As a self-proclaimed museum geek, someone who collects coffee mugs and magnets from the museums that she visits, it's little wonder that Deidre McPherson found a career that matches her passion. Since just after MOCA Cleveland opened its beautiful new home on Euclid Avenue in the Uptown neighborhood, McPherson has served as the organization's curator of public programs, engaging the public through thoughtful programs and workshops that supplement the exhibitions that dot the galleries.
"I develop and execute exhibition-related programs, performance-based experiences and culturally relevant social activities for adult audiences," she says. But what does that actually mean, in layman's terms? "I spend time learning about what ideas, events and experiences are trending and what we can bring to MOCA that's innovative, collaborative, participatory, interdisciplinary and embodies our brand. On a given day, I'm managing the details of a program from booking performers, corresponding with organizational partners and working internally across departments to make sure programs are carried out smoothly."
A proud alum of Cleveland Heights High School, McPherson jumped at the chance to come back to Cleveland after studying violin on a full scholarship at Miami University in Ohio and bouncing around the United States (including the University of Maryland for her MBA, Boston and northern Virginia).
And the bat signal to return home came in the form of a position in the marketing department of the Cleveland Orchestra.
"Every time I came home to visit family, I realized I missed them and wanted to live near them again," she remembers. "When I met up with friends who were living here, they showed me a Cleveland that I didn't know growing up, a Cleveland that was fun, yet affordable. I was tired of living in the expensive D.C. area, and started to recognize I could have a quality life here in Cleveland. I have deep roots here: family, friends, networking opportunities and a love for how Cleveland has bounced back and reinvested in itself over the last 10 to 15 years."
McPherson wasn't done putting her imprint on the city she loved so much.
Four years ago, she founded the Cleveland chapter of Sistah Sinema, a monthly film series focusing on the stories of LGBT women of all minority groups. Since 2012, Sistah Sinema has screened dozens of dramas, comedies and documentaries. The screenings take place at nonprofit arts venues such as Spaces, Waterloo Arts and, of course, MOCA.
"Sistah Sinema was founded in 2011 in Seattle, as a monthly film and dialogue event for queer women of color. After hearing about the events, I began talks with the founder about bringing a chapter to Cleveland. I was interested in connecting with queer women locally and interested in using film as a way to create dialogue around our unique challenges and opportunities. Events provide a much needed space for attendees to gather safely and have their voices expressed, heard, and supported. It's pretty rare to go to a film and see a queer woman of color as a character, much less the lead character. Growing up, seeing The Women of Brewster Place, The Color Purple, or Watermelon Woman were the only onscreen images of queer women that I ever knew, and it's important for all people to see themselves represented in mainstream media."
Needless to say, the museum geek has become an indispensable member of the Cleveland arts community; for that we say welcome back, and please don't leave again.