My Soapbox: Janelle Hopper, Contemporary Arts Center

Janelle Hopper studied ceramics in college, so the multi-dimensional work she does at the Contemporary Arts Center fits naturally into her artistic career's trajectory. The 37-year-old mother of three prides herself on reaching deeply into the local community to discover connections between art and life, then creating signature events that expand on the potential those connections hold.

On the heels of her second successful OFFF event, she shares her insights and her inspirations with Soapbox.

What is your title at the CAC and what does your job there entail?
I have been around the institution in various roles for about six and a half years. My current title is Public Programs Manager, and I moved into that role a little over three years ago. In a nutshell, I’m in charge of the programming that builds a bridge to the community—things like lectures, film screenings, conferences, etc. Community partnerships have been an important part of how we’ve approached programming—like our film screenings with AIGA Cincinnati, or our Conversation Cafes with Peter Block and Leadership Cincinnati—and I manage those relationships.

What job did you have before this one and how did it prepare you for your current role?
My current role is about facilitating new ways for the community to access the CAC. Contemporary art impacts contemporary culture, and it reflects back to us through today’s environment, challenges and questions.

It’s relevant in our lives and our programs demonstrate that. So my job entails big things like generating ideas, fueling inspiration, building relationships and contributing to our community, as well as day-to-day execution—getting it done.

I feel like one role alone before the CAC didn’t prepare me for what I am doing now. It’s a combination of many of the jobs and roles I have had over the years—artist, the grunt work of being a studio assistant, ceramics teacher, working for other nonprofits in a counseling role and being a mother. They all come together in the type of work I do now.

What would surprise people the most about the CAC?
Being that we are a contemporary art institution, a lot of times people miss our rich history. That right here in Cincinnati, the CAC was founded by three radical young women almost 75 years ago, and was one of the first institutions of its kind in the United States to exhibit the work of contemporary artists.

What is your favorite part of the museum and why?
While the building I get to work in is amazing, my favorite part of the CAC is the people inside—their enthusiasm, creativity and commitment that fuels the energy behind the exhibitions, projects and programs. 

Talk a bit about the projects you have coordinated so far. What have you learned from them?
Because my role is about facilitating new ways for the community to access the CAC, I create programming that builds a bridge between the institution and the public. It’s exciting to show people the relevance that contemporary art can have in their lives. With my community partnerships, I am able to get inside and tap into different groups to find out what people are looking for, what they are hungry for.

What do you get excited about?
Creativity comes in all forms—scientists, humanitarians, entrepreneurs, doctors, artists, teachers, mothers/fathers, mathematicians, chefs—everyone. I get excited to help people realize and experience that through the CAC.

By Elissa Yancey

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