Why I joined the AXIS Board

At AXIS we can't do all that we do by ourselves. Luckily we have a wonderful board who supports us in the work we do. Meet our board Vice President Deirdre Spencer... Tell us a bit about yourself.

Board Member Deirdre

I'm a graphic designer. I create websites and printed marketing pieces for small to medium sized companies, working part time at Placemaking Group here in downtown Oakland, and the rest of the week from my home office in Montclair. I also currently serve as Vice President of the AXIS Board, and have been a member for two years.

My husband and I moved to Oakland nearly thirteen years ago from the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts, where we met at work, at a dot-com era start-up. Before we started dating, I learned he, too, was a fan of the arts when we bumped into each other at a dance performance at Jacob’s Pillow.

We now have two kids, Malcolm and Nora, who attend the local public elementary school, where through enrichment programs they've studied a number of different genres of dance. We're all big fans of AXIS Dance Company.


How did you first hear about AXIS?

In 2008 I volunteered to work on a pro bono design project as part of a Taproot Foundation team. Taproot is a really amazing organization that brings together marketing professionals to donate their time and expertise in creating websites and other marketing materials for non-profits who have qualified for a service grant. The client happened to be AXIS Dance Company, and my role was to design a brochure to promote the Dance Access/KIDS! program.

It was a really terrific project: the Dance Access/KIDS! program is quite inspiring, teaching children about dance, disability, and creative collaboration. In the AXIS office, I poured over binders full of wonderful letters and drawings created by kids who had been in the program. It was my first insight into one of the ways AXIS Dance Company inspires and transforms the lives of the people it touches.


What do you love about AXIS?

Seeing AXIS perform is exhilarating. I'll never forget the first time my family and I attended a Home Season show at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, and being blown away by their strength and artistry. Since then, they have continued to push the boundaries of performance and choreography in new and exciting ways. Each year I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.


What are you most excited about being on the AXIS board?

Prior to my work on the Dance Access/KIDS! brochure, I'd volunteered my time on a number of projects for non-profits in the field of education, and I've always been a huge fan of the arts, so I was delighted when I was invited to join the AXIS Board. It just felt like a really good fit. Their work is so inspiring to me, and the staff and dancers are lovely and incredibly talented people to work with.

It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to bring my professional skills to support such an important organization and support local arts.


How do you think being part of AXIS has changed you?

Not just me, but my kids too. AXIS's dazzling, cutting-edge work has generated some really great family conversations in our house about a wide range of topics: how art and dance has emotional power and can make you feel sad, amused, happy, uncomfortable or elated; how people make assumptions about other's—and even their own—abilities based on outward appearance; how the inclusion of both disabled and able-bodied dancers collaborating at AXIS expands, rather than reduces, their collective vocabulary as a troupe.

AXIS has challenged us to discuss and think differently about how we view the world, and I think that spills over into my approach as a web designer, where accessibility is so important and yet too often ignored by designers.


What is your fondest AXIS memory?

There are many moments, but I think seeing AXIS perform choreographer Marc Brew's “Full of Words” last fall stands out as thrilling. Each dancer was challenged to stretch themselves in new ways, and having seen them perform numerous times before it was amazing to see them top themselves in such a blazingly innovative performance.


Why should someone join the AXIS' board?

If you love the arts—particularly contemporary dance—or if you feel strongly about bringing dance into schools, or if you’re passionate about educating people to think differently about disability, then joining the AXIS board may be an incredibly satisfying experience in serving a mission that fits your passion. Giving back to your community by supporting the arts with your leadership experience is both an energizing and nourishing professional opportunity. With AXIS currently working on a new piece,"Contingencies"with choreographer Victoria Marks and composer Beth Custer, it's a terrific time to get involved.

We’re excited about expanding the board this fall and hope you will consider applying to join us.


Anything else you like to share?

AXIS's big 25th Anniversary Open Rehearsal/Silent Auction is coming up this September 29th. It's a really fun event where you can mingle with the dancers, bid on some great items and get ahead on the holiday shopping, and get a sneak peek into the development of a new dance. Don’t miss it!