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Meet an Alliancer: Maud Lyon

Every month in the "Meet an Alliancer" series on the Alliance blog, we introduce you to a different member of our staff. This month, we're excited to announce that the spotlight is on our new President, Maud Lyon! 

We hope this profile will help you get to know Maud, as she is eager to get to know everyone in the Greater Philadelphia arts and cultural community. For more information on Maud's background and her appointment as President of the Alliance, click here to read our press release from the announcement at our October 2014 Annual Meeting.

Job Title: President
 
Job Responsibilities: Lead the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and advocate for arts and culture
 
Degrees/certificates: BA in History from Cornell University; MA in Museum Administration from the Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York – Oneonta; post-graduate certificate from the Getty Trust’s Museum Management Institute
 
What has shaped your passion for arts and culture?
My career has been a fascinating journey through many places, disciplines, and ways in which culture serves the community.  An interest in history drew me to the museum field and to Living History Farms in Des Moines, where I developed a period clothing program. That job was part historical researcher, part sweatshop operator, and part being “Mom” for the 100 staff and volunteers whom we clothed.  
 
Then I became Curator for Costume and Textiles at the Louisiana State Museum, creating exhibitions, improving collection storage, and learning a lot about Mardi Gras. As much as I loved New Orleans with its fascinating culture, moving to Detroit was a return to the mainstream of American history: westward expansion, immigration, urban history, race relations, unions and corporations. As Director of the Detroit Historical Department, I ran a general history museum, a Great Lakes maritime museum, and a nineteenth-century fort. I was also an appointee of Mayor Coleman Young, and Mayor Dennis Archer after him, so I learned a lot about how cities work and urban issues – and about state and city funding issues for the arts.
 
Then life took a different turn. I became Executive Director for Detroit 300, the city of Detroit’s tricentennial celebration. We created a huge festival starring Stevie Wonder and a host of other Detroit celebrities, reenacted the landing of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, Detroit’s founder in 1701, brought Tall Ships to town, and built an urban pocket park called Campus Martius that has since become the epicenter of downtown Detroit’s resurgence.   We also commissioned the International Monument to the Underground Railroad, a bronze statue on the Detroit River pointing to freedom in Canada, and a companion monument in Windsor, Ontario. But closest to my heart were our Partner Programs, the arts and cultural programs presented by over 425 organizations throughout the year:  exhibitions, performances, theatrical productions, publications, videos, TV and radio broadcasts, events, festivals, and other ways to honor every aspect of Detroit’s history, culture and people. I loved the way Detroit 300 engaged the public:  neighborhood groups, churches, ethnic heritage societies, civic organizations, theatre companies, art museums, musical ensembles, science centers, businesses, and clubs and societies of all kinds. So diverse, each with its own story to share! To me, that is what culture is all about. It is how we show our character as a place; how we express our values; how we recognize and celebrate accomplishments; and most of all, how we create community.  
 
I then worked for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in community relations as the DSO prepared to open the new Max M. Fisher Music Center, expanding from Orchestra Hall. I also worked as a consultant with many organizations, including the Arab American National Museum and the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy. Then in 2006-07, I facilitated the formation of CultureSource, a professional association of nonprofit arts and culture organizations. We brought Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance President Peggy Amsterdam to Detroit to talk about the Alliance's work, and then created our own version of an advocacy and professional development organization. I became Executive Director in 2008. By 2014, our members had grown from 30 to 115 organizations, of which 71% took advantage of three or more of our programs in capacity-building, marketing, volunteer recruiting and other services.    
 
You started at the Alliance in January 2015.  What attracted you to the organization?
I’ve admired the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance for more than a decade.  First and foremost, for the research reports – the way the Alliance uses data to communicate the importance of arts and culture to the community. But I also admire all the services to member organizations, and the role the Alliance plays in connecting organizations of all disciplines and sizes to one another. Philadelphia itself was a draw. This city gets rave reviews from everyone, for its arts and culture, for its foodie culture, and for the people here. The cultural community is amazing, with a depth and breadth that few places can boast. I am looking forward to exploring the city and surrounding region over the next year and more.
 
The third attraction for me puts those two together: the capability and vision of the Alliance, and the needs of the city and of all urban centers. We live in a very challenging time, facing huge challenges wrought by technology, the transitioning economy, and changes in public tastes and social habits. Arts and culture is absolutely vital to a healthy society, and for healthy, wholehearted people. The work of the Alliance here in Philadelphia has national significance. The challenges of the arts and culture ecosystem here are the same as Boston, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Miami, and so many other places. Finding new ways to sustain arts and culture is critical, and the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance is a national leader in that work.  
 
A fun fact about yourself:​
I’m a gardener. I love tending to plants, the smell of the earth, the sounds of birds and insects. The one downside of moving here is losing my patch of ground! But I am looking forward to the famous Philadelphia Flower Show, and in the spring and summer, enjoying parks, Longwood Gardens, Bartram’s Garden, and other places to experience nature.
 
Looking forward to meeting Maud? Let us know on Twitter @philaculture, and keep an eye on the Alliance blog for our upcoming "Where's Maud this Week?" series, where Maud will share the cultural events and attractions she's planning to visit each week!