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Isolde Brielmaier

Curator, Visionary, Leader

"I truly believe that when we prioritize the well-being and care of people, everything that people do becomes better and brighter. This requires trust, care, attention and equity. It also requires consistency, collaboration and kindness…"

Isolde Brielmaier, Deputy Director of the New Museum and Guest Curator at the International Center for Photography in NYC - in conversation with our Founder and CEO, Vanessa Barboni Hallik

Q |  Isolde, you’ve been such a deep source of personal inspiration for me and a lighthouse for Another Tomorrow as a member of our Advisory Board that it is a particular honor to open this new chapter of Visionaries For Tomorrow with you.
Before we dive into some of the areas where you and I have been in deep discussion, can you share a few slivers of inspiration for you heading into the new year? Who or what is lighting up your world and imagination?

What a pleasure it is to know you Vanessa and to support the vision of Another Tomorrow! I did a lot of re-calibrating last year, thinking about when, where, how and with whom I wish to re-enter into life as we all work to move forward from the pandemic, among other things. That said, I am really easing into 2023. Really trying to have gratitude and be mindful and present as a mother, sister, friend, and colleague…I am really focused on my health and well-being in a holistic way so that I can also care for others. I am also really hoping to spend more quality time with my loved ones. My friends here in NYC are my chosen family and I really want to make certain that I am seeing folks regularly. I read somewhere recently that so much of our happiness comes from deepening our connection with others…this is a priority for me and so is paying good things forward!

Lighting up my world? I am REALLY looking forward to doing a bit more travel. I miss being out in the big bold world. It is both humbling and inspiring to experience other ways of being and doing in the world and this is what traveling brings me. 

Q | That’s such a beautiful segue into the role of the arts and the vision it brings to the world, which you have made your life’s work and has been central to human evolution. It feels particularly imperative to me now that we bring creative voices to the foreground as part of a collective reimagination of almost every facet of the way we live as a species to bring us into balance both the planet and each other. There is a growing recognition that we are not going to “tech” our way out of this, at least not as a standalone. 
How are you thinking about the role of the arts today and your own role as a leader both within this broader landscape and at the New Museum?

The arts are a vital part of how we as people see ourselves and the world in which we live. So many contemporary artists not only hone their craft but also challenge us to reflect and look at the societies in which we live with open eyes and open hearts. They challenge us to be uncomfortable, aware, open…to be brave. The artists we have collaborated with at the New Museum have been doing this for years. This challenge is at the core of their practice.

Isolde Updated-02

Q | I would love to shift the emphasis just a touch and dig a little into a topic we’ve spoken about at length: humanity, humility and equity in the realm of sustainability and environmental responsibility. Could you share some of your insight into the necessity of a human-centric approach?

People over projects so that people become our project. I truly believe that when we prioritize the well-being and care of people, everything that people do becomes better and brighter. This requires trust, care, attention and equity. It also requires consistency, collaboration and kindness…

Q | It’s so easy to lean on our work, which of course I did, and I would love to shift the conversation back to your life as a whole. Can you share your trajectory, the formative influences and decisions  along your path - including, but also beyond your career - and how your sense of identity has evolved along the way.


My family- my mom, dad and brother-are very much central to who I am. My parents' cultures (Ugandan and Austrian) informed a lot of how I see the world. As adults, my brother and I remain close and while we are similar in many ways, we are also very different and he has helped me to look at things in other ways; to push me at times out of my comfort zone. I appreciate him very much. Of course my friends-my chosen family- are everything to me. They love, guide, and support me and above all they share in the joys of life on a regular basis. I treasure them. I think my years as a dance student and then as a dancer very much informed my life and work as well. The focus and discipline it took to master the craft…this I have carried forward into almost everything I do. The perseverance it took to develop as a dancer was also critical. I had some supportive instructors. But as one of the only Black dancers in my school (Pacific Northwest Ballet School in Seattle), I had to face a lot of subtle racism. I had to contend with stereotypes and others’ belief that I could only perform certain roles and not others. I was young so I didn't fully understand it all, but looking back I see how strong I had to be as a young, Black woman. 


Q | Bringing together some of these threads together: you are raising your daughter in this wild world. How does motherhood and guiding your daughter into adulthood figure into all of this?

Being a parent is both joyful and humbling. I always say it is a joy and a juggle. My daughter is the light of my life. I learn so much from her and I am enjoying watching her grow up. In this moment, I talk with her a lot about how much she should value herself; that she is a wonderful, kind person, and that she will always be enough. Always. And we talk about joy and gratitude. These two things can be really transformative in one’s life. 


Q | As we close, I would love for you to share (1) a lesson you are bringing with you from 2022, (2) an intention for 2023, and (3) the next thing you’re going to be doing for yourself out of sheer joy.. 

  1. Be present in this moment. Stay in the now.

  2. Deepen my relationships with myself and others. This forms the core of happiness.

  3. I cannot wait to TRAVEL! I want to see more of the world, so I am eager to venture out!

BG SHOT 18 M BLK SUNDRESS 0054 Horizontal R5

Isolde wears our Double Breasted Jacket and Classic Trouser in Peony.
You can find more from Isolde at @isolde_brielmaier
Photos by Paper Monday @papermonday

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