Over the summer, the ArtsMemphis Board welcomed Lucy Lee as its new Board Chairman. Lucy is the perfect person to serve as Board Chair at this pivotal time in ArtsMemphis' history. As a longtime supporter and patron of the arts, she has a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities that all arts groups face. She also has an abiding commitment to the mission of ArtsMemphis—having served on the Board since 2008, most recently as Vice Chair.
Lucy grew up in Fayette County, TN, and she first got to know Memphis as an undergraduate at Southwestern College (now Rhodes). From there, she went on to earn a Masters in Counseling from the University of Tennessee.
At age 23, she was hired by Memphis College of Art’s President, acclaimed sculptor Ted Rust, to be the Director of Admissions. In that position, she came to know and love many of the renowned Memphis artists who were teaching there at the time, such as Burton Callicot, Henry Easterwood, Dorothy Sturm, and Veda Reed—and the students like Wayne Edge, Karen Blockman, Nancy Cheairs, and Carroll Todd. “It was a wonderful time to be at the College—it truly expanded my world," Lucy says. "I started collecting art and learning about it. I spent a lot of time with artists and those people in the community who were involved in the arts. I believe the strength of the visual arts in Memphis is because of the College of Art’s presence here and the artists it has produced."
Even as the arts community made an impact on Lucy; Lucy made an impact on the arts community, beginning with her work at the College of Art. In that role, she became involved with the National Association of Schools of Art and spearheaded several major initiatives, including the school's participation in National Portfolio Days, which continues to this day, attracting admissions officers and high school students from across the country. Lucy’s leadership broadened the base of students for the College; at the end of her tenure, MCA’s enrollment was over 280 students.
She retired from MCA in 1981 to raise her sons, Judson and Battle Williford. But she continued to be involved in arts events around town, and that brought her to the attention of philanthropist and art collector, Downing Pryor, whom she had known in his role on the Board of Trustees of the College. It was Pryor who invited Lucy to join the Board of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. She consulted Ted Rust about whether she was qualified to serve on the board. He told her that nonprofit Board Members could either give lots of money or work hard. At age 31, when she threw herself into Board service at the Brooks, she knew she could work hard. And that’s what she did: during her nine years of service on the Brooks Board, Lucy honed her skills as a fundraiser and launched the wildly successful Brooks Gala. She followed up her term on the Brooks Board with nine years of valuable service on the MCA Board.
Lucy and her husband, Tom, have been supporters and friends of ArtsMemphis for decades. In 2006, thanks to former CEO Susan Schadt, Lucy became more involved. After talking with Susan about the need to cultivate younger arts supporters, Lucy agreed to host an innovative fundraiser called Artafactor, which became one of ArtsMemphis' most popular and valuable event series.
The entire Board and staff of ArtsMemphis are thrilled to have someone with Lucy's passion for the arts, along with her fundraising talents, serving as Chair. "Lucy has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for ArtsMemphis over the years," says President and CEO Elizabeth Rouse. "And she is a tireless advocate for the local arts community in so many different ways."
Lucy takes over as Chair from Bruce B. Hopkins (First Tennessee Bank), who had served in that role since 2014. Succeeding Lucy as Vice Chair is Pat Danehy (New South Asset Management), who formerly served as Treasurer – a role now occupied by Jon Moorehead (Deloitte).
"Artists and arts organizations are playing a vital role for the city of Memphis right now, striving to reach all of our communities," says Lucy. “I want the arts to be available to every child in this city, because I truly believe that the arts can change one's life. That's why I'm honored to have the opportunity to serve this wonderful organization and the arts groups of the city of Memphis."
The next time you see Lucy at an arts event, be sure to say hello and congratulate her on this exciting new role as Chair of the ArtsMemphis Board!
Click here for a complete list of our current Board Members