Janis Burley-Wilson – 2016 Onyx Woman of the Year

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Janis Burley Wilson

VP, Strategic Partnerships & Community Engagement

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
16 Years in the Industry

OW: What has been your greatest inspiration?

JBW: My greatest inspiration is the audience, the community, and how they respond to the art and culture I share through my work at the Trust.

OW: Name one person who you consider to be a great role model and tell us why.
JBW: A great role model for me professionally is Scott Izzo of RK Mellon Foundation. He believes in the power of art and the people in our community, and he supports generously through his foundation role. He keeps an open mind and is willing to take risks on new, controversial ideas. Personally, my parents have set high standards for me and I’m constantly trying to meet those standards as a parent, a family member, and friend. They are the epitome of class and grace.

OW: When did you become aware of your purpose?

JBW: I first became aware of my purpose in 2003 when I staged my first art show, Showcase Noir, featuring the many talented African American artists in our region for exhibition and sale of their work.

OW: What advice would you give to anyone about following their dreams?
JBW: Follow, take risks, but be prepared to fail and learn from failure to come back stronger moving forward.

OW: What is the biggest career mistake that you have ever made?
JBW: My biggest career mistake would be not to plan and to assume that I would succeed. Plan to win, plan for failure, and plan for the comeback. The best thing I’ve done is to put myself in situations where I’m new, inexperienced, and open to learn. I never pass up an opportunity.

OW: What do you dream for Pittsburgh in the next 5 years?

JBW: I would love to see young African Americans tap into, and profit from, the real estate and business boom taking place in Pittsburgh. All the young executives living with their families in the suburbs should buy properties in Wilkinsburg, Hazelwood, Homewood, etc. and reclaim these neighborhoods.

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