry. Arts administrators, by definition, believe they are the best and most creative problem solvers. And we are, for the most part. But if people like me pretend to think in three-dimensions, Sherry is always there to help you look into a fourth dimension, and sometimes a fifth. In her quiet and unassuming way, she will suggest another way to address an issue, phrase a response or diffuse a crisis. There are literally more times than I can count where Sherry Brown has gotten me (and, by extension, our agency) out of a jam. If I have an important document to write, Sherry is the first person I ask to read through it. Thank G-d she was always there to do it.
Sherry Brown as been the Patron Saint of Arts Education in our state. The relationships Sherry has built over the years — with the State Department of Education, the major arts education associations, the Alliance for Arts Education, VSA arts of Rhode Island, all of our major and small to medium size arts organizations, the list goes on — has been the foundation of our work to ensure that “all kids have access to quality arts education” in the home, school and community. Sherry’s work has brought forth a number of important programs and organizations, such as the Arts Talk program for teacher professional development, the Rhode Island Teaching Artist Center, the Rhode Island Arts Learning Network, and now an extensive media education program called Give Me 5 in cooperation with our Rhode Island Film & Television Office.
Sherry’s latest effort is the one that – Thank The Stars! – will keep her collaborating with us. Sherry has helped to organize a major Arts and Healthcare initiative in cooperation with the Rhode Island Department of Health, the State’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and the Brown University School of Public Health, among others. Sherry will be a volunteer Co-Chair of this effort, which allows us to keep her RISCA email active and her seat warm.
But for now, it’s literally the end of an era. Thank you, Sherry Brown, for all you have done to elevate Arts Education (writ large) in Rhode Island, and we will do our best to continue this important work. “Fair winds and Following Seas.”
Randy Rosenbaum, Executive Director, Rhode Island State Council on the Arts