Building Community Is My Livelihood
Making Meaning: Heather’s Story
These things inspire me: Thomas Jefferson’s design for the Rotunda at the University of Virginia, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s sculpture “Torn Notebook” on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Willa Cather’s brilliant novel of loss and survival on the Great Plains, My Antonia. Architecture, art, history, and literature all make meaning in our lives. Whether we know it or not, whether we recognize it or not, they frame our outlook and inform our understanding of the world around us.
I think these works and others like them are so important because they help us relate to one another, to our history, and to our future. As a fourteen year old growing up in Connecticut, at my mother’s suggestion, I read My Antonia, and never forgot Cather’s descriptions of the people and landscape of the Plains. I did not know then that I too would migrate to Nebraska many years later, but Cather’s story captured my imagination. One image stood out for me then and still does today: the blue vastness of the sky and the exhilarating openness of the prairie. Today, the story of Cather’s Nebraska is still being discovered, re-written, and re-imagined, as Cather documents and letters are being made public and published.
I have spent my professional career building up organizations that make the arts and humanities come alive in our communities. Raising funds to support these organizations and to help build our communities is fulfilling and important work. So, my livelihood is fundraising and my passion is the arts and humanities. Supporting the arts and humanities makes the world a better place for us, for our children, and for those who come after us.
Heather Thomas is the Director of Development for Humanities Nebraska. She works with board members and others to raise funds to support HN’s statewide programs. Heather graduated from Trinity College (Hartford, CT) with an interdisciplinary major in Russian studies. She was the membership coordinator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and spent 10 years in development at the University of Virginia, as director of development for the University’s School of Architecture and director of development for Historic Preservation. She currently serves as a trustee of the Sheldon Art Association.