Tammy Meinershagen is the executive director of Frisco Arts, a nonprofit that works to promote the arts in Frisco. We spoke with Tammy about her path to the nonprofit world, her own experience as an artist, and her advice for aspiring women in business.
Tammy is also one of the speakers at Local Profile’s 18th Annual Women in Business Summit on October 11. Click here to register and find out more!
How do you describe your role to a stranger?
My role as executive director of Frisco Arts is to lead the charge in helping “Sports City USA” become more well-rounded. Through our advocacy, outreach, and education programs, we make the arts visible and show its value to Frisco. I wear lots of different hats to accomplish this mission, including strategic planning, brand management, event coordinator, PR/communications director, creative fundraiser, and membership director. Our organization functions similarly to the chamber of commerce, but specifically for the arts; we connect artists to the community, providing support, resources, and unique opportunities. All my activities center around the goal of expanding Frisco to become “Arts City USA.”
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I had lots of dreams as a kid! I wanted to be a professional roller skater, an actress, a writer, and an interior decorator. I had no idea that I would become a nonprofit arts leader in Texas!
Tell us about the path that brought you to where you are.
My first experience in the arts was a Chicago Symphony orchestra concert when I was five years old. I was mesmerized by the violins and the beautiful sound that engulfed me, and I knew immediately that I wanted to be a violinist. I studied both piano and violin through high school and went on to receive my Piano Performance and English degrees at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. I met my husband at Northwestern, who was from Plano, TX. I remember telling him that over my dead body would I ever move to Texas, but we moved to Frisco in 2004! I learned to never say never.
Moving from Chicago to Frisco in 2004 was like coming from the mecca of arts and culture to the death of arts and culture. It was a very difficult transition for someone who was always looking for artistic experiences, not just for me, but also for my family. I got involved as a volunteer and an advocate of the arts when I was appointed by Mayor Jeff Cheney (then councilman) to the 2014 citizen bond committee, where I spearheaded a successful $10 million bond initiative for a performing arts center in Frisco. I didn’t know all the important people in the room at the time; I just knew I needed to speak up as a mom, teacher, musician, and a citizen of Frisco.
From that point forward, I became known as a champion for the arts, and soon accepted a position as executive director of Frisco Arts, the city’s arts advocacy agency.
Though a permanent home for the arts is a very important project for Frisco to become an arts destination, it’s equally critical to have a strong arts community of advocates, creators and consumers. Without an audience that values arts and culture, no facility for the arts will be successful. I enjoy bringing together arts enthusiasts of all ages, ethnicities, and sectors through Frisco Arts, building a stronger community with the arts. The arts community has become my family in Frisco, and it’s an honor to serve where I am most passionate. I can’t imagine doing anything else!
What work-related story do you like to tell at dinner parties?
I’m Korean, but clearly my German last name doesn’t give that away. I’ve been to countless coffee and lunch meetings where I arrive and people are expecting a tall, blonde woman. I finally started adding my picture to my email signature so people can recognize Tammy Meinershagen as a short, Asian lady!
What are some of your greatest strengths, as a leader and as a person, that have helped you get to where you are today?
One of my strengths is perseverance. As a musician, I’ve learned over and over the value of taking something from nothing to completion, and never giving up in between. Even if there are difficult passages that I want to avoid, I know that I need to work through them to get to the end result, which is always beautiful. I’m also proud to be an advocate; I’m not afraid to speak up for voices that sometimes get buried in the crowd. I’ve always felt that the arts community in Frisco needed a larger presence and a seat at the table, and rather than waiting for someone else to do it, I just dove in to be the change I wanted. We are now seeing incredible growth, momentum, and a creative revolution for the arts in Frisco, and I’m proud to be part of it. And lastly, one of my strengths is that I am never satisfied with status quo. I’m always looking for ways to improve things, even if it’s something I started the year before. I don’t like to settle for “good enough” or rely on previous successes; I’m always asking myself, “What can we do to
step it up and make a bigger impact?” Innovation and creativity go hand-in-hand, so I love discussing new ideas, taking risks, and making bold steps to bring positive change.
What failure was your biggest learning experience?
