When Katherine Foster was asked to attend a board meeting for the planning of New Winston Museum at the request of an old schoolmate, she was curious to know why they would want her thoughts given her limited museum knowledge.
Foster, who has worked at nonprofits for 17 years, fell in love with the industry after writing about them as a journalist for the Winston-Salem Journal. While working with nonprofits for special features of various columns with the Journal, she began to develop a soft spot for the work of the organizations, especially those focused on rebuilding and sustaining communities in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. Her years of non-profit work made her an expert in telling the stories of the community, and that was exactly what the board members of museum were looking for during the planning phase for the New Winston Museum. Foster was offered the position of executive director in 2012.
Foster had been engaged in a love affair with SECCA from afar since she saw jazz musician and poet Sun Ra perform on its picturesque lawn when she was 19. After a tragic car accident involving her sister left her sibling permanently injured, SECCA became a refuge for Foster that helped her get through intermittent rough patches in her life.
Her refuge possesses myriad of characteristics that call out to her such as educational art programs, science fiction exhibits, and collaborative programs that utilize voices of artists from the community as well as professionals such as a talk that featured Tony Ayala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
In making the decision to leave the organization that she helped launch, Foster thought about would be different in her new position at SECCA, where she put in her first day on the job on Monday.
“As director of development,” Foster said. “I’ll be friend-raising and fundraising. Both are fun for me.”
While the roles of building relations and raising money for SECCA will contrast greatly in comparison with the “24 jobs” she jokingly admits to having at New Winston Museum, she is excited about her new job.
There are many things she will miss about New Winston Museum.
“I will miss the people at NWM,” Foster said. “I’ll miss the people that would stop in and share their story of life in Winston-Salem. I loved my staff, Chris Jordan and Alanna Meltzer-Holderfield.”
At the same time Foster feels that this is the opportune moment for new leadership to step into her shoes with a fresh pair of eyes at New Winston Museum.
Foster’s transition should not be considered a loss. Despite the change of venue and shift in responsibilities, one thing will remain constant — her responsibility to preserve and share the history of Winston-Salem, the town she has come to love.