Over the course of her life, Diane Robertson has always felt strong ties to the arts and humanities.
Born in Jamaica, she immigrated to New York as a young child. Living in New York afforded her some of the best public education that the country could offer at the time — with many opportunities for engaging experiences, Robertson said.
“I don’t remember a time, even from elementary school, that every month we didn’t get on a yellow school bus and go to a museum, cultural event, play, concert or to the planetarium,” she said.
Robertson's creativity and background in the arts have led her to a new appointment to the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts, which was announced on March 11.
President Joe Biden appointed Robertson, along with 13 others, to the PACA.
The appointees provide input on artistic programming for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The PACA was established in 1958 to help sustain the center.
Robertson is the only appointee from North Carolina.
'A wealth of creativity'
A proprietor for a horticultural design firm and a documentary film producer, Robertson moved to Carrboro in 1991.
She became involved in many arts and civic organizations in the area, including the North Carolina Humanities Council and Playmakers Repertory Company.
She said that art has always been important to her not just because of its beauty, but also because it can be used as a form of activism.
“I think the arts can be a great communicator for change,” Robertson said. “That is something I find very exciting and see a lot, especially with young people — using the language of the arts to communicate what matters to them."
She also said these organizations have allowed her to combine her enthusiasm for the arts with her passion for activism.
Since 2011, Robertson has also served on the board for Democracy North Carolina, an organization that works to protect democratic institutions in the state.
Adrienne Kelly, interim co-executive director of Democracy North Carolina, said Robertson's background as a historian gives her a strong understanding of the civil rights movement and voting rights issues.
“I think what is wonderful in particular about her is that she connects our history, particularly in North Carolina but also in the United States, with the future," she said.
Kelly added that the organization is excited about Robertson’s appointment to the President’s Committee, and said she is deserving of the role.
“She will be a rockstar,” Kelly said.
North Carolina Humanities Council Executive Director Sherry Paula Watkins has worked closely with Robertson through the organization. She said Robertson brings an arts-oriented perspective to the organization.
“We are delighted to have her on our board because she does bring a unique perspective and thoughtfulness to her work and thus ours,” Watkins said.
She also said she is excited about Robertson’s recent appointment and that she is proud that Robertson can represent North Carolina in her new position.
Robertson said the arts can serve as a common language between people, crossing political and geographical divisions.
Since the PACA has representatives from across the country, she said the members will be able to connect through art despite their differences.
As the only appointee from the state, Robertson said she hopes to share North Carolinians' perspectives with the committee.
“I think that North Carolina has a wealth of creativity,” she said.
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