Supporter Spotlight is a feature where we shine a light on our members and donors to learn about their connections to the Frye and why they support the Museum.
Gilda Sheppard is a long-time Frye member, film director, writer, executive producer, and educator. Storytelling and creative expression have been central to her life from
a young age and we’re delighted to share her story.
“As a child growing up in Detroit, I often sat in a closet with a mirror and flashlight watching shadow and light create shapes in darkness. When I left that closet my loving
grandmother would ask me what I was doing in there. I told her I was making shapes that I had not seen before. My grandmother would laugh and encourage me to make
stories from these shapes. My discoveries, where stories take shape, were the first glimpses of my passion for filmmaking as storytelling. In my early days as an activist, working with the
American Friends Service Committee, I started using a camera as a tool to embrace and present stories from my working class, and Black community. These were stories of organizing where sometimes people don't look or even listen and render to darkness instead of discovery.”
Sharing how she became connected to the Frye, Gilda notes, “I live close to the Frye and one evening, about a decade ago, I saw this performance outside of the Frye. There was theater, masquerade, dance, and more. I remember how elated I felt that the Frye not only had art on the walls but also interactive installations that were carefully displayed with their collection. I knew this was a museum that loved its community. I felt at home.” Of her recent visits, Gilda says, “I loved Black Refractions and the ability to interact with the art and opening night of Donald Byrd featuring photography, dance, film, and installations. I love opening nights!”
Since her first visit, the Frye and its exhibitions, images and paintings have been a source of inspiration for Gilda’s film practice and work as an educator. “As an independent filmmaker, the range of exhibitions the Frye offers embrace why and how I look at filmmaking both through a lens of the multiplicity of storytelling from diverse subjects to the cinematic aesthetic of light, shadow, color, and movement. In addition to being a filmmaker, I teach sociology, cultural and media studies classes at The Evergreen State College Tacoma Campus. We have gone on field trips to the Frye to have my students view and experience how light can convey storytelling, breathe life into sociological and media theory, as well as embrace history, from the 19th century to the present. How a painting hanging on a wall can speak and even move. The Frye offers a range of images that can take you to what James Baldwin says about art—‘...art can show you what you at times don't see’”.
Gilda has been a Frye member since 2008 and sees membership as a way to support all aspects of the Frye that inspire and make her feel at home. Free admission, programs serving children, students, and life-long learners, exhibitions featuring works from the Founding Collection and shows highlighting local, national, and global artists from different backgrounds are motivations for her support as well as exhibition openings that bring community together in celebration.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Gilda!
To learn more about Gilda and her recent film, Since I Been Down, visit her website.