Leadership Profile: Victoria Murray Baatin

What is your role at your organization?  

I am the Director of Social Impact at the Kennedy Center—that’s the title. The role itself is two-fold: the Social Impact Team (within the broader programming division) and the Social Impact Imperative that the Kennedy Center is undertaking. 

The first part—and what I consider to be my first priority—is the Social Impact Team. We have a strong, robust team working in this realm, and I serve as a coach/counselor/administrator, ensuring that the department is functioning at an optimum level. 

There’s also this broader piece of helping to socialize and educate across the organization in terms of what social impact is and what it means. Most of us are doing and believe we are doing impactful work in a social context; if that is your bar, then we are all doing “social impact”. To an extent, that is true, but we are more specific here at the Center about “What do we mean when we say, ‘social impact’?” What are our aims, and what is our methodology in achieving those aims?  

Tell me more about Social Impact at the Kennedy Center. What are your visions/goals for this project? 

I go to the basic definition we have crafted internally to describe what we are doing: “A systems-based approach to fostering cultural leadership and community action.” First, we want to think of our work in a systemic way. By “cultural leadership”, we’re talking about centering the intellect and the prowess of the artists and culture-makers, recognizing that there is something special we have to offer to the civic dialogue and broader silo conversations. Breaking the definition down further: 

“Leveraging the arts for non-arts outcomes”: When we think of the Kennedy Center, we think of world-class, sublime art that elevates and transcends; we want that, but we also recognize the power of the arts beyond their aesthetic applications. 

“Centering JOY”: We want to make sure we are not bogged down by the weight of the world and of the systemic issues we are seeking to address. 

“Inviting engaged participation”: We are not doing something TO the world/communities, but working WITH different parties and different groups, in a way that means THEY are leading. 

“So we may create an equitable future”: We are looking at a horizon. The work will never be done, but we orient ourselves towards that horizon—towards the creation of an equitable future. 

What value has being part of the BFF ecosystem brought to you? 

Being part of the ecosystem means understanding and recognizing that there are people in your corner who are not only rooting for you and are champions of the things you’re talking about, but are right there with you, shoulder to shoulder, in terms of the belief in this transformed future. A big part of it is knowing we have friends—we have dear, trusted friends and allies in the work. That part means so much. 

Has Covid changed the way you work or view your role in society? If so, how? 

I mean, it has to! If artists and culture-markers can’t convene—if we can’t perform for an audience—what and who are we? That’s an important question we were contending with even before the pandemic. It’s that notion of cultural leadership: we are cultural leaders in society—really embracing that moniker and positioning ourselves in that way is imperative. So when the bottom falls out—when we cannot convene audiences, and when we cannot convene ourselves (in this highly collaborative field), then what is it that we are able to do? We can share our cultural insights/perspectives/ways of thinking, and we can reflect all of that back to the world in which we exist. Remember: we can have that artistic experience, but it doesn’t stop there. That is the entry point—the catalyst towards deeper engagement, further conversation, and additional work. It’s about embracing that precipice and crossing over it into this sphere of cultural leadership, recognizing how the arts can help address all the things in the world that we’re challenged by—in addition to giving us inspiration! 

There is always pressure to measure the impact of an organization’s work based on traditional metrics like return on investment. As a leader in the arts, how do you evaluate your progress and success? How do metrics play into your work? What suggestions do you have to other non-profit leaders about using metrics? 

The important part is to set your own targets—for yourself, for your organization—that are meaningful for you. Setting a metric of your own gives you a clear orientation point. Set your superobjective (using a theatrical term)—then you break that down into your objectives, and your tactics underneath. Part of our work is metrics/evaluation. It’s not an afterthought. We are not trying to fit ourselves into a predefined container—we are trying to develop our own instruments of evaluation AS we’re developing our programs, so they speak to one another. We are constantly evaluating, and retooling based on the evaluation.  

We seem to be entering a new age of philanthropy and activism, based on the intersectionality and interconnectedness of previously separate interest categories. How can artists be leaders in this environment? 

