Sheena Brown (MA 2003) is the Public Design Commission Liaison for the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, where she has worked since 2005. A graduate of Wesleyan University, she began her professional career as curator of the Morris-Jumel Mansion in New York City. She lives in Long Island with her husband and two children.

What attracted you to Bard Graduate Center’s graduate program?

I entered right after receiving my BA in Art History from Wesleyan University. I wanted to work with objects in a museum and, honestly, after hearing the high praises of Bard Graduate Center from my undergraduate advisor, there was nowhere else I wanted to be. I was encouraged by the small class size and the accessibility of the faculty which was apparent even from my entrance interview. I look back at my time at BGC very fondly. I think often about my professors, who were so learned and so very good at teaching, and about my classmates. In fact, I continue to be inspired by them. Each member of the entering class of 1999 had a different reason for wanting to be at Bard Graduate Center and many of the women had successful careers they left to pursue the education that was offered there. I am still amazed by this group—how they have risen in their fields and how they have balanced their growing families and careers.

What was your focus of study here, how did you find yourself involved with it?

I didn’t have a particular area of study until it was time to concentrate on my thesis. The survey courses were especially fun and motivating, though as each section ended, my focus still was not clear. Several of my classes examined royal patronage and I was especially inspired by Michele Majer’s textile history survey. This led to my thesis examining the clothing of the fifteenth-century Burgundian court. I was able to make parallels learned from our amazing summer study abroad to England and Scotland led by Professors Andrew Morrall and Pat Kirkham.

Describe your positions since you graduated and your work with NYC Parks and Recreation.

After I finished my master’s coursework, I was fortunate to join the staff at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, a gorgeous, neo-Palladian villa in Washington Heights, where former BGC professor Kevin Stayton was a board member and mentor. During my time there I focused on the conservation of many of the nineteenth-century New York furniture that was original to the house.

I started my career at NYC Parks in 2005 as monuments coordinator. In 2010, I was named Parks’ deputy director of Art & Antiquities and managed a team that oversaw the stewardship of over 800 sculptures and monuments in the city’s parks. We maintained and conserved amazing pieces of public sculpture ranging from Louise Nevelson’s steel assemblage, Night Presence IV, on Park Avenue, to the Washington Square Arch and over 200 war memorials throughout the five boroughs. I was especially proud of new monuments the city installed such as the Frederick Douglass Memorial in Central Park and the Flight 587 Memorial in Far Rockaway, Queens. I have been extremely fortunate to work closely with dedicated conservation professionals at Parks and at many of the public and private conservation labs in the city.

Last February, I started a new position as NYC Parks’ Public Design Commission Liaison. In this role, I facilitate the capital landscape architecture, architecture, engineering, and monuments projects through the city’s approval processes. I work at the Olmsted Center in Flushing Meadows, which is the headquarters of Parks’ Design, Construction, and Engineering Divisions. Originally built as the administration building for the 1964 World’s Fair, the building is home base for a staff of over 250 design professionals including 150 landscape architects, several of whom graduated from Bard Graduate Center. Here we implement several exciting design programs that help fulfill the mayor’s equity initiatives directed towards creating thriving public spaces for all New Yorkers. Witnessing the process of how our public spaces are designed, built, and ultimately used has been an extraordinary experience for me.

How has your experience at Bard Graduate Center helped you in your career?

I have been working at NYC Parks for over 10 years and am enormously proud to be part of a city agency with such a wide-ranging scope. Before I arrived here, I had not imagined that I would find a job that would so well combine my interest in collections’ management with public service. New York City’s collection of art and sculpture is remarkable, perhaps more so because it is free and available to and for the public at all times. While I am now more focused on urban planning and landscape architecture, the foundations I learned at Bard Graduate Center are immeasurable and affect everything I do.