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Meet Naomi Nussbaum of Naomi Nussbaum Art & Design

Today we’d like to introduce you to Naomi Nussbaum.

Naomi, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Born and raised in Zimbabwe to parents who were huge advocates of arts and culture, I studied piano, classical ballet, modern dance and guitar, All through high school, I was privileged to be exposed to an amazing number of performances, exhibitions and theater. My undergraduate studies at the University of Cape Town included a major in Art and Art History. I completed a Masters of Arts degree and taught English at a high school level for several years before immigrating to the USA in 1980. My direction became business, however, my passion for the arts never waivered.

My cumulative professional experience has molded me into a multi-faceted, highly motivated, innovative and effective leader. From teaching at high school to executing international marketing & sales strategies, to directing a national sales team, to pioneering new programs and initiatives, to establishing my own consulting company and non-profit arts organization, I have spanned diverse fields. The focus of my past 26 years has been arts administration, management and consulting. My work in the private, non-profit and government sectors has given me a comprehensive appreciation of their respective infrastructures.

Leadership and communication skills, marketing & sales, fiscal management and client/community liaison have been integral to my success. As Public Art Coordinator for the City of Carlsbad for five years, I was responsible for all visual arts/education projects including administration, coordination, CIP budgeting, recruiting, collaboration with other city departments, publicity, special events, marketing, public and private outreach, arts committees, public information. I successfully pioneered new arts/arts education programs and initiated the sculpture garden partnering with the city landscape architect.

I moved on to take the position of Director of Arts & Donor Recognition with a design firm specializing in healthcare & non-profit organizations. It was my responsibility to direct arts programs, donor recognition projects and develop business through marketing & sales, trade shows, and conferences. Many of my projects were complex, orchestrating up to forty artists, contractors, architects, landscape architects, interior designers, and client committees per project. I also initiated partnerships with arts and community organizations and artists specific to the scope of the project.

After six years, I finally established my own consulting business, Naomi Nussbaum Art & Design. Shortly thereafter, in response to the disastrous impact on numerous artists by the firestorms, I founded a non-profit arts organization, Synergy Arts Foundation. Since then, the organization has grown and flourished, providing grants to local artists of all disciplines who are in crisis. Additional grants fund arts educational programs to at-risk and under-served populations. My directorship together with the board (and numerous volunteers) are all volunteer positions. Through my leadership role, I have connected with many of the arts organizations and artists (of all disciplines) in San Diego County.

My consulting business, Naomi Nussbaum Art & Design (NNAD) was established as a consulting firm that specializes in comprehensive visual arts, public art consulting and programming, often with large design/build projects, as well as curatorial services. I frequently act as the liaison/project manager between artists and agencies. NNAD has been retained by developers, architects, landscape architects, contractors, and interior designers to oversee all aspects of the public art component of a project, from authoring the RFQ/RFP through installation. NNAD enjoys collaborating with the client’s design team to ensure seamless integration of the artworks both thematically and aesthetically.

As a curator, NNAD has orchestrated both interior and exterior exhibitions both in California and abroad. Since 2010, she has been the curator for the San Diego Botanic Garden’s Sculpture Exhibition, orchestrating up to forty artists and up to seventy artworks per exhibition. Ms. Nussbaum particularly enjoys working with local and regional artists in Southern California. NNAD’s clients include healthcare, civic, government, educational and religious institutions, botanic gardens, as well as private and commercial companies. Naomi also has studied modern dance for decades and more recently yoga. She has taught yoga locally and hopes to continue for many years to come.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Life without challenge is boring. Challenge promotes growth. My immigration to the USA provided me with a tremendous challenge. Leaving one’s homeland and landing in a foreign culture is never easy. The culture shock was great initially compounded by the fact that I very quickly realized that a teaching position, despite my experience plus a Masters of Arts Degree, would only be accessible with a Californian teaching credential. I had $300 in my back pocket and needed a job immediately. I signed up with an employment agency and took the first position offered to me…. an executive administrative assistant to one of the managers at Electronic Data Systems.

This position taught me how a large corporation functioned. My boss, Toby Tobaccowala, an immigrant himself, provided insight on how to adjust to the American culture. After nine months, Toby offered me the opportunity to train as a computer programmer. I agonized over this decision and discussed it with my parents. I decided to decline knowing that sitting in front of a computer day-in and day-out, using only my left brain, would drive me crazy. He pushed me to move on which I did. Through various positions, I honed my business skills into becoming a marketing/public relations specialist.

The climate in the San Francisco area was very challenging for my African demeanor. My boyfriend at that time and I relocated to Costa Mesa, Orange County, close to where some cousins were living. I secured an interesting position with a start-up software company. That too was challenging as we were just four, each wearing multiple hats.