I believe deeply in the “multi-hyphenate”. Many of our artists and cultural leaders are multi-hyphenate; they refuse to be defined by one genre or one category. That notion of intersectionality is ever-present—and has been, for artists. The world is catching up to where the creative sector and culture-makers have been for years: inter-disciplinary, multi-disciplinary, highly collaborative. That’s the sauce in which we’ve been stewing. If you go to a dance presentation, you’re not just experiencing the dance—you’re experiencing the aesthetics of the costuming, lighting, set design, sound design; our world is a collaborative, intersectional world. If that’s the way we move through the world—the way we perceive the world, the way we see and understand the world—we can be a reflection to broader society and say, “Yes: you, too, are intersected in all these varied ways.” 

What do you do in your spare time to balance your life? What replenishes/refuels/reenergizes you? 

Sleep is the first piece. In my early years, I would jokingly say, “Oh, you’ll sleep when you die”—I really underrated the importance of sleep. I have learned from my youthful ways and do really value sleep. Also, I meditate and do a lot of breath work. I’m a certified yoga instructor, and that practice has focused primarily on breathwork and meditation. I find it is incredibly centering for me—incredibly rejuvenating. One of my favorite feelings is to go into a meditation, and then when I open my eyes, the world looks like it’s in technicolor. It’s an amazing sensation: “NOW I CAN SEE”, while before, there was a fog or haze over everything. 

I also find great centering and great grounding with my family—being with my husband and my children. They are a great touchstone and a great reminder of what it’s all about for me. Also,  just seeing the world through their eyes, and the discoveries—the newness, the freshness . . . it’s really quite wonderful. 

What books have inspired or challenged you? 

I’m drawn to different books based on where I am at a certain point in life, trying to glean different things at different moments. I’ll tell you what I’m reading right now: Shonda Rhimes’s The Year of Yes. For a while, there was a certain power in saying “no” and protecting boundaries; but sometimes, your NO becomes your YES. How can you be thoughtful about saying YES—to embrace new opportunities and new challenges? 

What is your mantra? 

“This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Every day, the first thing that hits me when my eyes open—even when it’s tough, and it doesn’t feel quite so joyful, and you have those difficult moments . . . center on that, and push through. 

Browse Leadership Profiles

Halim Flowers

Tell me more about your time with the Halcyon Arts Lab. What was your vision/goals for this time? What is your vision for the future of these endeavors?  I came home March 21, 2019 after serving 22 years in prison. I had...

Alon Chen

Weizmann Institute President Prof. Alon Chen is Breaking the MoldBy Ami Aronson of the Bernstein Family Foundation From a very young age, Prof. Alon Chen knew that he wanted to dedicate his life to science.Today, he is a renowned neuroscientist who has served as...

Diana Sierra

What is your role at your organization?   I am the Co-Founder of CEO of BeGirl. I am also the designer behind the brand, though I’m not doing so much of the designing right now; I’m more in the management position.    Tell me more about...

Rahsaan Bernard

What is your role at Building Bridges Across the River?  I am the president of the organization.  Tell me more about BBAR. What are your visions/goals for this program in the D.C. area?  Our north star—our theory of change—our desire for...

Deborah Rutter

What is your role at the Kennedy Center?   I’m the President of the Kennedy Center.   What value has being part of the BFF ecosystem brought to the Kennedy Center?  When I come to a new city, I ask the people who live here,...

Ingrid Zimmer

What is your role at Inspired Child?   Our umbrella organization is Dumbarton Arts & Education, and I am the Executive Director. Our education program is called Inspired Child, and our arts program is Dumbarton...

Seth Flaxman

What is your role at your organization?  I am the CEO/co-founder of Democracy Works.   Tell me more about the project BFF is currently funding. What are your visions/goals for this project?  We build technology to help make it easier to vote and...

Natalie Jones

What is your role at your organization?  I am senior vice president of external affairs and diplomatic engagement, which means I am focused on three things: first, driving revenue to the organization through philanthropic partnerships; second, amplifying and...

Michelle Malet

What is your role at the Capital Jewish Museum?   I am the director of development at the new Capital Jewish Museum (also known as the Lilian and Albert Small Capital Jewish Museum). I have been in the position for three years now, and it is...

Lisa Curtis

Her Favorite Book The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. It was the first book I read that made me really connect with a character – it made me cry.  Her Mantra “What I do matters.” When I think about that, it reminds me that I need to be present in the moment and show...

