Michelle Hawkins is the biggest party host in Plano you’ve never heard of.
As the administrator of arts, culture and heritage for the city of Plano, Michelle masterminds the city-sponsored arts events and projects in town. “I wear a lot of different hats, but it’s fun,” Michelle said. “Sometimes, I’m a marketer trying to get the word out. In events we do, I’m setting up the stage for that incredible party so everybody can enjoy it.”
For Michelle, the art world is nothing new. Growing up in both Plano and Allen, Michelle enjoyed theater in high school, and worked to earn degrees in theatrical lighting at Collin College and Texas Woman’s University. “I honestly thought that when I grew up, I wanted to be a lighting designer,” she said. But a series of job opportunities led her to work for the government: first running Plano Stages, the city’s live performance venues, and later, leading the Arts, Culture and Heritage Department.
Above all, Michelle hopes to reframe Plano as a creative city brimming with artistic opportunities. “There’s a perception in Plano that we’re business-focused, and art is just an afterthought. I want to let local artists know that they can stay here, do their art and still be appreciated,” she said.
In her goal of cementing this vision, Michelle has greatly impacted Plano’s art scene, especially in the historic downtown neighborhood. As the Downtown Plano Arts District bloomed, Michelle was the formative gardener shaping its development. She is also a member of the inaugural Leadership Arts Institute class in Collin/Denton Counties and a founding member of the Plano Art Coalition.
Along with planning events like this month’s Plano Artfest, the Christmas Dickens Fest and next year’s Texas Music Revolution concert, she is heading up the portal project, which will display original, large-scale artworks along 15th Street leading into downtown. More recently, she led efforts to apply for a state-official arts district designation for Plano, and expects a reply this month. “Hopefully, this will provide more clout and distinction for the area, and will inspire local artists to find grants for other programs,” Michelle said.
At the heart of her service, Michelle cites her favorite part of her job as the Plano citizens. “I get to meet so many creative, intelligent, just inspiring people on a daily basis – not only sitting employees, but people in the community,” she said. “In this rapidly changing world, it’s just incredible to see Plano and its people adapting gracefully.”See all of the women in our Girl Boss 2016 feature >