Tag Archives: birthday

Extraordinary Women: Linda Webb

Linda Webb is more than the Executive Director of Opera Roanoke. She is a powerhouse for the art community, encouraging support for multiple organizations in our area. From Opera Roanoke’s performances to the exhibits at the Taubman Museum (and everything in between), she is one of many who reiterates that sustaining the arts is not just about raising money. It is about making sure people realize how special they are to Roanoke.

How did your interest in the art community begin?
I grew up loving literature, music, and theatre. It spoke to my soul and I had a little bit of talent in those areas. When I was in college, I studied playwriting with Pulitzer Prize-winning Paula Vogel. After I graduated, I began working in the business side of publishing in New York, but I kept my hand in the theatre world. After ten years in New York, I moved to Roanoke to get married and made the switch to nonprofit fundraising.

I began volunteering at Mill Mountain Theatre. I was excited about what they were doing there, and when their development person left, Jere Hodgin asked me to take the spot. I found that much of what I had done in New York in ad sales was transferrable. My experience had made me fearless when it came to calling on high level people.

Photo Credit: Lillian Orlinsky
Photo Credit: Lillian Orlinsky

What led you to Opera Roanoke?
I took some time off when I had a baby. I was still on boards even though I wasn’t actually working. The first board I was asked to be on was for Opera Roanoke. They asked me to contribute the fundraising knowledge I had as a volunteer. It was a way that I could keep my hand in that world even though it wasn’t full time.

Soon after, I began working at United Way. I always tried to include friends from the art world in various things that we did.

I stepped out of the working world for a while when my mother was ill. When I began looking for a job again, the president of Opera Roanoke’s board asked me to be the Executive Director and I accepted the offer. I know just enough to be dangerous, but I know more about opera than I did a year and half ago.

What can audiences expect from Opera Roanoke in 2016?
First, it’s important that even those who don’t think they like opera come out and give it a try. If you come to an opera once, you might just be hooked. Our unofficial slogan is, “Opera Roanoke, we don’t care what you wear.” It’s fun to dress up, but not everyone does. Be comfortable, come in your jeans.

Also, if you are a student, your ticket is free. If you’re not a student, you can buy a ticket for $25 and sometimes less with Groupon. Regardless of where you are sitting, you are going to enjoy the show.

This fall, we are going to do South Pacific. It’s sad, it’s happy, and the music is unbelievable. In the spring of 2017, we will be doing Susanna by American composer Carlisle Floyd. Both of these shows have to do with prejudice and overcoming it or not overcoming it. It’s very timely when you think about all the unhappy stuff that is going on in our country right now. However, it is going to speak to your heart and your brain on a different level than when you read or see the news. That is why I say, and I’m not kidding, opera can save the world.

For more information about Linda and Opera Roanoke’s upcoming season, visit www.operaroanoke.org

Extraordinary Women: Joey Coakley Beck

Throughout the June issue, we are celebrating our official birthday month and our 10th year of doing what we love—creating a publication that inspires and encourages women in Central and Southwest Virginia. When our publisher, Joey Coakley Beck, started the magazine, she did so because she knew the women in this community needed a magazine that would cover the topics we are and should be discussing with our friends. For us, celebrating our 10th birthday is not only about recognizing that success, but also continuing to meet that need for years to come.

What was your inspiration when you started Bella? Why a women’s magazine?
I saw a need for it. There was nothing for women in our area. At the time, none of the publications were focused on them. I had many years of experience in graphic design, and I ready to branch out, do my own thing, and fulfill that need.

There have been challenges. For example, as a woman in this industry, it is very rare to be respected by men in the same profession. Bella’s success proves that their opinions have been much less relevant than their egos have led them to believe.

At the end of the day, it is worth it to know that we are putting out something that is applicable to local women in a sea of national (and even some local) publications that do not speak to them and continues ten YEARS later!

image1Over the years, you’ve made some subtle (some not so subtle) changes to the publication, including its size. Why are those changes important to the growth of the magazine and our relationship with readers?
I don’t want our look or our voice to get stale. Bella has always been a step ahead of everyone else, and I want to maintain fresh content and a new look as often as it makes sense. It is important to change and grow with our readers.

What have you learned from the stressful moments and publications that have failed?
It always works out in the end. I am a firm believer in karma, and what you put out there comes back to you. The stressful moments pass as long as you keep your head up and do what you do best.

Other magazines that have come around and failed did it to themselves. You have to genuinely care about this community, what you are putting out there for readers, and the product you are creating. You have to be honest and respectful of others. This isn’t an industry that is about making money, it is about bringing people together and making them stronger as a community.

