The Women Securing Louise Nevelson’s Legacy

The Masterwork of a Great Woman is now in the hands of great women

Jane Greenwood, Sarah Nunberg, Debra Inwald, Mieke Vandersall, and Sarah Sutton are the women professionals and leaders who are bringing their considerable experience, talent, and acumen to bear in every aspect of the Nevelson Chapel renewal project. From architecture and engineering, to art conservation, to fundraising, communications and strategic vision, to heritage preservation, these dynamic women are ensuring that the full value and impact of Nevelson’s brilliance is tended to with the deep respect she deserves.

Louise Nevelson was not easily impressed. Her response might not have been as effusive as we’d like to imagine to the mere fact that her team is by and large women-led. Nonetheless, the fact the legacy of her masterwork is in the hands of women experts and professionals would undoubtedly seem fitting to her. And, her appreciation for bringing together unique and interesting component parts into an extraordinary whole would be satisfied as she came to know this impressive team of teams.

The women leading the work at Nevelson Chapel are hardly monolithic. Each one brings her own particular gifts and strengths to the table. Beyond their gender identity, they all share the distinction of having carved highly regarded niches (as did Nevelson) in traditionally male-dominated fields.

Jane Greenwood, Managing Principal at Kostow Greenwood, takes a hands-on approach from end to end in her projects from the vision and design through construction. A recent profile in a professional resource describes Jane this way: “Jane values a synergistic approach to architecture and business through smart decision-making and creative problem solving.” Nothing could suit Louise Nevelson better.

Sarah Nunberg, Lead Art Conservator for Nevelson Chapel, has a quiet, yet persistent style, settling for nothing less than the most thorough research, innovative techniques, and careful, patient approach to Nevelson’s sculptural environment. Every decision is made with the utmost thought and care for the artist’s original vision and execution. Always encouraging the long view, both backward to the original conception and installation of the artwork, and forward to its sustainability, Nunberg ensures that Nevelson always gets her due.

Debra Inwald, Founder of Works-In-Progress, an Owner’s Representative and Construction Management firm has led over 170 successfully completed projects for a diverse range of clients over its 25 year presence in the industry. Debra’s expertise extends from the details of lighting and HVAC systems to the nuances of contract negotiation. There is a profound appropriateness that this aspect of the Nevelson Chapel renewal is in the hands of a woman as meticulous and experienced as Ms. Inwald.

Mieke Vandersall, Founder and Principal of Vandersall Collective, the firm handling the 5.7 million-dollar capital campaign, communications, and organizational vision for Nevelson Chapel in conjunction with Saint Peter’s Church, also began her career in one of the most traditionally male-dominated institutions in history—the Christian Church. Mieke’s powerful pastoral presence can be felt throughout the project, and her gift for fund-raising as an art and ministry unto itself, has been instrumental in building a deeply grounded campaign that reflects the many facets of Nevelson’s work and its diverse, intersectional community.

Sarah Sutton, Principal, Sustainable Museums, and Chapel Sustainability Consultant, has been charged with responding to the requirements set forth in the Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities received by the Nevelson Chapel project. Ms. Sutton brings an expertise in aligning the pragmatic with the transcendent in the work she does to ensure the longevity of unique aspects of American cultural heritage and social significance. Sutton sees Nevelson Chapel as a rare opportunity to achieve environmental and artistic goals that will serve and enrich the diverse community it serves, while reducing the environmental footprint required to keep the Chapel open and available to the public in perpetuity, as Nevelson intended it to be.

It is a formidable team, fit for the legacy of a formidable woman. In addition to their diverse and impressive qualifications, perhaps the most significant common bond among these women is their collaborative spirit and approach. Both among their teams (also mostly women) and in their cross-disciplinary work together on the Chapel, these women are known for fostering collaboration and cooperation to achieve the stunning outcomes for which they are known. These women don’t fear a loss of identity or recognition in collaboration, instead they see the strength in lifting up one another’s individual contributions as part of a greater whole.

Nevelson’s legacy is not just experiencing a thorough, effective renewal it is being nurtured, honored, and valued among kindred spirits who know firsthand the gifts and challenges of women. These women understand what Nevelson might characterize as the “light and shadow” of being a woman and making a way in the world for women’s influence and achievement to be recognized for their unique contributions and transformational power.

In the Spring, even as work continues, the Chapel will re-open and the public will begin to see the fruits fo the collective labors of this remarkable team of teams. Look for information on the reopening of the Chapel and donate to become part of this historic endeavor.

Thia Reggio