Heidi Marquez Smith shares career updates since her 2011 cover and how creativity and the arts are restorative during a pandemic.

Photo courtesy of Heidi Marquez Smith

This month, like countless other small businesses and local companies, Austin Woman was faced with the financial ripples of COVID-19. A May issue was no longer a guarantee—without some help. Our founder, Melinda Garvey, turned to the women who have always been our loudest and best cheerleaders: our former cover women. She asked if they would lean in and support us, so in turn we can continue to support all Austin women. The responses were immediate and humbling.

Heidi Marquez Smith, the executive director of the Texas Cultural Trust and a 2011 Cover Woman, shares career updates since her 2011 cover and how creativity and the arts are restorative during a pandemic.

Austin Woman: Your Austin Woman cover story followed your political career in Washington, D.C. and your role as the executive director of the Texas Book Festival. What have been some career highlights since your 2011 cover?

Heidi Marquez Smith: The past nine years have been a blur! I officially left my role as executive director for the Texas Book Festival in 2013 and that same year had my youngest son. I also chaired the Texas Lyceum’s Public Conference, “Texas Infrastructure: Building the Future.”

Transitioning to consulting from home was a challenge with a newborn. During the following years I worked with small nonprofits and burgeoning nonprofits to provide development and strategic consulting. I took full advantage of volunteering for the organizations I loved, serving on multiple boards and committees.

All this to say, I learned that I loved being out in the community and strategically connecting people and organizations that otherwise may have never had an opportunity to collaborate and create and fulfill their goals together.

AW: In your current role as the executive director of the Texas Cultural Trust, you’ve had to lead through unprecedented times with COVID-19. What advice do you have for nonprofits weathering this storm and how can the community best support them?

HMS: As a statewide leader in the arts and culture sector, I feel a huge responsibility to help, inform and connect. How do we illustrate how important the arts have been to Austin and to Texas during this pandemic, as an emotional salve, a form of expression, a universal language, a way to connect with others and a symbol of hope? I do believe that access to art and culture is and will be essential to healing and rebuilding our local and global communities.

The Trust is encouraging art organizations to complete the Americans for the Arts Economic Impact Survey. Being able to quantify the economic impact of COVID-19 on businesses and individuals is extremely important to ensure we can advocate for local and state relief and recovery funding. The Trust has aggregated a comprehensive list of financial and informational resources for those impacted by COVID-19 in one place to make this a bit easier. We have also allowed our Texas Women for the Arts grantees to reallocate funding from education programming to operations if needed. I recommend other grantors consider doing the same for their grantees.

We are all in this together! Collaboration is key; this is no time to be territorial. Minimize duplication of efforts. Take this time to evaluate your operation. Share best practices and resources. Keep in touch with your sponsors, donors, constituents. Promote others in your community. Utilize your board and their networks.

AW: How can Austinites support you and the women in your community right now?

HMS: Tag your favorite artist and their work on your social media, tag restaurants after picking up a meal and invite your network to support them or learn about them. If you don’t already know about the Texas Cultural Trust, I would love for you to visit our website and learn more. Participate in our #ARTCANTEXAS initiative and join our coloring campaign and tag us in your artwork.

Austin women, keep in touch with your networks, especially those you might not have heard from recently. Staying home does have its silver linings, but it can also be isolating, whether you live alone or have six children.


There is definitely an uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty. However, there are many silver linings, including daily dinners and more time with my family, lots of sidewalk chalk art, daily exercise, time to reconnect with neighbors, happy hours with girlfriends, FaceTimes with my mom and takeout dinners to support local restaurants! I am truly moved by the creativity and resourcefulness of people coming together through music, song and art to stay connected and express themselves. Where language fails, art takes over!

Read more stories of our former cover women who joined our Lean In campaign.



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