In the spring, Kate Tully Delgreco joined the Birmingham Museum of Art as its new Director of Development. After more than 10 years in development at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Kate brings to the Museum experience in building rewarding philanthropic partnerships through her ambitious and strategic approach to fundraising.
Birmingham Museum of Art: What do you enjoy most about working in fundraising?
Kate Tully Delgreco: Through volunteering in college, I saw that you could find a job you love as much as you love the people you work with. When an opportunity to work in philanthropy came up, it felt like a dream. I took a gamble and left an otherwise good career for a chance to learn about nonprofit management and major gift fundraising from an experienced leader in the field. That year, I vowed my career goal was “people not paper,” and that I could look back and measure my time in human interaction and not stacks of files. When I reflect on what that I love most about working in nonprofit, it’s the top-to-bottom prioritization of communities and the people they’re comprised of. At the end of the day, our goals are about serving people.
BMA: You worked in development at UAB for more than 10 years supporting advancement in the sciences. How has working in the arts compared to medicine?
KTD: In many ways, fundraising for medicine is very much the same as fundraising for the arts. In medicine, a donor has connected with a program over something that has happened in their life that caused a strong, direct interest in a disease group, for example, receiving a diagnosis. The donor is passionate for finding a cure, which motivates their giving. Museum patrons feel the same depth of passion in their giving for the arts. They understand the value of the art they collect and support. They are appreciative of its historic value, aesthetic, and preservation. In that way, the conversations around giving are very much the same. My role is to help every donor connect their giving to a program or project that most closely aligns with their values and passions. Working in philanthropy is a great honor in this way. I have the privilege of serving a community of donors dedicated to advancing the human condition.
BMA: From your perspective, what is the greatest benefit of supporting the Museum?
KTD: Museums serve a multitude of important functions in their communities. The BMA is uniquely privileged to house thousands of years of human history in artifacts, clothing, ceramics, photographs, and art. And in a digital world where we live buried in a four-inch screen, museums enable guests to experience a glimpse of something tangible, something physical. We aren’t just on a screen. We’re texture and materials. We’re scale and presentation. We help to preserve the physical human history, both for education and for enjoyment. Supporting the BMA enables a furthering of that mission, to tell the story behind the human experience with broader audiences, while we also expand to share new facets of our ever blending cultures.
BMA: Out of 27,000 to choose from, have you picked a favorite work in our collection?
KTD: As hard as it is to choose a favorite, as a hobbyist photographer, I’ve always had an affinity for portraits – especially with strong female subjects. The Sorceress by Georges Merle is particularly fascinating to me, both for the mystery surrounding the symbolism in the work and for her captivating eyes, which follow you as you pass the painting. I’m also extremely excited to be part of the museum chosen to display Amy Sherald’s loan All Things Bright and Beautiful.The piece is displayed alongside a touching quote by Michelle Obama who mused that she hoped little girls would see her portrait in the National Portrait Gallery and see themselves in it. Sherald’s work embodies the radiance and power of little girls. It’s a great honor to work for an organization that so deeply values diversity and bringing fresh, contemporary representations of African American art on display for our own community along with the thousands of visitors we attract from across the nation each year.