Barbara Hartley: At the Heart of Art

Barbara Hartley, the executive director of the Downtown Arts District, is what you might call a doer. She hardly has time to fit one of her loves — triathlon training — into her jam-packed schedule. However, this former Lake Brantley High School graduate always makes time for helping her community.

“I have a passion for art, but I also enjoy connecting people,” Hartley says. “I’m one of those lucky people who has a job that combines both things I really love.”

The mission of DAD, which is a nonprofit organization that encompasses the core area of Colonial Drive to South Street and Summerlin to Parramore Avenues, is to “lead, stimulate, and guide the development of a vibrant, innovative arts and cultural district that enhances economic development in Downtown Orlando.”

Through the organization, Hartley connects Orlando artists to the community. This includes visual artists like painters, sculptors and photographers as well as performance artists such as play writers, storytellers and even musicians. She spreads the word about art events and partners with other groups to find dedicated or hosted spaces in the downtown area where artists can create and share art with both residents and visitors.

With an undergraduate degree in marketing from Florida State University and a MBA from the Crummer School of Business at Rollins College, Hartley explains that she owes much of her love of Orlando’s art community to her father. A career airman in the United States Air Force, he would take Hartley and her younger sister to local theater productions at the University of Central Florida, Valencia College and Seminole Community College, just to name a few. Throw in the fact that Hartley was born in Vicenza, Italy to an Italian mother and you have the makings of an art lover for life.
artley says her personal philosophy is that “art is the conduit with which we as a community can celebrate beauty as well as explore solutions to social issues together.”

A great example of that was the successful collaboration of Orlando’s art community after the Pulse tragedy. Of course, the Orange County Regional History Center had a hand in archiving and curating many of the Pulse memorials and other artwork. But DAD’s CityArts Factory also supported, and continues to support, an environment for artistic expression around shared experiences.

While DAD is at the heart of Hartley’s career, it’s not all. She is also a sustaining member of University of Central Florida’s Town and Gown, a trustee for American Advertising Federation of Orlando, and on the Leadership Board of the Crummer School for Business.

“I’ve always had an interest in education,” Hartley says. “I never want to stop learning. Just like what was given to me, I want to share what I’ve learned. It’s a great way to keep the cycle going.”


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