We sat down with our Chief Operations Officer/Chief Financial Officer,
Sarah Horton, to discuss her path to World Forestry Center and how her theater background informs her work.
Where were you before World Forestry Center?
For a couple of years prior to joining World Forestry Center, I did nonprofit management consulting, and for my entire career before that, I’d been in the arts and culture sector. I was the Managing Director at Artists Repertory Theatre for seven years, spent several years in various development and marketing roles at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), and worked previously in theater and concert venue management in Arizona.
What brought you to World Forestry Center?
I’d been working with World Forestry Center as a consultant during the 2019 strategic planning process, and then as a grant writer. When COVID last spring, I helped [Executive Director, Joe Furia] re-cast the budget and think through the restructuring of the organization to put us in the best position to weather the pandemic and continue investing in strategic initiatives. I took the COO/CFO role on an interim basis to assist with the transition, but then found the organizational transformation so exciting and satisfying that I happily accepted when Joe offered me a permanent position.
I’m always, always thinking about audience. Who they are, why they do or don’t care about our work, how to reach and inspire them.
How does your arts/theater background influence your work?
Working in the arts, especially in a mid-sized organization, teaches you to be scrappy and almost pathologically optimistic. It’s a business model that doesn’t really work at all on paper – you have to fight like crazy for every audience member and every dollar, and you feel like you’re always one bad break away from the end. So, there’s not a whole lot that can scare me anymore when it comes to organizational challenges. And I’m always, always thinking about audience. Who they are, why they do or don’t care about our work, how to reach and inspire them.
What would you say to other artists looking to get involved with
I was a little tentative at first going into the natural resources field because I felt that I didn’t know enough to have a valid viewpoint about any of it. But I came to realize that, particularly as a child of the Northwest and grand-daughter of a lumberman, forests and forestry were as much a part of my culture as Shakespeare, and that my voice does matter as we grapple with how best to steward our forests. Sure, the scientists and industry folks have special expertise in the ‘how,’ but we all have something powerful to say about “why.” And arts and culture speak to the heart of “why” – they are some of the most powerful ways to share our stories and reflect on every aspect of society.
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World Forestry Center is moving in exciting new directions. Building on our extraordinary facilities and long history, we are poised to accelerate and amplify our impact.