By Jackie Delaney
Jeannie Howe’s first few jobs out of college weren’t anything special. Howe, with a Master of Arts in theater under her belt, first worked for the University of Denver until moving to an entry-level position in ticket services at a Houston, Texas theater. But it’s what happened two weeks later that set off her career.
The first Brown Bag Series of the semester, held on Friday, Sept. 11, in Mayo Concert Hall, featured a leader who has dabbled in everything from theater to consulting to fundraising — which is how she believes is the way it should be.
Howe began her presentation by running through her numerous career positions and accolades, starting with a theater degree from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and ending in a position that has the power to influence and aid the Baltimore cultural community.
After the first two weeks of her ticketing service job at the Alley Theatre in Houston, she was recommended for the box office manager position, which she interviewed for and received. Then, Howe worked her way up to a position in fundraising for the theater, giving her a taste of the nonprofit industry. After that, she moved on to United Way, starting at another “entry-level” position, she said, in telemarketing and direct mail. But the job wasn’t for her — and soon enough she was in Maryland, seven months pregnant and looking for a new job.
Now, Howe has held numerous positions at a variety of organizations. She was the founder and president of BayCliff Associates, a firm that provided management and fundraising consultation to nonprofit organizations. In this position, she led a successful capital campaign for Everyman Theatre in Baltimore, raising $17.7 million. She has held leadership positions with nonprofits like Baltimore Reads and The Marrow Foundation (now Be the Match Foundation).
Howe, while going through her accolades, advised the audience to, “think about your life as a very rich tapestry” and to “keep yourself open to opportunities around you.”
Being open is what brought Howe to where she is today. She is currently the executive director of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance (GBCA), which is “a membership and service organization that nurtures and promotes a vibrant, diverse and sustainable arts and cultural community essential to the region’s economic success and quality of life,” according to the alliance’s website.
“I don’t know if there’s any perfect message here, but just know that your life is something that is not a straight line or not ever going to go as you expect it… and not to be disappointed if it doesn’t,” Howe said, “because it’s really a tremendous opportunity to be able to be open, to be curious about things that come your way.”
Howe describes Baltimore as a “really rich DIY community,” and a “cultural hub” of artists and organizations that GBCA aims to support and fund. They look at how they can help the cultural community, providing funding programs such as grants and awards to aid artists.
After the protests in Baltimore this past year, Howe looked back on the images that were broadcast of the city.
“What they were showing was not Baltimore,” she said. “How do we take back the narrative of our city?”
Howe described many projects that the GBCA supports. One is The Baltimore Love Project, an organization that “expresses love by connecting people and communities across Baltimore City through love themed murals,” according to their website. The murals depict four hands spelling out the word “love,” and are spread throughout communities in the city to display their message.
Howe stressed that even after the uprisings, “there is a lot of reason for optimism in the arts community” within the city.
“What you see with Jeannie is a woman who has taken control of her life and decided (to) make a difference as an individual and make the world a better place to live, using her talents and skills,” said John Laughton, dean of the School of Arts and Communication.