Meet Jackie Feldman: Zygote’s New Executive Director
Interview by Zygote Press Senior Program Manager Brittany M. Hudak
Jackie Feldman joined the team at Zygote Press in February 2021. Before working at Zygote, most of her professional career was focused on bringing services to low income and marginalized communities through local organizations such as the Jewish Community Center, Council Gardens, and Cuyahoga Community College. In the short time that she has been in her role as executive director, Jackie has already made a huge impact on the organization—she guided us through reopening, helped us to launch the pilot program of a new Residency for Artists of Color, resumed the work on our strategic plan, to name only a few of the things she has accomplished. I asked her about her commitment to implementing policies and practices that empower a just, inclusive, and equitable environment within our organization, and what Zygote has planned for the future.
BMH: As a champion of equity in the arts, how will Zygote build new relationships and pathways for the multitude of voices represented in the local and broader communities we serve?
JF: My instinct tells me that, to create a space for voices, all you have to do is listen. Zygote’s founders, Liz Maugans and Bellamy Printz, established Zygote 25 years ago as a welcoming and inclusive space, and for decades, Zygote has been making room for artists in our community and from around the world. So, it would be easy for me to say we’ve been here, listening, welcoming, but, of course, we all know it’s more complicated than that.
When I give myself permission to slow down and think about what it means to be inclusive, to truly embrace the vast expanse of diverse artistic possibilities, I keep coming back to the individual. I want to have conversations with people to get to know them and what is driving their artistic expression. I want to stand outside on Zygote’s loading dock, sipping coffee with one of our artists in residence, and listen to her tell me about her family, and the difficulty of the choices that led to her artistic practice, not in a straight shot, but in a journey of trials and errors. In that moment, I want to be swept up in a storm of ideas about how she and I can work together to build a better world. I want to make a call to a Black artist who is reticent about applying to one of our programs, and listen to them tell me why, and hear the pain and anger and frustration in their voice, and let their emotions permeate me. I want to apologize to them, and determine a way to move forward with them.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that relationships are built by people. Good relationships take time and effort and a desire to know one another. Zygote was built by incredible, dedicated people. I’m honored beyond words to carry on their mission, and I plan to do that by being present, by making sure that Zygote continues to serve artists decades into the future, by greeting people at the door and offering them my hand and my time.
BMH: As Zygote has been celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, how do you envision the next 25?
JF: I don’t pretend to be the kind of visionary who can see 25 years into the future. But I do have aspirations and plans for the next few years. As Zygote begins the second phase of our strategic planning work, the most urgent question we’ll be addressing is building equity, both within the organization and in the community we serve. Beyond that, I am looking forward to forming a network of partnerships with fellow arts organizations that strengthen all of us, and to building an expanded artistic space where all people can discover and realize their artistic dreams. Right now, we are thrilled about some upcoming projects with Case Western Reserve University, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Heights Libraries, MetroHealth Hospitals, CAN Triennial, and the Mid America Print Council, to name a few. I should also say how grateful we are to have the continued support of Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, Ohio Arts Council, The Cleveland Foundation, The George Gund Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the countless wonderful, generous individuals who make Zygote an exceptional fine art printmaking studio and so much more, year after year.
The message I have for anyone who considers themselves a creative spirit is this: stop in to Zygote for a look and a conversation, stay to make art with friends. You just might find yourself still growing with us in 25 years.
ZYGOTE ARTISTS SHOWCASE AT METROHEALTH CLEVELAND | OCTOBER 15–DECEMBER 30
OFF THE WALL MEMBERS SHOWCASE | DECEMBER 3–TBD
OPENING RECEPTION: 5-8PM FRIDAY, DECEMBER 3
LETTERPRESS BASICS, SETTING TYPE WITH WENDY PARTRIDGE
10AM-1:30PM SATURDAYS, OCTOBER 16, 23, & 30
TWO-DAY RELIEF WORKSHOP INTENSIVE WITH ARRON FOSTER
11AM-3PM SATURDAY & SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 6 & 7
1410 East 30th Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44114