Melinda Cooperman

What was your journey to becoming the Associate Director of Marshall Brennan? I have about 10 years of experience in civic education, and I’ve always been interested in teaching. I was a volunteer with an organization called the San Francisco Urban Service Project,...

Eshauna Smith

What was your journey to becoming the CEO of Urban Alliance? How much time do you have? I’m just teasing. My own background is that I come from a strong family that had its share of economic challenges, among other struggles, and I grew up in a neighborhood in LA that...

Jim Beck

What was your journey to becoming the Vice President of Planning, Development and Evaluation for Sasha Bruce? Before Sasha Bruce I had worked at a great non-profit in San Francisco called Haight Ashbury Free Clinics. In 2004 my partner and I were visiting her sister...

Sarah Lefton

What was your journey to becoming the founder and executive director of Bimbam? I worked in media, advertising, and tech when I was in my 20’s, and on the side I became really excited about adult Jewish learning. Coming from a small southern city where there wasn’t a...

Jason Benkendorf

What was your journey to becoming the Executive Director of AU Hillel? I came to American University as an undergraduate when I was 18, and when I came to American I thought that I was going into politics- my dream at the time was to be a political speech writer....

Rabbi Aaron Miller

What inspired you to create Metro Minyan - the flagship program of Washington Hebrew’s Young Professional Group, “2239”? 2239 has been thriving for 15 years. It started as a way to engage Washington Hebrew’s young professionals in dedicated young professionals...

Megan Beyer

You recently became the Executive Director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. What is your vision for the Committee and how does your work play into and support the Arts and Humanities in communities throughout the nation? President Obama...

Sixth & I Synagogue

Sixth & I has grown to become one of Washington’s most valued religious and cultural landmarks. With a non-denominational, non-traditional approach, the synagogue has welcomed thousands of people through its doors, and distinguished itself as a place of openness...

Kate Goodall

S&R Foundation embodies the embrace of ingenuity and creativity in the nation’s capital. Entering its sixteenth year, its visionary mission is to support and foster innovation among talented artists, scientists, and social entrepreneurs. S&R is in the...

Andrea Gottlieb

Jerusalem U is yet another one of Bernstein’s grantees that is leveraging the power of innovation to inspire the new generation about Jewish and Israel identity. Poised to instill in this generation a deep sense of connection with their heritage, the organization has...

Robin Bronk

This past year, Bernstein Family Foundation was proud to provide The Creative Coalition with a grant to support its upcoming Arts Advocacy Day. Several decades ago, TCC was founded by a network of Hollywood actors determined to safeguard the arts and arts in education...

Patty Stonesifer

Martha’s Table has been a Washington institution for decades now, having provided its noble food, educational, and opportunity programs to thousands of children, families, and neighbors across the District. In an ever-challenging landscape for social service...

Josh Troderman

As a pioneer in the Jewish educational technology sphere, ShalomLearning is innovating Jewish supplementary instruction by introducing a fresh approach to Hebrew Congregational school. The Bernstein Family Foundation is proud to support this non-profit organization...

Kennedy Center

Bernstein Family Foundation has supported the globally-revered institution, The John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts, for many years now. As a hub of the arts, culture and education, the Center has used its standing in the community to expand its reach and...

Alliance For Young Artists & Writers

[av_textblock size='' font_color='' color=''] Bernstein Family Foundation is proud to support the Alliance for Young Writers and Artists, which is endowed with the partnership of The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH). The Alliance, PCAH, and...

Christopher Lewis

Bernstein Family Foundation is a proud supporter of WAMU 88.5- American University Radio. With a listenership stretching across the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, WAMU plays an important role in the nation’s capital. The Foundation, in its quest to...

Louise Dube

Bernstein Family Foundation, a major proponent of American democracy, is proud to provide program support to iCivics, a non-profit civic education organization founded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. For the past year and a half, it has been in the hands of Executive...

Rabbi Aaron Miller

Rabbi Aaron Miller, a rabbi at Washington Hebrew Congregation in DC and Potomac, grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. He graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in Jewish Studies and was ordained at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. He also earned a Masters...

Eshauna Smith

Eshauna Smith joined Urban Alliance in March 2013 and was named CEO in June 2014.  Her leadership in development, policy and advocacy, communications and strategic partnerships has helped position Urban Alliance as the premier advocacy organization for youth workforce...