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Meet Tammy Meinershagen of Frisco Association for the Arts

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tammy Meinershagen.

Tammy, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was first introduced to music as a young child after attending a Chicago Symphony Orchestra performance with my parents. After the concert, I was determined to play the violin, so I created one out of a Kleenex box, ruler, rubber band strings, and a chopstick bow. Eventually my parents got me a real violin, and at age 5, I performed my first concert with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra in a front of a crowd full of 5,000 people. I absolutely loved the feeling of playing music for others and sharing something magical together, and I never wanted to stop.

Part of my love for music was also the fact that it meant more than just the beautiful sound; it was my first language. As a child of South Korean immigrant parents in Rockford, IL, I didn’t speak a word of English before I began school. The violin was essentially my voice, my way of communicating even though no one could understand me verbally.

I also began learning to play the piano, and eventually went on to pursue a Bachelors in Piano Performance with a double degree in English Education at Northwestern University. I met my husband Todd in college, and we moved to Frisco in 2004.

At that time, Frisco was much smaller and there were very few arts options locally; no museums, concert venues, or a thriving arts community. However, it was clear that there was a big presence of sports, as our city was on its way to becoming “The Best Place to Raise an Athlete.” As a professional musician and teacher, I felt a bit like a fish out of water in Frisco, and I wanted to help our city become more well-rounded.

I began serving in many capacities regarding arts and culture, as PR/Marketing Chair of the Texas Music Teachers Association, Diversity Chair for the Frisco Council of PTA, a Board member of Frisco Public Art and Frisco Association for the Arts. After meeting Councilman Jeff Cheney (now Frisco Mayor) in 2009, I was eventually appointed to the 2015 Citizen Bond Committee to represent the arts. It was there that I spearheaded a successful bond initiative of $10 million in bonds for a performing arts center in Frisco.

I currently serve as Executive Director of Frisco Arts, the city’s official arts advocacy agency. I love empowering our arts community, giving our citizens a taste of the arts, and being a change agent for the arts in Frisco. My work in Frisco will not be done until we become a destination for the arts, and a welcoming place for our arts community to live, work, play, and grow.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Advocating for the arts in a primarily sports-driven town is not easy. People have called the arts merely “fluff”, a “hobby”, and devalued professionals in our industry. It’s not fun to hear others speak about you or your passion in a negative way. It’s certainly hard to witness children feeling like there’s more celebration of student athletes than student artists, and I felt helpless to offer answers to parents tired of driving out of Frisco for their children’s performances or other arts experiences. There were many times where I felt like my voice didn’t matter, the mountain was too big, and trying to change the conversation of the arts in Frisco was not worth the fight. However, like any musician or artist, I just couldn’t walk away in the middle of the work, or the practice session. Yes, there were difficult passages to get through, but I needed to keep at it and not give up, because I knew the end result would be beautiful.

One of the many lessons I’ve learned through my musical training is that no matter how long it takes, if you keep practicing, there is positive change. So it’s taken a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to advocate for the arts in our city, but Frisco is now experiencing what I call a “creative revolution”, where there is more momentum regarding the arts than I’ve seen in 13 years. There is fresh energy from people who have moved here from all over the country and even the world, looking for arts and culture experiences, not just for themselves but for their families. We’ve seen a growth in all the arts organizations and businesses, and the creative sector in Frisco is multiplying rapidly. It’s an exciting time for artists, arts enthusiasts, and young artists in Frisco; the public is beginning to see the value of the arts not just individually but for the collective whole, that it is an economic driver, a tourism magnet, and most importantly, the unique heart and soul of any great city. We haven’t arrived yet at being a destination for the arts, but I can see it more clearly in our future!

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Frisco Association for the Arts (Frisco Arts) – what should we know?
As a nonprofit 501(c) 3, Frisco Association for the Arts (Frisco Arts) is all about making a collective impact through the arts with our diverse membership of advocates. Advocacy means creating opportunities to showcase our local artists, giving them a chance to be seen and heard. Whether it’s our monthly Ladies Who Launch program (connecting women in arts and business), the Red Carpet Concerts (bringing world-class music to Frisco in unique venues), our Frisco Arts Youth Council (training young artists to become advocates), Scholarship Program ($50,000+ in scholarships given to date), or citywide Frisco Arts Walk and Run (showcasing all forms of art at HALL Park), Frisco Arts is committed to supporting our creative community, no matter what age, race, or socio-economic background. People say that we have the most diverse membership in Frisco, and that’s one of the things that really sets Frisco Arts apart. The arts has the power to unify and strengthen a community, and we reflect that in all that we do. The arts are for everyone, and it makes our community stronger.

Frisco Arts is also known for our fresh, innovative programs and partnerships, uniquely combining the arts with different sectors. There is an art to everything, whether it’s food, cars, social networking, sports, business, fashion, even animals . . . you name it! We have worked with over 75 local businesses to highlight various aspects of our arts community in their spaces, from pop-up art exhibits, networking nights, live music showcases, and more. Through our special events and partnerships, we show that the arts are an economic driver, bringing great value to business. We are proud to be recognized for our community partnerships as the recipient of the 2018 Spirit of Collaboration Award by the Junior League of Collin County and a finalist for 2017 Best Nonprofit of the Year by the Frisco Chamber of Commerce.

Just recently, I was asked by Joe Trahan, Sportscaster for WFAA Ch. 8, to collaborate on a video that would be broadcast before the 2018 NFL Draft. He asked me to bring my violin to the Star practice facility, and I performed right there on the 50 yard line in my concert black dress. The video was about the “Art and Science of the NFL Draft”, with scenes of Jerry Jones, Coach Jason Garrett, and the Cowboys in the draft room juxtaposed to me playing violin on the field. The fact that this project literally put arts on the same playing field as sports was a true breakthrough and milestone in Frisco, something that was almost unthinkable just a few years ago! It was a game changer for the arts, and we hope to continue being a creative catalyst that brings a positive impact in our community through the arts.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Without all our arts advocates and members, volunteers, Board of Directors, Frisco Arts Ambassadors, Frisco Arts Youth Council Advisory Council, and community partners, Frisco Arts would not have the engine it needs to keep moving forward and making an impact. The arts needs champions, and it is so wonderful to find people who care about the arts in our city. Our city owes a large debt of gratitude especially to arts philanthropist and entrepreneur Craig Hall, who invested in Frisco over 20 years ago with his vision and collection of art at HALL Park. At a time when Frisco was just fields and pastures, Mr. Hall believed that the arts should be an integral part of developing for Frisco’s future. The impact he has made in our community with establishing the Texas Sculpture Garden and over 200+ pieces of art at HALL Park led to the birth of our robust Public Art program. Frisco now has an impressive collection of art because of Mr. Hall’s model of reserving a percentage of new projects towards art for the public to enjoy. We also look forward to fulfilling the dream that he and many others have had in our city, which is to build a performing arts center, a true home for the arts in Frisco.

I also am thankful for personal mentors like former Frisco Mayor Kathy Seei, who has helped me navigate the complexities of being a woman in leadership, past Presidents Amy Hardin and Linda Pardue for their support, advice, and encouragement, and most importantly- my mom. Though I received the 2017 Spirit of Frisco Award this year by the Chamber of Commerce, Jenny Suh is the true Spirit of Frisco and my biggest inspiration. As the leader of a major nonprofit in Chicago, IL, she has always been my biggest cheerleader, and it’s through her example of giving 100%, never giving up, and holding fast to the principle that it is better to give than to receive that I have become who I am today.


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