I first met Beckie while she was working as the Business Manager at Redux Contemporary Art Center. Her sarcasm and quick wit made us fast friends. I knew Beckie was a badass business wiz and an arts educator but little did I know she had big plans up her sleeve.
Within the last several years she finished her masters, created an amazing new arts program at her school here in Charleston, landed a job at one of Qatar’s finest schools, and subsequently moved there. #BOSSLADY
She currently lives in Doha, the capital and main city of Qatar with just under 800,000 people. It has a population about the size of San Francisco but geographically is the size of Connecticut. Since she is officially our first #InternationalBossLady, I wanted to share some photos that let us see her environment there. I've sprinkled them throughout my interview with her below.
What’s your official job title?
Arts Integration Facilitator – I integrate arts into the curriculum, working with teachers to make it applicable. I also work with kids on projects and create trips to make connections with artists or genres of art that connect with the existing curriculum.
What’s your favorite hobby?
Stateside? Does Rec Room wings and beers count? The things I do for myself are creative. I like bookmaking and making collages—mixed media projects are my favorite. I don’t confine myself to one particular medium, which is why like teaching the arts. I get the opportunity to explore new and different things everyday.
How did you get your start?
When I finished my masters I was looking for something a little bit above being a teacher. I began looking at museum education jobs and also thought about international teaching because traveling was a long time interest and passion of mine. I finally decided on international teaching, quit looking at museums and focused on only that. That was a huge stress relief, research alone is huge. It’s not just about finding right job, but also finding right place for you geographically.
What lead you to Qatar?
I went to a job fair with an open mind. This particular program and the representatives from the school were excited and knowledgeable about what they had and where they wanted it to go. The arts in Qatar are really starting to take off. They still fall a bit behind Dubai, which is more culturally up to speed and art programs are more established but Qatar is making headway.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
My mom told me I should take care of myself and not rely on someone else to make me happy. Now I am calling my own shots and make all the decisions about my future, personally and professionally. It’s a little selfish, but I get to make all my decisions about where I will eat, what I will do—everything. It’s the little things that make a big difference.
What’s your advice to people?
Always tell the truth, even to yourself, and if it’s something that makes you feel uneasy or hesitant, you probably don’t need to be doing it. A certain amount of fear can be a good thing, but keeping you up at night is not. You have to follow your heart.
What have you learned about yourself being so far from home?
As a child and teen I have always been the person to do what what I wanted to do and pay the consequences regardless of what they are. I am stubborn. Someone can tell me how something was, but I want to know and experience me for myself. Everyone's experience is based on their background and where they are in their life so I always like to experience for myself. I can take advice moving forward, it’s like road signs except for in Qatar, stop signs don’t really mean stop. They're more of a suggestion.
Was there a moment of panic when you decide you didn’t want to be what you always thought you wanted to be?
When I first graduated high school I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I didn’t go to college. I tried a few things for several years but eventually found passion in teaching and went back to school. It just goes back to always follow your heart.
What has been your greatest professional hurdle?
Making connections between classroom and artist. When I was teaching in the states, budgeting was where we needed parents and groups to go outside of school. In Qatar it’s still working with the artists because I am not sure where to look, but working with MATHAF, the Arabic Museum of Modern Art, (mataf=museum) has helped to bridge the gap. My coworker and I worked on a year long collaboration working with the museum and teachers to develop a whole unit on their collection. We have one artist in residence and the goal is to have more and introduce our students to many different artists.
What’s your spirit animal?
I used to tell my students I would be a kitten because I can be soft and cuddly and nice, but I can scratch your eyeballs out too.
Who is your personal hero?
My grandmother was a huge influence on me because she was the breadwinner in our household. She was 17 years younger than my grandfather who had cancer at 50, and her mother had breast cancer at the same time. At that time men were the workers and women stayed home. They reversed those roles and she was always a strong figure in my mind. Anytime I walked a fine line I thought of her egging me on, challenging me, and making me think. She always had a way of reminding me who I was.
Who is your Charleston fan girl?
Becca Barnet is amazing and I love what she does. She has so much going on and in so many different fields but she is down to earth and totally mature. She’s always in her element and she's just herself, very authentic.
And in Qatar?
Maral Bedoyan, she is the education coordinator at MATHAF and SO knowledgeable. She has a very strong presence. She knows so much about art, and she loves to laugh and joke. She’s incredible! She doesn’t seem like she is held back by anything.