Have You Met?

Sheila Shields loves to watch the expressions of children as they wait in anticipation for the show to begin at the Walden Family Playhouse. When I met Sheila, all the school buses were arriving at the playhouse with their daily batch of school kids on their field trips. And where was Sheila? In the middle of the chaos of course, chatting and laughing with the children. “I try to come out here everyday and mix with the kids. It’s wonderful to see the excitement in their eyes as most of them experience live theatre for the first time.” Executive Director at Walden is a fairly new position for Sheila and her passion for the project shows through with every word she speaks. “Walden Family Playhouse offers me the chance to have access to kids’ education. I want kids of all demographics to have this kind of access. That’s why I’m spending so much time with the development of this project. I visit schools and talk to teachers about the creative and educational resources and the lesson plans available at the Walden Family Playhouse. For example, with “Holes” there are lesson plans for theatre, history, reading and writing and science and they all meet Colorado state content standards.”

Sheila thinks her interest in history and ethnic cultures was piqued as a child. “Rock Island sits on the Mississippi River and really has some fascinating history related to exploration, industry and Chief Blackhawk. The town was filled with a variety of cultures that made up neighborhoods and communities. I had a lot of freedom growing up, as there wasn’t the fear there is today. I remember being gone from home from morning to night, playing in a ravine or exploring places. I could explore people, places and things without fear; it’s much different in today’s society.”

Most Sunday afternoons were spent visiting at a relative’s farm. “I remember how our parents used to let us run wild on the farm. When my cousin and I were about four- years-old we were playing in a corn silo and got trapped by a hungry sow. It was-or seemed like-hours before our parents finally came and found us.”

When asked about her career, Sheila had this to say, “As a Literature Major who never thought she wanted to teach, I had no idea what I would do with my life. I’ve always been interested in the arts and in 1977 I found my first non-profit arts job through the CETA program. I had to learn to write grants in order to keep my one-staff position funded.” Sheila spent ten years as the director of an arts and education non-profit and ten years as the Director of Fremont Center for the Arts in Fremont County, Colorado. She has always been involved in “start-ups”, reorganizations, restorations or very large projects. “One of the fun jobs I had was an eighteen month consulting job where I designed and administered a public art project at Coors Field. I’m a huge baseball fan, so that made it even better!”

What’s important in your life? Always trying to be kind to people and to make people laugh and to be around people who make me laugh

What’s in your future? Always new challenges, I hope. I’d like to continue to develop what I’m doing at Walden. My goal is to make this experience available to children all over Colorado.

What are your volunteer activities? I’m spending so much time developing this project that right now I don’t have time for other types of volunteering. Someday, I’d like to bring people together who have resources that other non-profits need… kind of like a relationship broker. I’d like to create an ever-expanding network that would match the needs with the people and the organization.

Which social event is your favorite? I don’t go to many social events

Favorite restaurant? Mizuna

Who is the most interesting celebrity you have ever met? Maya Angelou. She’s truly inspiring and radiates a kind of peace that you can’t help feeling.

If your life were a movie, whom would you want to play your part? Kathy Bates. She’s a woman who has great characters that live inside her. Even in the world of Hollywood, she appears to be genuine and sort of smart.

Do you have any pets? Not right now

When you move, what will your home tell its next owner about you? I’m not the greatest housekeeper

What word describes you best? Hopeful

How would you like others to describe you? Kind

What was your first job? Working at a bookstore. When I was fourteen, my best friend and I were hired to help out. People from every walk of life came into that store to purchase everything from racing forms to cultural reading.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Procrastination

What trait do you most deplore in others? Duplicity

What is your greatest indulgence? Doing the )New York Times crossword puzzle in bed

What is the best gift you have ever given? I gave a new BBQ grill to my husband. He loves to cook on it.

What is the best gift you’ve received? My husband always gives me GREAT, unique jewelry from 5 Green Boxes or Show of Hands

What or who is the greatest love in your life? My husband

What is your current state of mind? Frazzled

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Having so many life-long friends

What is your most treasured possession? My collection of funny, one-of-a-kind jewelry

Tell me about your jewelry. I inherited some silver jewelry from my grandmother. She had great style and loved early Mexican design. I was always fascinated by her jewelry and I learned about artisans that were unique and showed creativity. I’m always on the lookout for fun vintage pieces. Since I’m a shy person I found when I wear the jewelry it’s a great way to break the ice and from there conversation is easy. I love the visual and performing arts and jewelry is my way of expressing me. I also collect fish stuff and just found a taffeta and tulle purse shaped like a fish. People now identify me with quirky jewelry and accessories.

What is the quality you most like in a man? Humor

What is the quality you most like in a woman? Confidence

Favorite books/writers? Maya Angelou, Martha Grimes, James Lee Burke, Mark Twain, Bobbie Ann Mason, Nevada Barr, P.D. James, Charles Dickens, Jorge Amado

What is the best advice you have ever received? Pick your battles

Do you have a motto? “Sometimes I know too much”

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you? That I’m getting old!!!! I never expected it. I still feel that I haven’t finished my late 20’s yet. Cant’ quite accept that I’m beyond those years. I get surprised that so many years have passed by. Really don’t want to act too mature.

If you could come back in another lifetime, what/who would you like to be? And why? A philanthropist. I’d like to have the money to give to causes about which I feel passionate.

What are your hobbies? Other interests? I don’t have much free time. I like to read-can’t not read; I’ve always got a book going. I love to garden and work in the yard and I like day trips. We have a cabin on the Taylor River by Gunnison and I love to go there and eat, read and fish.

If you could go anywhere and do anything, what would it be? I’d like to go to Ireland and do some genealogical research. I’d like to spend more time at the family cabin on Taylor River.

What do you like about the town you live in? Denver is big enough to have great ethnic restaurants, though no great barbeque, and small enough to get around easily and to get to know a lot of people in different fields of interest.