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April 9, 2018
#WomensWork Feature: Deborah Sacarakis
Written by Kate Racculia
Pay attention to the woman behind the curtain. Deborah Sacarakis, Artistic Director at Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University, is bringing the world—speakers and dancers, musicians and poets and artists of all stripes—to Bethlehem. Founded in 1997 as the home of Lehigh’s departments of music and theater, art galleries and guest artist series, Zoellner’s mission is to create an environment where artists and students of the arts develop and learn; to educate, inspire, and captivate the community—and to develop new audiences.
The creation of the new has been a hallmark of Sacarakis’ career. As a volunteer on Lehigh’s Cultural Affairs committee, she began the process of bringing guest artists to Zoellner, broadening the existing fine arts slate with multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary offerings. It was the kind of risk that required building support from faculty and staff, and maintaining confidence in her vision. “Trust yourself more. Balance public opinion with your own sense of direction and belief,” she advises. “People don’t have to like you, but they need to respect you.”
Over the years, through the Guest Artist Series, Sacarakis has overseen bringing the New York Philhamonic, the Boston Pops, and artists and speakers from Lily Tomlin to Ani DiFranco, David Parsons Dance to Chick Corea, to Zoellner’s stage. That kind of direction builds a dual legacy—enriching the local culture, and providing a role model for women leading in the arts.
Throughout the Lehigh Valley, Sacarakis says “there are great role models [for women] in the arts,” including ArtsQuest president and CEO Kassie Hilgert and State Theater president and CEO Shelley Brown. “Susan Hakkarainen, co-chairman and co-CEO of Lutron Electronics, supports what we do at Zoellner and encourages her fellow colleagues. The more visible women are in roles of leadership, the more affirming it is to younger generations of women,” she says. “To trust their own abilities to lead.”
Understand your personal strength and value. It will allow you to create new worlds, and bring those worlds together.