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Kimberly Camp

Before heading the Barnes Foundation for 8 years, Kimberly Camp had established herself as a painter and doll maker. Throughout her career she has continued to live the double life of an artist and museum director from Washington DC to Washington State, where she now works. In her paintings, Camp likes to depict the many life experiences of her ample family, grandmothers, aunts and uncles, friends and story tellers. Her dolls conjure the tradition of African American doll-makers, a mix of whimsy and magic. Curiosity and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, Kimberly Camp says, is at the root of her achievements. Camp is the CEO of the Handford Reach Interpretive Center in Washington State.





I believe in the power of positive thought. I always have.


Growing up an only child in Camden, NJ, my parents did all they could to keep me busy and out of trouble.


The Camden Free Library was on one corner and Sbar's art supply store across the street. I read almost every book in the children's library before my mother leant me her card for entry into the adult section, reserved for those twelve and older. I scoured the self-help arts and crafts books.


I taught myself words in other languages, international cultures and people, dream interpretation and penmanship. I learned about making talismans and amulets and dolls with dried apples and hickory nuts for heads. I studied Japanese sumi-e painting, Native American beading and moccasin making, and so on.


Whatever I read about in the library, became the map for a new scavenger hunt through the art supply store for a new project when I got home. Learning and creating energized me. Even now as I think about it, I feel more empowered and ready to be open to new ideas, new people, new things and places to go.


All it ever took was wanting good things, for the sake of their goodness, and nothing else. Those early experiences taught me that when I started to learn something or make something and decided from the start that it wasn't going to work, it wouldn't. It just made more sense to want a positive outcome.


Positive thinking is a form of magic. I've used it so often I know it Works and when it does, it feels fantastic. One summer, i was invited to go to Nigeria with master drummer Babatunde Olatunji - a once in a lifetime opportunity. I needed $1200 more for my ticket. A friend said "Speak it and it will happen. It worked for me and it could work for you." so I tried it. I had one more day to come up with the money. That afternoon, a friend called to say a collector heard about my doll-making and wanted to see my work. Tonight works fine, I said. They arrived and looked over the dolls I had put out on display in my small living room in Virginia. I'll take that one said the collector. The price, I said was $1200. He handed me a check in that exact amount, no questions asked.


From the Smithsonian, to The Barnes the most implausible scenario was often magically turned into a great opportunity. Things that I was told were impossible melted in the face of hard work and strategic thinking. The power of really wanting it to work, against all odds, was the winning card. I know it was.


It doesn't always work. There was a time when it seemed nothing was working right. Things could have been far worse, but still, I held the belief that things would change for the better. They did.


No matter what, believe that the best will happen because you deserve it. We all deserve a little magic.