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Susan Glasser: Leading with Vision 

Women in the Arts

In the early '80s, after she graduated from VCU with a degree in studio art, Susan Glasser set up a booth at the Hand Workshop craft show and sold embroideries, trapuntos, weavings and other fiber arts. Today, she says, "I could never get into the show anymore." But Glasser, who is now the executive director of the Hand Workshop, sees this as a good thing. Not only has she, in her words, "saved the world from another mediocre artist," but, "it's just another example of how the Hand Workshop is becoming more sophisticated." And if she has her way, someday the Hand Workshop may be the last word on sophisticated arts in Richmond.

Glasser, who has been at the helm of the Hand Workshop for two years, has an ambitious vision for the organization that was started in Church Hill in 1963 as a retail craft space and a place for neighborhood kids to take art classes.

"Like any good 36-year-old, it is maturing, finding itself, finding what is the best way to make its mark," she says. "I see it becoming Richmond's contemporary art institute. This town is a vital art community, and we do not have an institution that is bringing in national figures on a regular basis to help stimulate and stir up the community in wonderful, creative ways ... to get people engaged in the art of our time."

Her first challenge will be convincing others of her vision. "The general trend in leadership seems to be about getting people to work in teams," says Glasser, who this year is part of Leadership Metro Richmond. "But I think a real leader is someone who has a vision, who persuades others to see the strength of that vision."

Glasser, who is a Ph.D. candidate in art history at U.Va., has lots of practice in educating people about the importance of the arts in our daily lives. Before coming to the Hand Workshop, she spent 12 years in various positions in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts education department, where, she says, "my job was to help people understand art."

To Glasser, that's what the Hand Workshop is all about — helping people understand the art of their own time by creating it, viewing it and buying it through events such as the annual Craft and Design Show.

Each year, more than 1,000 adults and 1,000 children enroll in the Hand Workshop's various arts and crafts classes, and Glasser wants to see this number grow. Thanks to the efforts of a new education director, class offerings at the Hand Workshop will increase by about a third this spring.

Glasser will even teach a class herself. Tentatively called "Turning on your Eyes," the class will teach students about the art in the Hand Workshop's galleries in a hands-on way.

"I always think of the Hand Workshop more as a verb than a noun," she says. "It's all about
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