What a treat to celebrate the #FineArts with our sister Amanda K. Thompson, initiate of Alpha Upsilon!
Thank you Tallahassee Democrat for this portrait of our sister!
25 women you need to know: Amanda Karioth Thompson
If you believe that art is important, that a community prospers when it is surrounded by beautiful things, and that artists need the occasional helping hand to grow and create for all of us — then you probably have Amanda Karioth Thompson to thank.
For the last 10 years, as a smiling face of COCA, the Council on Culture & Arts, Thompson, its Education and Exhibitions Director, has curated public art shows from the State Capitol to the airport. She has served as liaison to schools and arts organizations and she has been a leader in bringing large scale art pieces to public spaces.
Additionally, Thompson serves on dozens of committees pertaining to music, art, and learning and her list of classroom volunteerism, arts mentorships and service organizations’ leadership stretch from local schools to the Junior League and Senior Centers.
So how did this Woman (we) Need to Know get that way?
Brimming with enthusiasm and intelligence, Thompson says that creativity is in her DNA. With grandparents who valued music and fine craft, visual expression and performing seemed to come naturally. “I had an epiphany in the third grade that I would become an art teacher,” she says. And in a way, that is her role at COCA. Thompson says that she is thrilled by the curiosity and bravery of working artists — and she strives to provide support and make spaces for that work to be brought to the public.
Thompson, who has two Bachelor’s degrees in art and a Master’s in Art Education from Florida State University, says that when she was hired at COCA a decade ago, she had a steep climb ahead of her. “All of COCA’s educational initiatives were built from scratch based on the expressed needs of this community. As fulfilling as that has been, I have found myself, more than once, lamenting the absence of some kind of roadmap. I’ve learned so much from other educators and leaders in the arts and I try to take the best bits from each of them.”
She has grown from professional challenges and acknowledges her mentors. “We all have someone who has shown a demonstrated interest in our success. I have a list a mile long of people who have lifted me up and believed in me, even when I didn’t deserve it. Leaders need good models and I’ve had more than my fair share.”
Just as important as her job, Thompson feels strongly about volunteerism. As a child, she remembers Thanksgivings helping with dinners for the homeless, visiting the elderly in nursing homes, and making care packages for grieving families. “Volunteering gives you empathy and teaches you how to motivate others, work towards a common goal, and celebrate the unique talents of each individual.”
About empathy, Thompson says that both curiosity and empathy have helped her most in leadership roles. “It’s so important to be sensitive to someone’s talents as well as their insecurities. An artist’s work is essentially an extension of themselves and, very often, I’m putting it on public display. That can be scary. I spend a lot of time reassuring, validating and cheering people on.”
As a native Tallahasseean, she is fiercely loyal to this town. “This community raised me. It has nurtured my gifts, strengthened my weaknesses, and continues to show me love in unexpected and beautiful ways."
And though Amanda Thompson seems everywhere, all the time, in the arts community, it’s the support of loved ones that keeps her energized. “I have an amazing husband and incredible parents who instilled in me a deep sense of compassion for others and respect for creativity. I’ve got some of the smartest and most generous friends imaginable and they’ve saved my tail a time or two. Being surrounded by people who celebrate my triumphs and steady me when I stumble is one of the greatest gifts I could have ever asked for.”
She coordinates and curates one of our favorites: "Art in Public Places" program.
Who are our other stellar AXO sisters in this category?
Tracey Cohen (Epsilon Chi, UNC Chapel Hill)
Laura Rogers (Beta Eta, FSU)
Keenan Fishburne (Gamma Chi, Stetson)