Go With Your Gut: Anita Braham Adds Heart to Arts Engagement
People naturally gravitate towards Anita Braham's confidence and energy, perhaps even feel intimidated by her command of the room, her effortless, expert juggling of work, social life, and salubrious hobbies. Her passions are numerous: world traveler, gourmand, devoted friend, and community leader, just to name a few.
Anita sees life as art and works tirelessly to give others the opportunity to engage and connect. As Associate Director of Adult Programs and Audience Engagement at Pérez Art Museum Miami, Anita creates intriguing programming and narratives around artwork that unite the community, around Miami and beyond.
All biases aside (we're very close) Anita Braham is as hardworking, passionate, and kindhearted as they come, which made her an obvious choice for our Go With Your Gut feature, a series in which we intro our readers to badass women taking life by the you-know-what to inspire them to do the same. She shares her story with us here.
What do you do?
I am an avid traveler (when there's not a pandemic), a foodie, a friend to many, a sometimes-babysitter, but mostly I am an arts professional. I am the Associate Director of Adult Programs and Audience Engagement at Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) full time and am a curatorial fellow at Bakehouse Art Complex through mid-September 2020.
My role at PAMM involves a lot of brainstorming, organizing, and coordinating of artists, curators, scholars, performers, volunteers to create a robust calendar of programming and public tours that is representative of the greater Miami community. It keeps me constantly busy, but the reward of creating meaningful programming
for so many far outweighs the stress and the load of emails.
Started from the bottom now you’re here. Tell us your PAMM origin story!
I graduated from University of Florida (go Gators!) in May 2014 with a BA in Art History and then moved back home to look for a job. I worked at the Adrienne Arsht Center and Equinox gym until I scored an interview at PAMM to be a Visitor Services Associate. I got the job and worked as a Visitor Services Associate for my first three months at the museum before transitioning to working as the Education Assistant part time.
At the time I did not know education/programming was my calling, but I quickly came to love supporting the department and connecting with artists to make their art accessible to many. I was promoted to a full time position as Education Coordinator in May 2015 to take on additional responsibilities and then was promoted again to Manager of Adult Programs and Community Partnerships just under a year later.
As Manager of Adult Programs and Community Partnerships I added the management of a Knight Foundation funded program PAMM Inside Out to my workload and got busy installing replicas of works from PAMM's permanent collection in communities throughout Miami-Dade County, while still coordinating all adult programs. In March 2019, after 3 years of hard work, I was promoted to Associate Director of Adult Programs and Audience Engagement, adding the oversight of our Docent program and public tours.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed what my work looks like and unfortunately shrunk my team, but I am eagerly awaiting a September return to the museum to reunite with friends and to get back to in-person work and the art that I miss very much.
Have you always been passionate about art/content/lectures/engagement, etc.?
I can't say that I was always passionate about art and engagement, but I think that passion was ignited by my seriously amazing AP Art History teacher Mrs. Caffola-Ostheim in 11th grade who made Art History really engaging, interesting, and manageable. Admittedly I went into college as a Business major and came out as an Art History major because I'm horrible at math and really liked learning and writing about art. Fast forward six years post college graduation and I've realized how privileged I am to have studied Art History (thanks for not killing me Mom) and am passionate about finding ways to make arts and arts professions accessible to all.
How do you interest someone who has never had significant (or any) exposure to/connection with art? How do you get their attention?
I think the best way to provide a connection to art is to find its place in everyday life, highlight the story of how it got here and who contributed to its journey. If you create a narrative around the art and share that with your audience I firmly believe most people would be intrigued. Art also takes many forms—music, dance, film, your cereal bowl—so most of the time it is providing people the opportunity to realize how art plays a role in their life rather than forcing it into their life.
How do you successfully keep people excited about art?
I guess that's the harder part and I don't really think there is only one answer. To maintain interest you have to stay relevant and provide time and space to be responsive to current events. You also can't create art or arts programming in a vacuum. I try to get input from friends and key community members on what people want to spend time discussing and find ways to connect that to art.
How have you evolved this position over time? How has the position evolved you?
My position has evolved to allow more room for input on museum programming and artists we invite to speak over the past year, and has really become something I'm proud of. Along the way I've gathered six years of institutional knowledge and a detailed map of PAMM's intricate elevator system in my brain, something I am realizing less millennials stick around to do.
