Hailing from Tampa Bay, Chris Rudisill has a proven track record of success working in the non-profit world. He is bringing his expertise and experience to the local community as the newly appointed Executive Director of Stonewall National Museum and Archives. We had the opportunity to chat with Rudisill about his experience, how he got involved with Stonewall, and his big plans for the organization in 2016.
KACALA: What did you did before you moved here?
RUDISILL: I have been here about a month now. I moved from Tampa Bay. Previously I was the Director of LGBT Community Center Services for Metro Wellness and Community Centers there. I oversaw the LGBT community center and all the LGBT programs and services through Metro. They have locations in St. Petersburg, Tampa and New Port Richey.
KACALA: How did you get involved with Stonewall?
RUDISILL: I actually had heard about the role through a couple of colleagues and it just felt like the perfect culmination of my career path and the just the right place to be. My initial work in the nonprofit field was in museum work. I worked for the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, North Carolina right out of college. I wrote a column for a couple of years called “a gay in the life” for a small paper part of the McClatchy newspaper system. I then ran St. Pete Pride for three years all before going to Metro.
It just felt that this role was the perfect culmination of my career path. I was excited to get back into working in the culture field and working in museum work as well. It is a great time to be part of documenting LGBT history. There is so much going on. Just looking at the past decade, so much has happened with regards to LGBT rights and equality. It is important that we ensure that we are documenting this history and that we are securing this history and that we are also sharing this history.
KACALA: Tell me about some of the work Stonewall does.
RUDISILL: One of the big important things we do each year is the Stonewall National Education Project. That is a national symposium in May. It teaches school administrators, faculty, school board members all across the country not only how to make their schools safe for LGBT students but also how to incorporate LGBT history into the curriculum. Also, where does our history meet with the arch of American history? It is important to recognize our contributions there as well.
KACALA: What are some big things happening that our readers can look forward the next few months?
RUDISILL: The big thing we have is on Saturday, February 13th. It’s our largest annual fundraiser of the year. It is a performance with Lea DeLaria at the Parker Playhouse hosted by Varla Jean Merman, the popular drag artist and performer in the community. We are really excited about the show. It is a really unique opportunity. We have a limit of 200 tickets and they are $200 each. It is a very exclusive event limited to 200 people specifically. Guests will have an opportunity to come onto the stage prior to the show and we host a reception on the stage with food, drinks and a silent auction. It is a lot of fun and very unique. This is all prior to the show. During the show they get the best seats in the house. Following the show we will have a champagne reception with Lea and Varla. It is important to note that to be part of the event, guests have to purchase tickets through us.
KACALA: What are some challenges you have had to overcome on this journey?
RUDISILL: The biggest thing that happens in non-profits is securing funding. It’s a constant challenge. Stonewall has a great foundation which is fantastic to come into but it’s a challenge for any nonprofit. That’s the important thing. Make sure we are funded, make sure we keep going, and make sure we keep growing. It’s such an exciting time for LGBT history but with that it is a busy time. We have to make sure we stay relevant for the future – making sure we are recognizing those items today that will be our history tomorrow.
For more information on Stonewall National Museum and Archives, visit stonewall-museum.