Some months there were not enough funds to pay our salaries. However, we finally broke into the Fortune 500 marketplace and started to grow. I opened two additional offices for the company in Windsor, UK and Paris, France.

It was an exciting position with travel all over the USA and Europe. I managed a team and enjoyed that too. The company flourished but in time, it was no longer controlled by the President but by a board of stakeholders. One day I arrived at work and the President, with whom I had worked from the beginning, called me into his office. He was pacing and I knew something was up. He finally said that the board had decided to terminate a good number of employees and that I was one of them. I was shocked, especially in light of the fact he knew I had just purchased my first home and had a big mortgage each month. I was also shocked that all of the people under me were being terminated concurrently.

Ethically, I felt responsible for each of them and I should have been the person to terminate them and provide them with reference letters and the like. I was given a reasonable severance package but felt betrayed. I had hardly had time to unpack the numerous boxes in my new home and pondered how I was going to meet my nut each month. I finally decided it was a good time to take a break from working, visit friends and family in Europe and Africa. I rented out the house, stored my stuff in the garage and left for London about a month later. My year abroad was probably one of my most enjoyable. I worked “under the table” in London for five pounds per hour and used these funds to visit various European countries and pay my ticket home to Zimbabwe.

I worked also in South Africa, but so enjoyed having time with family and friends and not having to rush back to my job in America. I met extraordinary people along my journey with whom I am still connected after all these years. My return to America was extremely difficult. It is clear American employers do not like to see “gaps” on one’s resume. I started to work independently and enjoyed it but when I was offered the position of Public Art Coordinator at the City of Carlsbad, it was like a dream come true. I loved my job working with public artists and learning about the protocols of a city. After five years, I had “mastered” the position and I moved on to take a management position with a private design firm, directing its arts and donor recognition projects.

Our clients were primarily large healthcare and educational institutions. Projects were complex and often incorporated commissioned artworks of over thirty artists. Working with artists can be very challenging. Some are highly professional and organized but many need constant reminders of deadlines and the like. After five years in this position, I finally took that leap of faith and established my own art consulting business, Naomi Nussbaum Art & Design. It has been tremendously rewarding and is still flourishing today.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Naomi Nussbaum Art & Design – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Established in April 2003, Naomi Nussbaum Art & Design specializes in comprehensive visual arts/public art consulting and programming, often with large design/build projects. We also offer curatorial services. As a seasoned art consultancy, we frequently act as the liaison/project manager between artists and city/commissioning agencies. We have been retained by developers, architects, landscape architects, contractors, and interior designers to oversee all aspects of the public art component of a design/build project, from authoring and administrating the RFQ/RFP through installation.

I enjoy working closely with clients to develop an art program that reflects their unique vision, culture and values. With design/build projects, I study the architectural plans and recommend locations and genres, budgets, procurement policies and processes. I manage the entire project, overseeing artists’ contracts, timelines and trouble-shooting proactively any installation challenges. By facilitating a “visioning process”, I collaborate with the client’s design team and stakeholders to establish thematic direction, budgets, locations, procurement policies and processes. as well as integration with the construction timelines and constraints.

Since 2010, I have been retained as Curator for the San Diego Botanic Garden’s Sculpture in the Garden Exhibition. This exhibition rotates each year often showcasing over 70 sculptures each exhibition, Over the years, the Sculpture Exhibition has grown in reputation as well as sales. As the Curator, I am responsible to present appropriate artworks to the SDBG’s Art committee, guide the selection process, coordinate artists’ contracts, installation & de-installation, and select physical locations for all selected works. Authoring a “Call to Artists”, I receive well over 100 submissions each year.

What makes me most proud is that I retain clients and build an excellent relationship with them. The professional respect and trust grow with each project and they know they can count on me to provide all “deliverables” on time and on budget. What sets me apart is that I love to go the extra mile for clients as well as for the artists with whom I work.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Plans for the future include marketing to new botanic gardens in the region and collaborating with them to establish rotating sculpture exhibitions. I also hope to secure several public art projects with new commercial developments. Through Synergy Arts Foundation (www.synergyarts.org) and North County Arts Network (www.sdncan.org), I hope to continue to support our local artists and arts organizations of all disciplines and to elevate the arts throughout our county.

Ultimately, it is my hope that we establish a proper Arts Council for our County which is sorely lacking. On a personal note, I hope to visit my homeland, Zimbabwe, and to explore a number countries I have not yet visited.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 251 Barbara Avenue Solana Beach, CA 92075
  • Website: www.nnartd.com
  • Phone: 8582042058
  • Email: nnartd1@gmail.com

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Patricia Frischer

    April 12, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    Loved learning so much about the past of this exciting lady who contributes so deeply to the arts community in San Diego.

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