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Why Do You Do What You Do?

Why do you do what you do? Two Cultural Alliance staff members answered that question with stories from their childhoods. Read about how a chance to dance and a museum journey changed the lives of Julie Hawkins and Michelle White.

Do you remember the moment that you knew that arts and culture would be your life's path? Share it with us!


Julie's Story

When I was little, my Mom worked full-time but pre-school was only a half-day program, so when a local dance studio came by and offered free “after-school” classes, she took them up on it and got me enrolled.

Now, two-year olds don’t really learn a lot in dance class, but they do get to be in the recital at the end of the year, and to do that, they need to learn and practice a “choreographed” routine. So every week I’d go to dance class, and every weekend my Mom would ask me to practice. And every weekend I refused.

The day of the dress rehearsal, my Mom was certain I’d be the kid who just stands on stage and cries, but apparently that wasn’t the case. In her words, once I was out under the stage lights, I “lit up like a firecracker,” and they pretty much had to drag me off. I then put on my costume and did that dance all summer long at home. I taught it to all the other kids on my block. And needless to say, next year my Mom signed me up for more dance classes (Thanks, Mom).

Julie Hawkins is the Vice President of Public Policy at the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.

Michelle's Story

By age 12, I was fortunate to have had  many art experiences. My mother was a graphic designer – art was all over our home. My family visited many museums and galleries and I had seen a handful of performances.

I had visited the museums of New York many times since this is where my family is from. Although I was very interested in all of our art adventures, I never really thought about where we were going or why. On my third visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, my parents had told me why we were visiting but it went in one ear and out the other.

It was not until we arrived and I looked up at the enormous banner hanging from the façade that all my experiences resonated with me. I saw my mother’s maiden name hanging from the museum’s great walls in letters bigger than I was tall: Tilman Riemenschneider. We were there to see my great-great grandfather’s hand carved altars from Germany.

I have never been so proud, excited or inspired by art. I allowed myself to be moved by the work for the first time. The experience led me to a future in art that I am living today.

Michelle White is the Electronic Maketing Assistant at the Greater Philadelpia Cultural Alliance.