Susie Spear Purcell Teaches Us Why It’s Important to Give Back

Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.

For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions. 

We are proud to introduce the Next Leading Lady for March 2018: Susie Spear Purcell

Where do you work and what do you do?
I am Program Director for Playmaking for Girls, which is the youth outreach arts program of Synchronicity Theatre Company. I lead a team of talented female artists who teach playwriting and acting workshops that empower teen girls to find their voices and honour their stories. We work with girls who are wards of the state with DFACS/DJJ and live in group homes as well as refugee girls who have recently come to America. I also partner with Arts Now Learning as a Theatre Arts Consultant where I develop theatre integrated lessons and coach teachers and students throughout Georgia to bring the arts into non-artistic disciplines in the classroom and bring learning to life.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
I have always had a longing and interest in the arts as my parents valued and lived out their artistic callings throughout my childhood. I was a shy little girl but always knew I wanted to be apart of the power of storytelling on the stage. My first play was in first grade at my public elementary school in Dekalb County. I stayed active in theatre throughout elementary school and high school and studied the craft in college with a theatre minor. After college, I worked as an actress in Atlanta and then moved to Los Angeles and NYC to further pursue my career. I have never stopped performing and teaching the power of theatre since I started my journey in elementary school. I have been Program Director of Playmaking for Girls for 15 years.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
Since first grade, I knew that storytelling was my passion and acting was the vehicle of that expression. Plus, no one else in my artistic home was an actor so it could be “my own” thing. When I wrote my first business resume in college, I put that I wanted “to make the world a better place” in the objective section. People laughed and told me that I needed to be more specific, professional and realistic. I desired to be honest and get down to the point. I always knew that I wanted to live a life of storytelling, whether on stage or on screen. I saw how I could live that out and raise people up in the process, therefore, making the world a better place. I knew that if I followed my passion, which we were encouraged to do in my family, that I would live life as an artist. I have been blessed to be able to do that every day and have it look different each of those days!

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
I would love to sit down for coffee with Rosa Parks. The strength, vision, grace and faith that she had to stand so firm and tall in her convictions for equality amidst such adversity are powerful. I would want to know when she knew she was going to make the stand and what tipped her to taking action. Her actions were so important at a time when women, especially women of color, had such little voice and opportunity.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My parents have been the biggest influence in my life. My father is a pastor and a talented visual artist. He brought his faith and art into all that he did. He taught me to empathize with people, meet people where they are and to actively look for the miracle and beauty of small everyday moments. The way the light bounces off the hood of a car. The music of wind blowing in the trees.
My mother raised six children and had a career with such love, strength and grace. While she did not study a particular field of art, her life has been a work of art. She taught me an appreciation for world travel and people of all cultures, to go for my dreams, believe in myself no matter what and that every life is valuable and deserves to be treated with respect. My parents did all that they could to help expose me to the theatre and the arts.

How is art a passion for you?
Art is a passion for me because it stirs voice in me and others. I have seen it change lives. I have seen so many youth standing tall with empowerment as they explore stories and feel heard. There is really nothing like seeing someone start to believe in themselves and feel the change within them. Art can heal, propel and change perspectives through provoking empathy, which is the start to making our world a more peaceful place.

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
I am seeing more equality for women in the creative workforce. Since I work for an all female theatre company, I have seen women’s contribution to the arts in big ways. I think we have a long way to go as far as equality in the arts workplace throughout the US but I have hope as women in all professions are standing up and speaking out in big ways.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
Seeing them grow! I’ve been an artist in Atlanta for almost 30 years and have seen tiny steps of growth and great promise for a more vibrant arts community. It appears that it’s starting to really happen. Very exciting. I am excited about many facets of the arts community trying to reach the underserved community. That is the essence of the power of the arts for me.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do? 

I hope to bring a rainbow of unique and soulful female voices to the Atlanta arts community. I hope to help raise future artists who contribute to the Atlanta art community in their own unique, vibrant ways. These young ladies are preparing to be peaceful, strong, brave, smart, creative leaders in their Atlanta communities and beyond.

Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?