KT Chats with Elaine
April 20th, 2015
For her “Saving Cities” class at OSU, Katy interviewed Elaine about her childhood, education, career, and passion for the arts. As evident from this interview, Elaine is a fascinating and dedicated leader with a passion for creating empowerment in the arts though business literacy. Excerpts of the interview are included below…
Did you have access to the arts growing up?
“Yes tremendously! The arts have always played a significant role in my life. My family moved several times during my childhood, spending time in New Jersey, Missouri, and Texas. Despite the location, I always had access to the creative world. From my father’s love of music to my own practices of piano and ballet, art was highly integrated within our family life. A favorite childhood memory of mine is one of a kindergarten art contest where my pink paper mache swan (“Stacey”) took home Best in Show. I never forgot how I felt that moment: proud of myself and so supported by my community.”
Where did you attend college, and what was your major?
“I attended the University of Missouri-Columbia (fondly Mizzou) and in my short five years spent there, I obtained a two Bachelor’s of Science degrees, one in accounting and the second in business administration with a concentration in economics. I then obtained my Master’s degree in accounting, after which I became a certified public accountant specializing in taxes.
When selecting a major, I actually bounced around a lot. I changed from journalism to engineering to finally accounting. Ultimately I decided upon accounting because the subject appealed to my creative and scientific mind. Though these degrees provided me with a solid technical expertise, I soon learned the world of accounting was far too structured and rule based for my creative mind.”
Why did you choose a career in the arts?
“After school, I moved to New York City. I spent four years working ninety hours a week for Ernst & Young in M&A (the tax side). Over time I began experiencing the departure of several mentors whom I had grown close with and admired. It was then, I realized I wasn’t working for Ernst & Young because I loved the work, but because I loved the people. I began to pause and question why I was even there. So I started to volunteer for the Arts & Business Council of New York. My tax and accounting expertise was joyfully welcomed and I loved it. This safe space allowed me to connect with local non-profits and I realized just how valued my business expertise was in the artistic world. With this new sense of fulfillment, I began exploring different career options. Soon I received a position at The Juilliard School in its finance department, where I eventually became the Director of Financial Analysis.
How did you get to the position you are now?
“In 2007, I began working for Juilliard and greatly enjoyed this new creative atmosphere. But, 2008 proved to be a difficult time in the arts industry. I saw firsthand how devastating this economic crisis was on artistic organizations. Because of my expertise in business and desire to help art organizations, in 2009 I founded Minerva Financial Arts and began offering tax, budgeting, and planning services to these organizations at a helpful low rate.
Still working for Juilliard and running my business on the side, soon life changed forever when my husband received a job offer in Columbus, OH and together we decided to move. Soon I was hired by the Columbus College of Art & Design as the Department Head of their newly created Business and Entrepreneurship Department. And today, I enjoy teaching business classes to young artists at CCAD and growing my company. I couldn’t be happier.”
What opportunities and challenges did you face throughout your career?
“As for opportunities, I believe every email and phone call was an opportunity. I’m an optimist, and I really enjoy making human connections. And that’s exactly what I did. By making real, authentic connections through the years, I was able to reach my goals today.
When speaking to the various challenges in my career, I like to separate them into two categories. The first group includes allocating scare resources such as time and money, which has always been tricky for me. I’d like to think now, though, I have a better understanding of the balance between work and home. Long-term struggles are what I prefer to focus my time on. Being successful and nimble in an ever changing market has presented a life-long obstacle. Making Minerva Financial Arts and our programs relevant and desirable is my number one focus. I like to think of this issue not as a challenge, but as an opportunity.”
What is the value you derive from working in the arts?
“I am extremely excited to continue my work in the creative industry due to the value I receive from my career. This value fulfills me in so many delightful ways. Making a meaningful cultural contribution by empowering artists through Minerva’s teaching gives me immense value and a lasting contribution. I now more than ever look to the future with great optimism. I look forward to receiving and spreading great artistic value with a business twist.”