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Skidmore College

Brielmaier on This is Skidmore

April 4, 2017

Isolde Brielmaier, curator-at-large at the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, lives her life by four guiding principles. “Do you want to hear them?” she teases on an episode of the This is Skidmore podcast.

Smell the roses
“I think women are list- and action-oriented,” she says. “We go ‘check, check, check, and check.’ But when you check something, you have to hit pause and smell the roses.”

Brielmaier has checked many things off her list: wife; mother; classically trained dancer; executive director of arts, culture and community at Westfield World Trade Center; assistant professor of critical studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts; and curator-at-large at the Tang Museum. And she’s currently smelling the roses from the success of the inaugural event in the Tang’s Accelerator Series, “Whiteness and ‘Default Culture’.”

“I have had and do have great mentors; I wouldn’t be here without them,” Brielmaier says. “I think about this a lot with my work with students. It’s so important to share your wisdom!”

Mentoring and sharing goes both ways with students, especially at the Tang. Brielmaier brings a “practical applicability” to her curatorial work as well as her teaching and mentoring and wants students to walk away with something that has not only engaged them, but given them tools to move forward.

She encourages students to “bop around” their career fields—especially while they are young. She was able to jump careers thanks in large part to the art community. The mentors and volunteers Brielmaier met while volunteering herself were a large part of the reason she shifted careers from prison reform to art curation—a huge shift for her.

Support other women
“I think a lot of women have bought into the sexist notion that there is only room for one of us at the table. And I don’t buy that at all,” Brielmaier says. “We need to view other women as collaborators and assets, not as threats.”

Her passion for supporting other women can be seen in her volunteer work on criminal justice reform and global women’s issues. The daughter of an African immigrant, Brielmaier has been visiting east Africa since she was 6 years old. She says she has seen the lasting effect of empowered women in those visits.

“When women thrive, communities thrive,” she says. “When women are literate, children are literate. When women are educated, children are educated. And it’s true whether you’re talking about Saratoga, the south Bronx, or the Congo.”

Celebrate other people’s successes
“Smell your own roses, yes, but when somebody else does something amazing, let them know,” she exclaims. “In a world where you’re told you’re not pretty enough, you’re not smart enough, you’re not good enough, you’re not strong enough, it goes a long way.”

Brielmaier has seen a lot of success. She’s curated shows at the Bronx Museum and the Guggenheim. It’s her vision that lines the walls of the Oculus structure at the World Trade Center. She’s jumped careers, splits her time between Brooklyn and Saratoga, and throughout it all, her daughter is on her mind.

“I keep these pillars in mind because that’s what I want her to see. The world should be a little nervous about the young women coming up. They are no joke.” Brielmaier herself is no laughing matter.

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