Art World Star Thelma Golden: What I Know Now
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This summer, iconic museum curator Thelma Golden, 50, was chosen by President Obama to help put together his presidential library in Chicago. Here, Golden talks to ESSENCE about her greatest triumphs and hardest lessons learned

The moment I knew I’d made it was when… A question about me and my career appeared on a standardized test.

The advice I’m glad I never took is… That as a young woman of color making her way in a field that was not very diverse, I would need to find ways to fit in so that I would not be perceived through my race and gender. This seemed not only impossible, but also ineffective and highly inauthentic. I needed to define success on my own terms, showing up fully as myself and seeing my difference as an advantage, not a disadvantage. I know now that what seem like your greatest challenges are actually your greatest gifts.

The toughest decision I’ve ever had to make was… Leaving an amazing, exciting and fulfilling professional situation without knowing what I might do next. In retrospect, while it was the toughest decision, it was also the best!

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The key to happiness is… Matching one’s passion with a purpose.

The hardest lesson I’ve ever had to learn was… To be motivated by what I am drawn toward instead of what I am feeling pushed by.

My greatest joy in life right now is… Having the incredible opportunity to be director of The Studio Museum in Harlem as we move toward our fiftieth anniversary and embark on a major expansion that will allow us to continue to present art by artists of African descent, better serve our diverse audiences and contribute to a vibrant cultural community here in Harlem and around the world.

A mantra I live by… “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” —Arthur Ashe