MoPOP: Celebrating the Transformative Power of Pop Culture

MoPOP: Celebrating the Transformative Power of Pop Culture

Michele Y. Smith, MoPOP’s CEO, shares her vision for the museum’s future and the importance of preserving pop culture.

Nestled next to Seattle’s iconic Space Needle stands a futuristic structure designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. This techno-organic marvel is home to the Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPOP, a cultural institution that celebrates the diverse realms of pop culture. From music and film to video games and fashion, MoPOP offers visitors a captivating journey through the ever-evolving landscape of popular culture. Recently appointed CEO Michele Y. Smith shares her inspirations, goals, and thoughts on the preservation of pop culture.

From the Woodland Park Zoo to MoPOP: A Unique Journey

Before assuming her role as CEO of MoPOP, Smith served as the Chief Business & Financial Officer at the award-winning Woodland Park Zoo. While the two organizations differ in their missions, Smith believes that both contribute to the vibrant cultural landscape of Seattle. Her experience at the zoo, particularly during the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, prepared her to navigate economic obstacles and prioritize the safety of visitors and staff. This experience served as a crash course in her career and equipped her to implement significant changes at MoPOP within just nine months.

A Personal Connection to Pop Culture

Smith’s passion for the arts and pop culture runs deep. Raised by a mother who was one of the first Black ballerinas in Philadelphia, Smith developed a love for music and learned to play the piano and violin. She sees her role at MoPOP as a culmination of her personal connection to pop culture and her desire to lead an organization that aligns with her values. Smith’s goals include driving revenue through new memberships and making the museum’s educational programs accessible to all. She believes that even a small donation can make anyone feel like a philanthropist, contributing to something they are passionate about.

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Lenny Kravitz: A Source of Inspiration

Smith finds inspiration in the renowned musician, fashion icon, and cultural influencer, Lenny Kravitz. As a Black woman, she celebrates Kravitz’s contributions to pop culture and his amplification of women within his genre. Kravitz’s music, which effortlessly blends rock, soul, and funk, resonates deeply with Smith, addressing themes of freedom, empowerment, and self-acceptance. His fashion choices challenge traditional gender norms and inspire fearlessness in self-expression. Through his cultural impact, Kravitz has empowered a new generation of artists to embrace their identities and make their mark on pop culture.

Preserving Pop Culture as Fine Art

Smith challenges the notion that pop culture and classical art are separate entities. She believes that they are one and the same, with classical art serving as the pop culture of its time. Preserving pop culture is crucial as it mirrors the values, beliefs, and aspirations of society. Like classical art, pop culture offers insights into the past and captures the essence of contemporary life. It inspires and influences individuals, shaping identities and fostering creativity. Preserving pop culture ensures the conservation of diverse cultural expressions for future generations to appreciate and learn from.

The Future of MoPOP: Inclusivity and Partnerships

As MoPOP enters its third decade, Smith’s primary focus is expanding the museum’s membership base and diversifying its donor portfolio. She aims to connect with the ever-evolving world and cater to the diverse needs of guests. Smith also envisions forging partnerships with like-minded corporations that share MoPOP’s mission of driving social change through gaming, film, music, and fashion. Together, they can create a future where artistic expression and cultural experiences are accessible to every individual, regardless of their background. Smith actively seeks collaborations that envision a more inclusive and diverse arts and culture landscape.

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Under the leadership of CEO Michele Y. Smith, MoPOP is poised to continue its celebration of the transformative power of pop culture. With a focus on expanding membership, diversifying donors, and fostering inclusivity, Smith aims to ensure that MoPOP remains a vibrant and accessible cultural institution. By preserving pop culture as we do fine art, MoPOP will continue to inspire and educate future generations, fostering a deep appreciation for the diverse tapestry of human experiences. Together, let us support and celebrate the arts, making a lasting impact on our community and beyond.