Meet Desirée Bender, our “I can do it” Program Manager
At Desirée Bender’s first meeting with FA founder Barbara Allen, she demonstrated her chutzpah – a characteristic she acquired early on in her career first as art student and, later, as arts project manager.
She had responded to Barbara’s request to interview for a discrete assignment: writing lesson plans for several of Fresh Artists’ signature programs. In the process, Barbara asked: “How would you describe your dream job?”
Her reply: “Working here!”
Now she does, as Program Manager, overseeing the coordination and administration of all of FA’s signature educational programs.
“I realized early on, at 17 or 18, that you have to be your own advocate,” she says. Her mantra is “showing up, consistency and saying ‘yes, I can do that.’”
Having grown up in Muncy Valley, PA, a small town in Pennsylvania’s Sullivan County, Desirée was excited to come to Philadelphia for art school. Excited and a bit nervous. She had checked out schools in New York (Pratt, Cooper) and found the city a bit overwhelming. But Moore College of Art & Design felt like a perfect fit, “small and welcoming.”
Still, she had to combine school with part-time employment, since the scholarships she received were not enough to cover the costs of tuition and board. She got a job at Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program shortly after graduation.
Mural Arts background leads to high profile project
She wore many hats during her time at Mural Arts: including mural artist, art educator and assistant project manager. One of her more visible accomplishments was serving as lead designer and educator for the innovative design of vinyl wraps for the fleet of 20 the Philadelphia Streets Department’s recycling trucks, through a partnership with the Design Center at Philadelphia University and students in the Big Picture after school art program. She used textiles from the Design Center as the springboard for designs created by children in Big Picture’s after school program. She then collaged together the children’s drawings for each of the 20 trucks, which now serve as rolling art exhibits, bringing joy to the neighborhoods they serve.
While working at Mural Arts she met David Guinn, a fellow mural artist, who she eventually married. Their daughter Rose just turned 4. Rose drew her first smiley face at 18 months. Are we surprised?
Her experience designing lesson plans for Big Picture inspired her to go back to school for a degree in art education. She got her masters’ from Tyler School of Art, from which she graduated in May.
She hit the ground running
Since arriving at Fresh Artists in September, Desirée has applied her go-get’em energy to several important initiatives:
- Overseeing the training of Chip Kit volunteers, and coordinating the stocking and delivery of 390 Chip Kit carts to hotels in Marriott’s SpringHill Suites – a national partnership with FA;
- Working with Roger to curate, design and install children’s art in a special exhibit at the Comcast/Liberty Property Trust’s Art at the Center;
- Hosting and organizing the first gathering of art teachers in our new Collaboratory space. The event, designed to bring art teachers together to share best practices and learn about the resources available to them through Fresh Artists, is serving as a model for future art teacher get togethers.
She sees much potential in Fresh Artists and is excited to be part of our growth.
“I want Fresh Artists to be on the lips of all the art teachers in Philadelphia,” she says, “even if that means I have go to every school and knock on doors. I want them to know what’s here. It’s such a huge resource.”
In March, she will travel with Barbara to present at the National Art Education Association in Chicago. With Desirée’s energy and drive, FA’s name will soon be on the lips of art teachers not just in Philadelphia but across the country.
“We are delighted to have found Desirée,” says FA Founder Barbara Allen. “She has the creativity, energy, strong aesthetic sense, commitment to kids and good humor that we sought for this position. The sky’s the with a terrific, full-time art educator on board!”