Beverly Mislang: How long have you been involved with the Workshop? What kind of hats have you worn?
Linda Belden: In mid-1999, I was hired to do some grant writing and later that responsibility changed to focus on the Individual Donor Campaign and board development. I also wrote and edited the newsletter, organized the Advisory Council, and started the Gloria Unti Legacy Society, which was the beginning of the Workshop’s planned giving program. I finally turned over my responsibilities in June 2012.
BM: You were heavily involved in fundraising for the Workshop. What is one thing that every supporter should know about the Workshop?
LB: I don’t think I can say only one thing because I think many things go toward making the Workshop a great investment for donors. The programs and classes are first rate and led by dedicated teachers who are well trained for their jobs, so every donor can be proud of the work the organization does. But, to back that up, there is an extremely well-run administration that spends every dollar well, and has been doing so for close to 50 years. That is an amazing accomplishment for a non-profit.
BM: What do you miss about working with us?
LB: I miss the staff and working with the bright and innovative people that the Workshop attracts.
BM: What do you think the Workshop will look like in 10 years?
LB: In the future, I think Performing Arts Workshop will be even more involved in after-school programs than it is today. I’d personally like the Workshop to offer opportunities for middle and high school students to develop their own projects and have performances. I know that “process” is the most important aspect of the Workshop philosophy, but I think this would be a great way to help young people expand their creativity and develop confidence. I’ve seen and heard from so many people how art, especially performance art in their teenage years, changed their lives.
BM: What is the most valuable lesson a young person can learn in an arts class?
LB: To trust your instincts and your vision.
BM: You were a big fan of the Nancy Drew Mysteries. As a child, did you ever pretend to solve mysteries with your friends?
LB: No, we mostly made little communities out of junk in the backyard.
BM: What’s your earliest memory of creating art?
LB: I went to Catholic elementary school and there wasn’t too much art taught, but I remember vividly the day in 5th grade when I was able to make a drawing look exactly how I wanted it to, and knew that was something I wanted to pursue.
BM: At the age of 12, you began designing your dresses for dancing school. (Now I see why you have impeccable fashion taste.) What sparked this creative venture?
LB: I can remember being about six and wearing a little white dress with red polka dots and thinking that I looked pretty cute. I have a picture of myself in that outfit and I know that was the beginning of my passion for fashion. My mother was willing to sew the outfits I came up with, so I have her as my accomplice.
BM: You’ve lived in San Francisco for a long time. What’s your favorite San Francisco arts institution (e.g., the ballet, symphony, museum, etc.)?
LB: Actually, the arts organization I most often praise is Berkeley Rep, the theatre company. I think they consistently make innovative choices in their programming, and their productions are excellent.
BM: What’s your favorite under-the-radar San Francisco arts venue?
LB: I really like the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Art in Storefronts project. I was walking down 24th Street the other day on my way to buy a donut (another passion of mine) at Dynamo Donuts when I was quite surprised and intrigued by an installation in an empty store there. It’s a real art-hit to find yourself taken aback by a piece when you least expect it.