ALEXANDRA NICHOLIS COON
At what point in your life did you consider yourself a feminist? Was it an event or a process?
I think I started to receive validation that I was a feminist when I took a postmodern art class in graduate school. From a young age, I'd always striven to give voice to my opinions through art, fashion, and as editorial editor of the high school newspaper; and I'd always surrounded myself with strong female voices, held strong female musicians in high regard, and was acutely aware of avoiding behavior I perceived to be abusive.
Who most influenced your awareness of your feminism?
I think being introduced to the history of feminism as expressed through art both enlightened and awakened me. I didn't feel I needed to adhere to a particular doctrine, per se; but I felt fortunate to understand the history and context of the movement that helped validate and instill in me a confidence to break from tradition and embrace what I perceived to be my path. Judy Chicago's "Dinner Party", along with the photographs of Cindy Sherman and Lorna Simpson introduced me to bold, brave women whose voices resonated across the globe, in a big way, in response to a male-dominated art world. Their artwork addresses identity and the female perspective head-on in a way I had never known. This introduction to their work was a wake-up call for me.
In what ways has your feminism informed your life choices?
Once I embraced a feminist ideology and felt comfortable in my own skin, I was able to identify partnerships and relationships that were equal, and mutually beneficial as opposed to one-sided. My husband understands and supports my beliefs in devoting time to improving the lives of women and girls, and he respects my devotion to career, and that I strive to balance it effectively with family. Eleven years ago, I was introduced to the Soroptimist organization, and have been a member for ten years. Everyone who knows me knows that this organization has, like my commitment to the arts, my museum work, and my family, become part and parcel to my being. I identify strongly as a Soroptimist, because of what it stands for: Soroptimists work to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment in our local communities and throughout the world. As a volunteer for this organization, I have had the opportunity to help address a variety of challenges facing women.
In what ways do you share your feminism with others?
I always strive to help women realize their potential, and, in my career, provide opportunities to all of my colleagues that allow them to develop new skills sets, pursue their interests, and attain recognition for the intellectual property they create. In addition, I introduce women to the organizations in which I'm involved with missions driven toward women's issues.
Describe your vision of a feminist world.
My vision of a feminist world is one where everyone is viewed as equal, and where women aspiring to something typically fulfilled by men is not casually dismissed or considered the source of a joke. I would hope that oppression of women in all forms, to all degrees, be obliterated, and that we as a human race begin to solve problems together without the archaic and offensive notion that women don't possess the same value of opinion, worth, or capability as men.
How I Define Feminism:
My definition of feminism is celebrating the unique gifts of women and men alike, and paying special attention to combating the perception that either sex is inferior to another in any respect. Advocating for creation of equal opportunities for women, and preventing girls from being subject to the notion that their gender is a barrier to pursuit of their dreams, or a valid excuse for being denied human rights are, I believe, tenets of feminism.
I believe that feminism requests of those who live it that we not stand idly by when faced with opposition to equal rights for women. Whether the advocacy happens quietly or loudly, those who embrace the tenets of feminism should voice their opinions when they perceive any wrongdoing to any human that is steeped in gender discrimination.
Alexandra Nicholis Coon is the Executive Director for the Massillon Museum. She received her MA in Art History from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, a BA in Art History from Kent State University, and has a Collections Care certificate from the Campbell Center for Historic Preservation. She has been with MassMu since 2001, serving as Curator for the Museum from 2003-2010, and executive director since 2011. Nicholis Coon was adjunct faculty for Walsh University from 2006 – 2011, having taught art history and museum studies courses, and is a member of the University’s advisory board. She serves on the board of Visit Canton!, the Convention and Visitors’ Bureau for Stark County, City of Massillon’s Community Improvement and Third Century Committees, is Vice President for the Board of the Ohio Museums Association, serves as a trustee for the Massillon Chamber Foundation, and is an advisory member for Jackson School for the Arts and the City of Akron Holocaust Commemoration committees. Coon chairs the Advocacy Committee for the Ohio Museums Association, and has guest curated exhibitions for the Riffe Gallery in Columbus and the Lockview in downtown Akron.
In 2011, she was recognized with the YStark! “Twenty Under 40” award, the Canton/Stark County Outstanding Soroptimist Award, was a 2012 inductee to the Canton YWCA Women’s Hall of Fame, the 2012 recipient of the Massillon Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence in Leadership Award, and a 2013 and 2014 Athena Award finalist for Stark County. Coon is a 10-year member of Soroptimist International of Canton/Stark County, and has served on the organization’s Midwestern Region board. She enjoys having had the opportunity to collaborate with numerous organizations throughout Ohio and the country in her professional capacity, whether serving as an exhibit juror or conference presenter, and has had opportunities to assist with volunteer service projects benefiting women and girls in her community and beyond through Soroptimist. Coon is a member of the Akron Chapter D.A.R., and resides in North Canton, OH with her husband, Joshua, and twin daughters Persephone and Myra.