GET TO KNOW US: JUNE O'NEILL
CONTRIBUTOR: HOUSTON ARTS ALLIANCE
Ever wanted to put a Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) name to a face? In this series, we introduce you to our staff, provide a little insight into who they are, and dive into what it is they do. We hope you’ll get to know us! This month the spotlight is on June O'Neill.
DEPARTMENT: Administration and Special Projects
RESPONSIBILITIES: I manage the employee benefits, facilities and IT. I also manage special projects such as the Arts & Economic Prosperity Study 5, the Creative Economy 2 study, and the community convenings of Bayou Trails.
DEGREES / CERTIFICATES: I have a BS in Arts Management (back before they called it Arts Administration)
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB IN THE ARTS? When I was a junior in college I worked for the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra. I worked half time and went to school full time. I haven’t thought about the symphony in a long time, so I went to their website. I’m happy to see that they are in their 67th season and for the past nine years they have had a female conductor!
WHAT IS YOUR PAST EXPERIENCE WORKING IN THE ARTS & CULTURE? I have 30 years of experience working as an arts administrator. Here are some of the highlights: I managed three different programs supporting artists – two were fellowship programs (Pew Fellowships in the Arts and the Leeway Foundation) and one was an artist residency program in Umbria, Italy; I have worked with four different foundations mostly making grants in arts & culture but also making grants in education, social services, and public policy; I’ve worked in four non-profit arts organizations (one very large, one very small, and two in the middle); and most recently I was the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, the city money which supported arts and culture organizations in Philadelphia. As a musician, I directed a church choir and loved doing it; I also founded a Japanese Taiko Drumming group called Kyo Daiko and played in it for 10 years (until I left Philadelphia).
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT WORKING AT HOUSTON ARTS ALLIANCE? My colleagues. They are a dedicated group of people who genuinely care about the arts in Houston. They work hard and I admire their talents and their skills.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS / ATTRACTIONS / EVENTS IN HOUSTON? I love the Asia Society (they have wonderful programs and the most beautiful facility!), the Midtown Arts and Theatre Center of Houston – MATCH (it’s a great space and serves a unique niche in the Houston arts ecology), and Magpies & Peacocks because they recycle anything they can get their hands on and all of it is beautiful!
FUN FACT ABOUT YOURSELF: I was raised on a cattle ranch in southern Arizona, about 3 miles from the Mexican border. My father raised registered Black Angus cattle, primarily bulls (so anyone looking for a bull for their herd would buy a bull from my father). I still have the branding irons – the J quarter circle Ranch.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PETS? We recently lost our German Shepherd Dog. We got her because my husband was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and Czech Border Patrol (a line of German Shepherd) was his “dream dog.” We were going to wait until he retired to get one, but once he became ill he wanted the dog more than anything. It was his version of “make a wish.” Kira came to us fully trained directly from the Czech Republic; all her commands were in Czech. She was a perfect specimen, so beautiful. And she was a wonderful friend and companion. I believe that she saved my husband (almost 10 years later, he is doing well).
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOW GROWING UP? It’s hard to pick a favorite, but shows that I remember the most are The Carol Burnett Show, The Wonderful World of Disney, and watching the Olympic Games.
IF YOU COULD CLOSE YOUR EYES AND BE ANYWHERE ON EARTH WHEN THEY OPENED, WHERE WOULD YOU BE? Japan. My mother is Japanese; I was born there and moved to America when I was five. Fortunately, we were able to visit Japan often when I was growing up. However, as an adult I have not been able to spend extended amounts of time there. I love Japan.
WHICH MUSEUM (IN THE WORLD) IS YOUR ABSOLUTE FAVORITE? I had a wonderful experience at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. This was 30 years ago. I was on a trip with my aunt and I had time to kill, our hotel was nearby. I loved the miniatures and it was my first exposure to Turner watercolors. I remember it as a perfect afternoon – great art, beautiful museum and solitude (a few hours without my aunt).
WHAT KIND OF IMPACT DO YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE ON PEOPLE? I hope that I am helpful. I work in the arts because all the best moments of my life have been associated with the arts. My goal has always been to serve the field I love and provide access and opportunity for as many people as possible.