This year we have made a point to cover at least one local maker in each issue. Can you talk a little bit about why it is important to you to help introduce these small businesses to the community?
There are so many hidden gems and wonderful artisans in our area that otherwise go unnoticed and I think they all contribute to how wonderful this region is. The newspaper and other magazines continually highlight the same handful of people or businesses and there are so many more out there that go unrecognized. We are trying to recognize those people that get overlooked so often.

If you could encourage every woman reading this to do one thing, what would it be?
No matter what it is, to do something that makes you happy—that is truly something just for you. For example, I recently took up knitting. I truly enjoy it and it is 100% me time. I don’t think women take enough time to do things that are just for them. They try to please others in the workplace or at home and they forget about themselves. So my advice is to do something, at least daily, that makes yourself happy.

Extraordinary Women: Betty Branch

Betty Branch is a world-renowned artist whose travels throughout the years have expanded and reinforced her knowledge of art history and techniques. Her studio here in Roanoke is a magical place where thirty years of artwork, much of it focused on the female form, creates an environment of self-reflection and personal growth. Five of her eight children are also artists and showcase their creativity within the space. The family shares an affinity for exploring the complexity of femininity through different mediums. Betty and two of her daughters, Bonny and Katey, shared their thoughts with us on this process.

Isabel, part of the Taubman Museum of Art’s permanent collection, is elegant, a muse, and her expression reflects that she too may be captivated by something unseen. What was your inspiration when you created her?
Betty: “She was the first female figure that I have done that was something other than straight realism. Isabel is an impressionistic sculpture that represents my impressionistic realism. What I had in mind with the pose was an introspection. I wanted the piece to be a meditative piece, but it also had to do with the centering of the self in the female.”

Betty in Workroom close-up 2015What have you been able to share with your daughters as an artist?
Betty: “I would say that I’m pretty convinced that all of the girls saw my delight in the art. There was never any question that I was exercising a great love and freedom in doing it. I was part of that period that was on the edge of feminism. I was not espousing feminism per say at the time, but I still very strongly needed to exert for myself the power that I felt was due to women. My daughters have come along and fully exercised that without any need to worry about any repercussions.”

A Friend for Life, outside of the South County Library, captures the moment that literature opens the realm of possibilities for children to pursue their interests. What was that moment for you as a child?
Betty: “I am an only child, and we moved around a lot. I was in 15 different schools growing up. Reading was my main source of entertainment. That was the thing that was very important to me. Early on, I was fortunate to have access to nursery rhymes and fairy tales. That, I am quite certain, is a very solid foundation upon which much, if not all, of my work is based. The sense of possibilities of mythology, all of that is very empowering. That is what fairy tales are all about—empowerment or the lack of it.

I have painted and drawn for as long as I can remember. It never occurred to me that it could be a career until all of my children were in school and I was without that major focus of child-bearing and raising them. There was a sudden void in my life and the art was there. It really burgeoned.”

FullSizeRenderAs your children began to develop their own artistic interests, how did you encourage their development?
Betty: “Obviously, they have a gift that is undeniable. They saw what art meant to me. I took them to classes with me way before I was making sculpture art as a career. I would take anything that I could get myself into—weaving, paper-making, or pottery. It was pottery that led me to sculpture because I had not experienced real clay before that time. My pots sprouted faces and arms. It was through that experience of piling all the kids that were at home in the back of the station wagon, and driving to whatever little art festival there was to spend the day that they saw other artists with the things they had brought. Those were really special good times. I think it’s just in them. Every one of the eight could have been artists had their lives taken just a slightly different turn.”

Bonny: “When I was nine, Mom and I traveled to Greece for the summer and I was given an old brownie camera. I fell in love with the old door knockers on Crete and used my camera to record the variety of brass hands adorning the ancient wooden doors. I didn’t know I had a passion for photography until I returned from a once-in-a-lifetime trip to New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, and Thailand. The images I captured thrilled me because I could show exactly what I saw with others and I used those images in my first art exhibit.”

Much of your family’s work focuses on the feminine form—both young and old. What about that resonates with your family?
Katey: “ I am blessed by powerful women, like my mother, who have forged the way through a time dominated by men, to create a way for those who have followed to have less barriers when they step out in the world to follow what has heart and meaning with more vulnerability.”

Betty: “It’s very meaningful to us. Katey teaches a course in self-realization and she’s done large scale canvas paintings of women that are used at that conference. All of them are very conscious of the necessity for there to be a legitimate equality in the exercise of power. It’s not that anyone wants to flip it over and say that women should rule the world, but if half of the rulers were women, then we would probably have a different result.”

