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Studio Magazine

Studio Check In With Destinee Forbes

Ilk Yasha

Destinee, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Could you please start by telling the readers about your position at the institution?

My name is Destinee Forbes, and I am Marketing Coordinator at The Studio Museum in Harlem. I manage our social media platform and send out our weekly newsletter, Studio Notes.

Given that your work has always been anchored in the digital space, how do you set boundaries in this moment, when digital is now the primary mode of communication and interaction? 

That is a great question—I don't think I do! Setting boundaries is definitely something I find challenging when it comes to staying "offline." At the start of quarantine, I was not great about it, but I've improved. I try to closely monitor my time on different social platforms. It's all about breaking apart the day and time management. 

What work are you most proud of in your current position? 

I am coming up on a year at the organization, and I have to say that I'm really proud that each quarter we are increasing our engagement rates and follower counts across all of our social media platforms. On Instagram alone, we've increased our follower count by sixteen percent. That equates to around 16,000 new followers since I started—that is so exciting to me! That means more people are learning about the history and mission of the Museum while engaging with our exciting programmatic offerings, our incredible network of artists, and our community partners in Harlem and beyond.  

I love having the opportunity to engage directly with our digital audience members. I find it so special when people comment on one of our posts featuring artwork by an artist in our collection, or by one of our artists in residence, and they express that they weren't familiar with their practice but commit to learning more about the artist's work. It's beautiful to see how the work that everyone at the institution is doing across departments is touching so many people. These comments, reactions, and likes are the ripple effects of our collective commitment to amplifying and telling and showing the story of artwork by artists of African descent.    

Before coming to the Studio Museum, you were at another amazing arts organization based uptown—special shout out to The Laundromat Project—so you've been in the neighborhood for a few years now. What does Harlem mean to you? 

It means dreaming, daring to dream, dreaming loudly, and I mean that in the most active way possible—dreaming unapologetically, just taking up space, as a practice of liberation and love. I love Harlem, and I love working in Harlem. Also, LP Fam for life!

I am so indebted to The Laundromat Project, my many mentors there, and to Harlem—it is the site of my becoming a professional in the arts sector and a storyteller. It is humbling to be able to share that sentiment with so many others who also work in the arts.  

Do you have a writing or creative practice outside of your specific communications work at the Studio Museum? 

I have a budding one, definitely. It's something I am trying to find time to work on. I am very interested in ideas of intimacy—exploring the romantic and platonic—and I'm kind of obsessed with love letters in composition and form. 

I like to think that we all daydream and let our minds wander from time to time. Where does your mind go when you're taking a break from your physical reality? Is it a place or an idea that you return to often? 

Oh wow, I am a Type 4 if you are into Enneagram typology, it's the "hopeless/tragic romantic" type, which totally makes sense since I just talked about love letters! I am always thinking about the past, pop culture, and generally just over-romanticizing everyday life. Recently, I've been thinking a lot about Shia LaBeouf, the resurgence of Robert Pattison, and whether or not I'm leading with love or with fear. 

Is there something you learned or experienced in your schooling that you still think about? Maybe a particular memory, book, or professor, that remains with you till today?

My first mentor and idol in the art world was my undergraduate academic and thesis advisor, Rosalyn Deutsche. Her work as an art historian and art critic focuses on art and the public sphere, feminism and postmodernism, and theories of subjectivity as it relates to art and visual culture.  

Having her as a professor at the beginning of my art historical career was so amazing, it's almost hard to put into the right words. It was in her classes that I first experienced that feeling of learning and unlearning at the same time. It was just wild; it felt like stars exploding.

What is a community you're a part of that isn't obvious? 

My family is from Puerto Rico and Nicaragua, so being a part of the Afro-Latinx community is something I am so proud of! Marc Anthony, La India, and El Gran Combo are a part of the soundtrack of my life! 

Thank you for sharing. It sounds like you're very much born into understanding multiple identities. 

Yes! I really believe it is so important to think of identity fluidly and expansively. Thinking back to my role at the Museum, it is imperative to keep this type of thinking to heart as it is such a vulnerable thing for someone to entrust you to tell their story. That is why, when I am working with a new artist, creative, or cultural producer, I make it a point to clearly state my professional intentions, and give them space to define their intentions or goals for having their story out in the world. 

Once I have this context and understanding, it becomes quite playful as I, alongside the entire Communications department, get to think through ways to effectively show and tell someone's story in a way that is unique and true to who they are. 

Destinee, thank you so much for your work and your time!

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