It has evolved me by making me into an art-focused workaholic, in the best way possible, and has really opened my eyes to how art can serve as a meeting place for so many.
How does the work you do engage with the local community?
The work I do focuses on community engagement at most times. I am constantly thinking of ways to create new offerings to reach communities we aren't yet reaching, especially for PAMM Free Community Night, our monthly program offered entirely free to all. It is really rewarding to work with a community partner to create a focused program or event and then really see that community show up and know it was made for them.
There is no better feeling than all of those warm and fuzzy Friday morning, post-program emails from community partners! My work on PAMM Inside Out has allowed the museum to engage the local community from the furthest ends of Miami by bringing our art to them, to enjoy in spaces they know.
What’s one moment in your role that tested you? Or a moment when you totally nailed it? Let’s reminisce.
In thinking about Christo's recent passing I find myself reminiscing about the most massive art talk I have ever had a part in coordinating. It was challenging to plan and get all of the parts to line up—book signing, fitting 3,000 people on PAMM's terrace, getting a last minute LED screen set up. It was hard work, but it was worth every worried email, text, radio to a friend, to hear the world-renowned Christo speak about his public works, Miami's Surrounded Islands, and his beloved Jeanne-Claude.
Frankly, I don’t know how you make time for everyone and everything—personal life, professional, travel. Can you share your secrets?
Take each day as it comes, make crazy paper to-do lists and leave them all over the house, and apologize when you're late to follow up with a friend or an email. Squeeze travel into every single nook and cranny and make time for yourself too! Invite your friends to things in your professional life that might interest them, so that you can double up on your use of time. Sounds rude, but I promise it works.
You have the pleasure and flexibility to travel during the summer. How has traveling fueled your passion for the arts?
Art is everywhere and I love seeing it in other places—it's what inspires me to get back to the work grind when I return home. I've learned how privileged I am to have started traveling with my parents at a young age because that's what granted me open-mindedness in my personal life and work.
What/who is among your favorite artworks/artists?
Wow that is tough! I would say among my favorites are most Impressionist works. Cliche, but it's where my love of art started. I selfishly really love photography works because photography is the only art format I've seriously dabbled in myself. Now my favorite artists include Ana Samoylova, Adler Guerrier, Najja Moon, GeoVanna Gonzalez, Morel Doucet, Xavier Lujan, and so so many more. How have recent events—COVID, protests, general sociopolitical upheaval—changed the way you operate in your position?
Covid, protests, and the Black Lives Matter movement have entirely shifted how I operate daily and how the museum approaches programming. I've been spending more time reflecting on how to be a better ally to BIPOC and on challenging problematic views and statements within my immediate circle. I spend my few free hours talking to friends about how I might be able to help amplify their voice and have been protesting, both physically and on social media. We all need to do better and I'm starting with myself and working my way out from there. Also, everyone must vote this November if we want to move in the right direction.
COVID-19, while horrific, has helped push all PAMM programming into a virtual space this Fall, and much of this live digital programming has helped us double our audience size. It will make for a very new and different museum experience when we return, but is ultimately easing us into the digital age and has been a much needed shove.
What’s something bringing you positivity and joy right now?
This project is bringing me serious joy because it is offering $100 prints by amazing Miami-based photographers to support the Lotus House, the Miami Diaper Bank, and the Magnolia Birth House—three Miami-based nonprofits that support vulnerable women and children who are at especially high risk due to Covid-19.
Also: EATING (and drinking wine) with my quaranteam! Supporting local businesses and taking food pictures really brings me joy. Getting outside more is doing wonders too.
What’s a book/pod/movie/series you recommend that’s relevant right now?
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is the most recent book I've read that really made me feel and think hard and is an important read for everyone. I've also been binging Better Things on Hulu.
How have you successfully negotiated your salary so many times? KIDDING!
LOL I'm afraid I cannot divulge this, but LADIES, always, always ask for more money and know your worth (hint: add $5k to whatever you think that is). Promo time! Let us know about some upcoming cool events you’ve got going on.
Check out The Wave, our upcoming Scholl Lecture with Stretch Armstrong, and our Live Virtual Local Views featuring a different Miami-based artist every Thursday—all at pamm.org. Also check out what I'm eating at @unitaeat!