Tell us about your position and company, scope of responsibilities, and career path to this point. What have been the favorite parts of your career and your current position?
I serve as the Vice President of Development and Community Affairs for Central Florida Community Arts, a community-based and led member organization home to the largest community choir in the United States, the largest community orchestra in our region, programming for children and youth, a School of Arts and Health, and more. I have only held this role for a few months, joining as a member of a new team of Vice Presidents installed as the founding Executive Director left for another role in the DC metro area. In my role, I oversee all fundraising for the organization (grants, private philanthropy, corporate sponsorships), marketing efforts, public affairs, and external communications. I came to this role after a ten-year tenure as the Senior Director of Development at Orlando Repertory Theatre, where I was responsible for raising over $1.5M annually to support the needs of the organization’s mission. Prior to that, I served as the Director of Individual Giving for Orlando Opera Company. My favorite part of my career has been exploring the intersection of arts and government – be that participating in County or City-funded grants programs, serving on advisory boards/panels, or advocating for the arts on both the local and state level. One of my favorite days of the year is Arts Advocacy Day in Tallahassee, where a cohort of arts advocates from Orange County (and all across the state) descend on the Capitol to take meetings with legislators, participate in rallies, and advocate for the full funding of arts and culture grants programs.
Where were you born, and where did you grow up? What would you like to share about your early family?
I was born on Long Island, New York, and spent the first few years of my childhood there before my family relocated to Southeast Florida. I was raised in Coral Springs and lived there through 2001 when I moved to Orlando to attend UCF. In my childhood, I really felt a sense of dual identity – to my extended family in New York (some of whom also moved to South FL over the years), and to my immediate family and friends in South Florida. My mother, father, younger sister, and I lived in the same home since 1987 and we had a number of cats and dogs growing up. We lost my dad to cancer in 2004. Once my sister moved out (eventually also to Orlando) for college, we were able to convince my mother to sell our childhood home and move to Central Florida in the mid-2010s. We are very lucky that now all three of us live locally!
How would you describe yourself? What would you like to share about your current family, including pets? How do you spend your free time?
I often describe myself, if you’re a DIsC assessment person, as a high C. If you’re more Tipping Point, I’m your Maven. At work, I’m an Email Diplomat. Diplomacy is a core competency of mine and I am a left-brained, analytical, highly organized wannabe minimalist. Of course, I married a GenX Punk packrat and have a small 1950s home with a feral toddler and two dogs – so life is a constant whirlwind and I love it that way. We don’t get a lot of free time these days, but what we do get is spent together. My husband and I share a love of gallows humor, compelling TV dramas, and live music (and traditional Irish music) so you can often find us sitting outdoors somewhere listening to a performance, in our local pub listening to a trad session, or enjoying a park or outdoor lunch with our kiddo.
What was your proudest moment or greatest accomplishment? What awards and acknowledgments have you had that were most meaningful to you?
My greatest accomplishment in life thus far is managing the time period from my son’s birth in October 2019 (our first child) through the early pandemic in mid-2020. During that time, I weathered a difficult delivery, postpartum concerns, and the difficult adjustment of returning to the office as a working mom in January 2020. (Funny – you never hear our counterparts referred to as working dads, do you?) After just two months back in the office juggling childcare schedules, childcare itself, and the resuming of my professional life, we found ourselves in mandatory lockdown for the start of the pandemic. Another pivot for the Landon household, my husband took an extended leave from work to parent our son at home, while I worked from the home office throughout March, April, and May 2020. Looking back, it was an immense amount of change thrown onto our household – and onto my shoulders – during an uncertain time. I am proud to have managed it all while also meeting or exceeding performance measures at work. The award that I’ve had so far that is most meaningful to me is when I was awarded the Orlando Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. It’s easy to feel invisible as an arts administrator – we are not often prominent in the local business community – and recognition with this award made me feel seen and valued not only as a member of our arts and cultural community but as a businesswoman.
What was the most important career help or support that anyone has given you?
