We’re starting a new regular post within The Marbury Project. The de Wolfe Questionnaire honors Elsie de Wolfe, the longtime companion of Bessie Marbury, a prolific interior designer and maven of Paris and Hollywood society in the first half of the 20th century. The astute reader will note that many of these questions overlap with the list named after de Wolfe’s contemporary, Marcel Proust. We’ve taken the liberty of tweaking for our purposes. If you’d like to propose a woman working in the arts for the Questionnaire, email us or tweet us at #MarburyProj. ~Editor
Mara Walker is the Chief Operating Officer of Americans for the Arts, where she’s worked for 23 years in varying capacities. It’s understandable, then, why her motto is about the arts, her passion for theater, and her love of courage, both in her family and in fiction.
What is your idea of perfect happiness? When you see someone experience the transformative power of the arts and it makes them a true advocate.
What is your greatest fear? That our individual rights will be taken away by a group of white wealthy men who have never had to worry about anything.
Which level of government is most pertinent in your occupation? The truth is, local, state and federal advocacy is all critical to advancing the arts.
What living person do you most admire? Artists like Banksy, Salman Rushdie, Ai Weiwei, or Pussy Riot who have taken great risks to deliver a message through their work.
What historical figure do you most admire? My grandmother who escaped through the woods to survive oppression and the war in Russia.
What is your greatest extravagance? Theater tickets
What is your greatest achievement? Raising my amazing daughter to be someone who is fighting to save our planet.
What is the most overrated virtue? Contentment. We must always be willing to fight for a better life for all.
What quality do you most like in a man? A great sense of humor
What quality do you most like in a woman? Loyalty
What words or phrases do you overuse? Sure, I will have another.
What or who was the greatest love of your life? My husband since we have been putting up with each other for over 30 years.
When or where were/are you happiest? When I am working with a group of people to enact real change.
What talent would you most like to have? The ability to tell a good story that changes people’s minds.
What is your most marked characteristic? My crazy hair.
Where would you most like to live? NYC with a house by warm water and the money and time to get there often.
What do you most value in your friends? My friends are loyal, quirky, non-judgmental, clever, and patient.
What profession other than your own would you like to try? Talent agent because I love seeing greatness in others and helping them succeed. Or President of the United States from 2017-2020 because I think I could do better.
Who are you currently following in (pick any or all):
Books: Hillbilly Ellergy, JD Vance
Visual: Not a who but a what: we are tracking these Congressional controversies around paintings at work
Music: Still trying to memorize the Hamilton soundtrack
Theater: So so many because we are lucky to have great playwrights, directors, actors and designers in this country.
Who is your hero/heroine in fiction? Hedwig, Eponine, Jonathan Livingston Seagull
What is your greatest regret? That we are still having to prove the value of the arts to people in America.
What excites you in your own creative practice? Just the time to stop, think and reflect — that is such a luxury.
Where is your “third place”? The theater, either live or at the movies
What is your motto? The arts build better lives and better communities.