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Dawn McGee: Catalyst, Former Board Member, and People Mover

October 30, 2014

Our 2014 People Powered $10K Challenge kicks off on Monday, November 3rd. We got in touch with Dawn McGee, founding board member, Catalyst, who rocked the $10K Challenge last year. Read on to find out more!

 

You were a founding board member of The LP. Can you tell us how you first became connected with the organization?

I met Risë Wilson in Philadelphia soon after I graduated from college. At that time she had already begun nurturing the seeds of the idea that would later become The Laundromat Project. Several years later we bumped into each other in Brooklyn, which we had both made our home.

 

She was ready to build The LP—applying for an Echoing Green fellowship and looking to learn about laundromat operations. I connected her with my brother, an Echoing Green alumnus, and told her about a course I’d seen on laundromat operations at the Learning Annex. We stayed in touch as I began business school at NYU Stern and she prepared to make The LP a reality.

 

After becoming an Echoing Green fellow, one of the many things Risë focused on was raising money to support her vision. Stern had a social venture business plan competition with generous prizes for teams that included Stern students and alumni. I offered to help with an entry for The LP and that eventually led to Rise inviting me to join the founding board.

 

What attracted you to board service with The LP?

Joining the board was a no-brainer for me. I was in business school to pursue a career investing in social ventures and supporting social entrepreneurs. Rise was an ideal social entrepreneur to support—I knew she’d make her vision reality. Rise’s vision for sustainability through earned income also really resonated with me as a business-minded person.

 

What about The LP’s mission / vision resonated with you most?

There was a lot that I didn’t understand about The LP when I joined the board. I remember finding it amusing that I was on the board of an arts organization because, in many ways, I had more in common with the people Rise hoped to reach with The LP than with others on the board. I, too, thought of art as something that lived on a pedestal in fancy institutions where I didn’t feel I belonged: I, too, thought of art as something that others did, not something that was for me.

 

But I understood the mission well. I understood that the first step to creating change in one’s life is having the capacity to envision a different future for oneself. It was my father’s capacity to envision a future different from that of everyone he knew that had led to all of the opportunities I had had in my life.

 

In addition, my experience with athletics (I was a competitive athlete from middle school through college) had demonstrated to me how experiencing transformation in one aspect of my life made it such that I knew I could make change in other aspects of my life.

 

So, it made sense to me that similar results could be achieved through realizing a potential to make art, but this was an intellectual understanding until I began to see The LP’s programming in action. I think the thing I love most about my continued close relationship with The LP is how it continues to develop my understanding of art as a tool for individual and social change.

 

Has your involvement with TheLP changed your perspective on artmaking and creativity? In what way?

Absolutely! Before The LP, artmaking was something I thought should be reserved for a select group of Artists (note that capital A). My relationship with The LP and Risë taught me that we are all artists.

 

These relationships have also taught me that artmaking nourishes us and can lead to broader perspectives and more richly experienced lives. I’ve also broadened my definition of art. I now see the potential to turn anything into part of an artmaking practice.

 

I love it! What’s The LP value that keeps you excited and engaged in our work?

I love all The LP values but the following resonate with me most strongly: Collaborative and Cross-Pollinating by Design and Propelled by Love

 

You were one of our biggest stars during last year’s $10K Challenge, raising almost $2000 from 28 donors. What was your secret? Can you offer any tips for our team this year?

I used the Challenge as an opportunity to sing the praises of an organization and people I admire greatly. And then I asked folks to give money more times than I was comfortable. Many more times than I was comfortable!

 

We definitely appreciate your persistence and commitment! What is your neighborhood? What’s your favorite thing about it?

We live in South Park Slope across from the park between Prospect Park’s bandshell and the neighborhood movie theater. I love where we live and it’s hard to share only one favorite thing about our neighborhood. But I’ll do it: one of my favorite things about where we live is our proximity to Prospect Park. We’re almost always surrounded by people having fun: children playing in the playground, families and friends having barbecues, borough residents enjoying an outdoor concert. It’s really beautiful.

 

Where do you do your laundry?

I gratefully do my laundry in our kitchen now, but I was a longtime customer of the Fort Greene laundromat at the corner of South Elliott and Fulton. I loved the people who owned that laundromat and those who worked with them. We communicated mostly through smiles, nods, and points, but it was enough to develop a connection. I was a loyal customer for the 10 years I lived in Fort Greene.

 

What have you been reading lately?

Yoga: A Gem for Women, by Geeta Iyengar

Mastery, by Robert Greene

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

What song gets you going when work is hard?

Run This Town, Jay-Z ft Rihanna & Kanye West.

 

What is your favorite book, film or song about NYC?

We Live in Brooklyn Baby, by Roy Ayers

 

What’s your favorite food?

Peach cobbler.

 

Check out Dawn’s page on Razoo.com here and find out more about why she loves The LP!