Shemai Kamala Rodriguez is the Manager of Marketing, Media and Memberships, at The Harwood Museum of Art.
Shemai is someone I am quite familiar with. Her mother is a dear friend and a mentor of mine. Shemai brings her own deep New Mexican roots and incredible professionalism to her position at the museum. She kindly answered a few questions for me.
1) You grew up here in Taos, can you tell us little about yourself?
My family has been in Taos for a many generations. I have very deep roots here. When I was a child Taos was a very sleepy little village. There were still horse and wagons going down the main drag. I remember when the only street light was the blinking light at the plaza. I grew up in Arroyo Seco. I went to college at the College of Santa Fe and UNM. I left Taos for nearly 20 years and returned full time about 4 years ago. Returning home has been such an amazing experience. It has been my great pleasure to fall in love with my home town all over again. Through my now mature eyes I have a much wiser appreciate of so many things about Taos, like the unique people that are drawn here.
2) Your mother (Anita Rodriguez), is one of the most dynamic Taosena’s around – an award winning (builder), artist, writer and political activist. what was it like having such a powerful woman as a parent?
Mom is a special person in so many ways. Her strength is one of the many things I really respect and love about her. She taught me to have the courage to stick to my principles regardless of the approval of others. She taught me to be proud but humble, strong but sensitive, to live with kindness for all things. She also made sure that I was raised fully integrated into all three of our local cultures, which has been one of the greatest gifts in my life; being able to move from one culture to another smoothly has widened my horizons immeasurably.
3) You left Taos in your twenties for California (where your father was from), yet you returned, can you tell us what brought you back, and a little about your time away?
I came back because mom had moved back and I also fell in love with a local man with whom I am still very happy. Suddenly everyone I really cared about was in Taos. So I quit my job, said goodbye to my friends and moved home. I was fortunate during my time away. I lived in Europe including Venice and London. I ended up in Santa Barbara, California for a number of years where I enjoyed time as a fashion stylist and then 5 years in a high standard, high pressure corporate job that really polished my professional skills.
4) You are now in a position of decision making at the Harwood Museum, quite an accomplishment, yet not too surprising considering your personal history – your grandmother was an artist who came here from Texas, your aunt, an academic (who once resided in the complex), and your mother, as we have noted, is in a league of her own – how does it feel to be where you are now?
It feels like a dream come true, because it is. When I returned to Taos there was one organization that I really wanted to work for, the Harwood. All through my childhood I spent many hours here immersed in countless adventures in the wonderful books at the Harwood library. Then to return as an adult and learn how beautifully the Harwood has developed and the access to creative thought that they provide to the community was an inspiration. It’s a lot of hard work, as I imagine it is for all of the not for profit organizations in our community. But as I sit at my desk I get to hear the laughter of the school kids downstairs, or I can go stroll through the galleries and absorb the art. It really is my dream job.
5) How do you see the Harwood reflecting the community (in all of its cross cultural dynamism), in the future?
I am so proud of the vision and dedication of both the staff and leadership of the Harwood to provide value to all members of the Taos community. Many staff meetings have left me deeply moved and inspired by the ideals of community service that are demonstrated here daily. From our art education programs which largely engage underprivileged children of color, to our high end art auctions held at beautiful hotels, from our dedicated and hardworking board members to the wonderful woman who takes such pride in keeping our floors shining, every person at the Harwood has one purpose now and in the future. We want all kinds of people to visit us and we want them all to leave inspired.
For more information about The Harwood, please visit their site linked below this post.
All images – paintings, statuettes, nichos – by Anita Otilla Rodriguez, from The Harwood Museum’s Art On Tap event, c/o The Harwood Museum of Art.