My former Executive Director at Orlando Repertory Theatre, Gene Columbus, is hands-down the largest influence in my career. He’s a true leader who taught me the meaning of servant leadership. It’s not a leader’s job to be behind yelling the way – it’s a leader’s job to be ahead, paving the pathway, and making sure it is safe for others to follow. A true believer of the “If it goes well, it’s because of my team. If it fails, it is on me” philosophy, Gene taught me everything I know about integrity and leadership in the workplace.
What causes or issues stir your passion? What are the primary nonprofit organizations where you volunteer and support or which are particularly important to you?
I am extremely passionate about arts and culture and LGBTQIA+ issues, having been a volunteer, employee, board member, donor, and/or advocate for these causes going back twenty years. I support a number of arts organizations, including the Orlando Ballet, Orlando Shakes, Downtown Arts District, Timucua Foundation, and Orlando Science Center, but the closest to my heart is the Orlando Repertory Theatre, where I worked for over ten years. Orlando REP is the State’s only full-time, professional Theatre for Young Audiences, meaning, fully professional productions (by adults!) designed specifically for children to be the audience. There’s no better way to ensure the future of theatre than by getting children hooked young in life, and the theatrical experience helps them learn empathy while strengthening their social-emotional learning. I have also supported the Zebra Coalition, Human Rights Campaign, and Equality Florida to continue to lift up our LGBTQIA+ family in the State of Florida.
What are two things people would be surprised to know about you?
That I started college as a forensic psychology major before a hard turn to theatre, and that I briefly participated as a Living Historian at Civil War reenactments across the state!
What attracted you to FEW? How do you see FEW being of value to you – generally and specifically?
As a leader in my organization and my field, I am often involved in discussions on diversity, equity, and inclusion. I have found that the arts administration field is dominated by female workers – and yet, leadership remains largely male (and white.) With pay equity, paid parental leave, and childcare concerns rampant in our country, I think it is of utmost importance that businesswomen stick together, advocate for one another, and create a support system. This is what attracted me most to FEW, along with the stellar reputations, resumes, and personalities of the women I know involved. I see FEW being of value to me primarily as a support system of like-minded women who can provide professional development and growth opportunities for one another. Secondarily, I am sure there will be a networking benefit to getting to know these incredible, accomplished women. Lastly, I hope that through FEW I can strengthen my existing relationships with members.
What do you want to be known for and why?
Above all else, I’d like to be known for having integrity. To me, it is the most important quality above workmanship, congeniality, accomplishment, etc – and while I strongly value all of these things, integrity to me is a mixture of moral, ethical, and personal achievement.
If you were not in your current profession, what would you want to do and why?
If I were not in my current profession, I would truly actually like to take a stab at being an accountant. I derive great satisfaction from order and process, and like putting things neatly into categories and their own boxes. I know it’s 2022, but I still use a checkbook register and balance it monthly. I’m the keeper of the financials in my house and it’s something I don’t just handle, but actively enjoy.
What have been a couple of your favorite travel destinations and why? Have any trips been life-changing for you?
One of my favorite travel destinations is New York City. As an arts and culture lover, it’s great to be able to visit a metropolitan area with so many options for theatre, music, dance, and art. It also allows me to reconnect with my “former identity” and extended New York family. I love bigger cities, so visiting Manhattan allows me to fill that bucket and enjoy the bustle of so many people.
My most life-changing trip was my honeymoon to Ireland, in late Fall of 2009. My husband and I landed in Shannon, IRL, with a rental car reservation, the Irish maps loaded on our Garmin, our return plane tickets home, and our suitcases. We hadn’t planned a single other thing! On our first day, we purchased an Irish pay-as-you-go cell phone and picked up a government-published Guide for Bed-and-Breakfasts. Each day we’d hop in the car, drive and explore, and then in midafternoon find a pub, have a pint, figure out where we were, and book a BnB for the night. In 10 days’ time, we circumvented the entire Republic and managed to keep up a keen sense of adventure for not having planned any other details. We are desperate to return.