For more information on Betty Branch, her family, and her art (which is exhibited all over the world), visit www.bettybranch.com.

Extraordinary Women: Pearl Fu

For our 10th birthday (our first issue premiered June 2006!), we profiled 10 local women who, against odds or in the face of uncertainty, raised the bar, achieved success, and continue to inspire those around them every day. We celebrate these women and their accomplishments because they encourage us to put one foot in front of the other, even when our strength is running low. They are a reminder that failure does not mean you will never meet your goals. Failure means you are one step closer to success.
We will begin with Pearl Fu, Roanoke’s Ambassador of Goodwill and the founder of Roanoke’s premiere multicultural year round program, Local Colors. Her strength and compassion remind us to open our hearts and our ears to the stories of those around us—because every day is a chance to learn something new.

Outside of Roanoke, where is your favorite place to be?
I have to be careful, because I have three daughters who are in different parts, and I love being with them. We all get together for Christmas in Boston. That’s where the oldest one lives. We call her number one daughter. Some people think it’s because I like number one most, but that’s not the reason. It’s by age. Number one, Penny, was born first. She works for New England Biolab. They recruited her from MIT.

My number two daughter, Wendy, majored in art and filming. She’s won awards ever since she was little. Her building was right across from the Twin Towers on 9/11. Afterwards she decided she wanted to do something to help our country. Today, she works for the government.

Number three, Colette, is an artist. After college, she had no idea what she wanted to be. I took her to my hometown in China to show her our heritage and she fell in love with it. She went there to teach English and every free moment she had she went to the villages to study her heritage. We are a Chinese minority, which is different from regular Chinese. There are 55 types of Chinese minorities, and each one has their own clothing, culture, and music. Colette travelled by herself and took pictures of the minorities in the mountainside. Art galleries in Roanoke exhibited her art, and from there she went on to get her masters degree and travel around the world. Today, she is a world-renowned artist.

All three of my children are very easy-going, hardworking, bright, and intelligent. People have said, “Don’t brag about your family.” I am proud to tell people about them. They are very kind. They care about people, and are very compassionate.

Photo by Hayleigh Worgan
Photo by Hayleigh Worgan

What is the most important thing you have learned while working with multiple ethnicities in our valley?
I had never heard of Roanoke before we came here (in the 1980s). There was another family that worked with my husband that came before us and said that Roanoke was very unfriendly. They told us we would not be welcomed. When I heard that, I’m not one to sit there and wait. If they don’t come to me, I’ll go to them. I made Chinese bread and knocked on the doors of my neighbors. I introduced myself and they were really friendly. You really need to give people an opportunity. Don’t just block yourself.

You learn so much from each culture and there seems to be a fear of people that are different from you. There is a tendency to stay away from them. I notice people seem to gravitate towards others that are from their culture. There is so much to learn from each one’s background and culture, and if you learn from that then you can respect and understand the behavior of people. The more we approach people that are different and get to know them, the less we fear them.

People don’t realize that the American way of looking at things is so different from other countries. In China, many of our customs are opposite from America. If you didn’t know that, you would wonder why people behave the way they do. Once you learn that you can wipe that out and the world will be a much friendly place.

For example, in China, our lucky color is red, and so our wedding gowns are red. The unlucky color is white. If you give a gift to a Chinese person, and you wrap it up in white, they would be so upset. It’s like you are wishing them bad luck.

Tell us about one person who has inspired you over the years.
Of all the countries that I wanted to go to, the most important one was America. It goes back to my grandfather. He always thought that America and China should be working together. He was the governor of Yunnan, and a very popular leader. At that time, if you said something like that, you could be executed. But deep down inside they knew what he said was true so he couldn’t be harmed. However, his position was taken away from him.

When President Nixon opened the door, my grandfather was reinstated as a hero in Chinese history. I feel like I am following in his legacy to not be afraid to say what you believe in. Money or power do not impress me, but people that care about others are so important.

It is Pearl’s sincere desire to help immigrants, new citizens, visitors, and ethnic nationals to acclimate themselves to their communities. If you or someone you know could benefit from her knowledge of that process, do not hesitate to reach out. She can also point you in the right direction if you are looking for more information on the many different cultures represented throughout Roanoke. So, stop her if you see her out in town, or email her at pearlfu3@gmail.com with questions. Also, visit www.localcolors.org for more information on upcoming events like Taste of Culture, where participants can experience the music, culture, and food from different countries.

Stay tuned to our website for more interviews from extraordinary women throughout the month and pick up this month’s issue to read all 10!