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As a naturally trusting person, I usually take people’s words at face value, but I’ve learned by experience that I need to be more careful and discerning about who I let into my inner circle. There are many people who talk big but produce little, and some have ulterior motives. Neither is beneficial for you or your business. I’ve also learned that how someone treats another is more important than their resume. A person can have all the experience in the world, but if they are abrasive, manipulative, arrogant, or disrespectful, they’re going to be toxic to your organization. Part of leadership is protecting and preserving your culture, and I’ve learned not to delay when I’ve identified a problem. It will only get worse with time, not better. It’s not easy to have the tough conversations, but you’ll build a stronger foundation because of it.
As a leader, what are your core values? What are your beliefs? What is your leadership style?
My core values are Integrity, Compassion, and Excellence. My leadership style is to lead by example. Leadership is not about status; it’s about service. If I can’t do what I ask others to do, then why would they do it? I believe that the best leaders are humble, hungry, and the hardest workers in the room. Effective leaders treat everyone with respect, not catering to those with prestige and power, but truly caring about all people. They are known for their passion and their compassion, and they make it easy to follow their lead.
What’s your superpower?
I think my superpower is being able to maximize my time. The key for me is that no matter how busy the day was, I spend the last 10 minutes every night stretching my body, relaxing my mind, and intentionally breathing through yoga. We don’t realize how much stress manifests itself in our bodies, and it’s important to let it go each night to make room for inspiration. I believe that routinely emptying the negative and expecting the positive helps multiply minutes!
In what ways do you invest in your own self development?
I am a musician at the core, so I need to make sure that I spend time every week being creative and playing my piano. I’ve also made a recent commitment to travel to cultural meccas around the world to be rejuvenated, refreshed, and inspired. I attend conferences where I receive training from experts in the nonprofit arts sector, and I have incredible mentors who impart timely wisdom and give encouragement along the way.
What advantages (and disadvantages) do women in leadership have?
Women have an advantage because we are all superheroes! We juggle so much already, and we rarely recognize or celebrate how much we do to make the world go round. Having a woman step up into leadership is a natural progression, and there should be more of us in all positions of influence. One disadvantage is that because we’re all so darn beautiful, sometimes people only look at the packaging and not at our incredible skills or abilities.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Wherever you are, be 100% there.”- Jim Elliott, missionary and martyr to the Auca Indians. These words really struck me in college when I read them, because we live in a culture where constant interruptions and short attention spans are the norm. We have to fight against perpetual multi-tasking and addiction to our cell phones that cause us to be half listening to others when we’re with them. Though our schedules may be crazy and overwhelming, it’s important that wherever we are, we give the person in front of us our full attention, not allowing ourselves to be distracted by our to-do list or the next activity. This applies not just to business relationships, but with our families as well!
What advice do you have for fellow women in business?
Don’t give up on your dreams. When you start getting ankle-biters that try to bring you down or distract you, that just means you’re making progress. Don’t stoop to their level or be paralyzed by despair. Just kick them off with a smile and keep running towards your goal!
Looking 10 years into the future, what does the Frisco art scene look like?
In 10 years, I want to see Frisco have a world-class performing arts center, making it a destination for the arts! I want to find Broadway shows, community arts groups, workshops, concerts, fashion shows, poetry slams, art exhibitions, and more, all in my own backyard. I want the arts to be part of the fabric of Frisco and recognized as a welcoming place for professional and aspiring artists to live, work, play, and thrive. I’m looking forward to seeing this become a reality!
18TH ANNUAL WOMEN IN BUSINESS SUMMIT
Join Local Profile for our 18th Annual Women in Business Summit presented by Baylor Scott & White Health and learn how North Texas’ Wonder Women have been a driving force in their industries and what it takes to go above and beyond what is expected. Bringing together over 400 of the most respected women from global enterprises, non-profits, government and SMB businesses of the North Texas community—Local Profile’s Women in Business conference celebrates, unites and empowers DFW’s leading ladies.
Friday, October 11, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. at Renaissance Dallas at Plano Legacy West Hotel
Tickets from $99. Space is limited, click here to register now.