In advance of Wendy Hartley’s retirement from MASC in June of this year, we are sharing this heartfelt letter from Wendy to the people who defined her time at MASC. As Wendy mentions in her letter, we are delighted that Micheline Shoebridge will be continuing in her role as Executive Director to lead MASC into its exciting next phase.
MASC would not be what it is today without Wendy. From Booking Coordinator to English Program Director to, most recently, Co-Executive Director alongside Micheline Shoebridge, Wendy has dedicated 20 years of her life to fostering artistic relationships with our schools and communities, providing consistent and meaningful work to professional artists, and striving to make the arts accessible for all.
Wendy is the founder of Your Story: MASC Teen Authors and Illustrators Festival and was instrumental in having the MASC Arts Awards hosted at Canada’s National Arts Centre in 2019. As English Program Director for 12 years, Wendy has had a close connection with 400 professional artists in the region and across the country, building innovative programs in partnership with teachers and school boards.
When I think about these past 20 years, the word “bookended” floats to the top. I am fortunate that my MASC career has been bookended by two wonderful women; as well, I have worked with so many inspiring colleagues and partners along the way.
Jennifer Cayley hired me in 2001 and was, and still is, the very best mentor I could ever imagine. She taught me to look at the world a little differently, to understand the real importance and value of the arts in our everyday life. She opened my eyes to really understand the deep richness in a music performance, the gift of a story, getting caught up in a play, the freedom in letting loose in a dance workshop, and the rewards of getting your hands thoroughly into a visual arts project. MASC opened a whole world to me. Jennifer taught me how to nurture a network and how to move the organization forward while relying on, working with, and treating people well. It’s astonishing to me that we only actually worked together for five years, but really, she’s been at my side all along.
And the other dear bookend, of course, is the very best work partner I could ever imagine. Working with Micheline has been one of the greatest gifts of all. Together we have learned so much, seen so much change in the organization, we’ve worked really hard (admittedly sometimes in kayaks!), and we’ve had so, so many laughs. While there have been a few bumps in the road, there have been oh so many highs. I have learned so much from her and never have I enjoyed myself more. It’s been the greatest privilege to work together, to dream for the organization, and one of the things that I will miss the most.
When I think about my years at MASC, I think of how fortunate I’ve been. I’ve enjoyed working with all the artists whom I find so inspiring, and with school board and community partners who are so committed to bring the arts to their students and communities. I’ve loved working with the very best volunteers, many who have become dear friends, as well as our funders, and our fabulous board. I’ve treasured every single one of our events and projects and experiencing the connections we’ve made with children and adults alike. And I especially value the incredible team that I work with.
This team is relatively new, a group of people that bring so much to MASC: vast experience and skills, enthusiasm, care, as well as their incredibly generous spirits. This is a group that is hardworking, supportive and fun. They are ever willing to reach beyond what’s required, which has been especially important in creatively supporting our artists during this pandemic. I count myself so fortunate to work with such a wonderful group of people.
While I am retiring and am stepping away from my role as MASC’s Co-Executive Director, I know that I will not lose the friendships that I have made. I have loved my career and believe passionately in the power of the arts. I will forever remember the light in the eyes of a young boy being recognized for his artistic talent; the teenage girl sharing her heartfelt poem under the mentorship of a MASC artist, and seniors enthusiastically dancing on their balconies, socially distanced, but feeling less isolated.
But now I think of my Mum, who always said “leave on a high.” I believe that is exactly what I am doing. MASC is a strong organization; we have grown enormously in our 31 years and particularly in this past year. We have embraced the virtual world, and in some ways, we are in closer touch with our artists than ever, despite not being able to see them in person. We are working with a committed board that is leading the organization in terms of governance and strategic direction. We have such a strong team, so many wonderful partners and so many exciting new partnerships on the horizon. The future is bright, and MASC will shine even more brilliantly under Micheline Shoebridge’s leadership as the Executive Director.
MASC will always and forever have a place in my heart. Many thanks to you all, my wonderful MASC family.