When we open ourselves to art, we open ourselves to the world – to beauty, craft, to different cultures, to pain and pleasure, expression and emotion.

Staff Spotlight: Courtney Soler

Courtney Soler and her children enjoy the Guggenheim Collection at the Gibbes.

In honor of annual budgets being due this week, our Staff Spotlight series features Courtney Soler, the Director of Finance and Administration!

How long have you been at the Gibbes?

I’ve been with the Gibbes since July 2016.

Describe your role here at the museum in a few sentences.

As the Director of Finance and Administration, I serve as the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of the Association. I am responsible for the agency’s overall financial management, financial integrity and reporting. While being forever mindful of the finances, and adhering to our budgets, my goal is to encourage the Gibbes Museum of Art’s mission and goals.

As the Director of Finance and Administration, Courtney is constantly working to ensure that the budgeting of the Gibbes Museum of Art aligns with its mission: to preserve and protect the artwork in our collection and to help others to engage with, and learn from, art that touches Charleston.
As the Director of Finance and Administration, Courtney is constantly working to ensure that the budgeting of the Gibbes Museum of Art aligns with its mission: to preserve and protect the artwork in our collection and to help others to engage with, and learn from, art that touches Charleston.

What brought you to the Gibbes? Tell us about how you ended up here!

My career has been on an interesting yet strategic path. To understand how I got to where I am today, I’ll have to take you back a few years. While I was growing up, my parents’ two best friends were police officers and I was constantly amazed by their bravery and life-changing stories. I admired and respected them and always thought I would like to follow in their footsteps. While I was in high school I became intrigued with a character on a TV show, Dana Scully on the X-Files, who worked with the FBI. I contacted the FBI and they told me I would have to get a law or accounting degree and become a local police officer to be considered as a special agent. I obtained my accounting degree from the College of Charleston in 2000 and become a police officer with the City of Charleston the following year.

Being a police officer was such a rewarding job. Every day you have the opportunity to help those who are broken, victims, and without voices, and to be a part of bringing to justice the evils of society. To work alongside so many real life heroes is humbling. When Chief Greg Mullen joined the Charleston Police Department, he recruited me to be the first member of the Criminal Intelligence Unit. I was able to work within my two passions: getting criminals off the streets through criminal intelligence, and crime statistics analytics. During this time, I realized how much I loved working with numbers full time. Through college and while I was a police officer, I freelanced as an accountant for a medical clinic and a law office just to keep those skills sharp. When my first son was born in 2007 I resigned myself to the fact that I needed a job that was Monday – Friday, 9-5, as my greatest and most important adventure would begin. I was beyond grateful that the command staff at Charleston Police Department believed in me enough to create a new position and hire me as their Budget Analyst. I managed the Police Department’s $40-million-dollar budget for the next 3 years. In 2010, I became the Finance Director for the City of Hanahan and instantly knew I wanted to raise my kids in this quiet and diverse “bedroom community.” I learned so much and achieved many professional goals over the course of the six years I worked for the City of Hanahan.

When I was approached about the position with the Gibbes, something felt right about this particular opportunity. I love the not-for-profit world: from an accounting standpoint, it’s a very different animal than a for-profit business. I also love being a part of a creative process (even if I’m crunching numbers). Every day I am thankful for the Gibbes. I am grateful for my wonderful colleagues, who are the most professional and hardest working group I’ve ever seen. I am constantly amazed by the generosity of our board members, volunteers, and patrons, who give to the Gibbes in so many different ways, whether by giving of their time, ideas, their art, their expertise on our different committees, or by financial contributions. It is with great joy and much gratitude that I am a part of this collective group of minds, working towards a goal to better the community through our shared mission.

Courtney always enjoyed working for not-for-profit institutions, but she especially enjoys working in a creative environment. Here, she poses with artist Jeff Koons, who came to Charleston as the Gibbes' Distinguished Lecture Speaker in 2016.
Courtney always enjoyed working for not-for-profit institutions, but she especially enjoys working in a creative environment. Here, she poses with artist Jeff Koons, who came to Charleston as the Gibbes’ Distinguished Lecture Speaker in 2016.

What is your favorite work in the collection and why?

This is such a hard question, and it’s definitely hard to choose just one painting. I’ll say it’s a tie between two portraits because I am equally captivated with the artist and the sitter. The first picture is the Portrait of Reverend Caesar S. Ledbetter, 1921 By Edwin Harleston (American, 1882–1931). I can’t walk past this painting without pausing for a moment. Partly due to Edwin Harleston’s talent as an artist, but I also think that Reverend Caesar Ledbetter looked like such an interesting person. Confidence, authority and charm radiate from the Reverend in the portrait. I can’t help but think to myself “I wish I could have known him” every time I see the painting.

The Green Fan (Girl of Toledo, Spain), 1912, by Robert Henri
The Green Fan (Girl of Toledo, Spain), 1912, by Robert Henri; Oil on canvas; 41 x 33 inches; Gibbes Museum of Art, Museum Purchase from the artist.

The second portrait is The Green Fan (Girl of Toledo, Spain), 1912 By Robert Henri (American, 1865–1929). The painting and the girl are equally stunning, but the story behind Robert Henri’s sitters intrigues me. The signage next to the painting reads “Henri was a prolific portrait painter, often depicting sitters he deemed exotic.” I like to believe that this girl from Toledo, Spain, was just having a normal day in 1912, when this artist asked her if he could paint her portrait; I wonder if being singled out by such an incredible artist, and this act of generosity — to be painted so beautifully — had a deep impact on this young lady’s life.

Tell us about an interesting project you’ve worked on.

The most interesting project I’ve worked on since I’ve started with the Gibbes is the historic tax credit. It was the most complicated transaction I’ve seen in my career and required a team of seasoned accountants and lawyers to complete the project. I can honestly say, I’ve never felt so overwhelmed or satisfied (at its conclusion) in my career.

Besides the Gibbes, where do you take friends and family for the quintessential Charleston/Lowcountry experience?

My absolute favorite place to frequent downtown when I’m not at work is Waterfront Park with my family. My three kids love to run in the large open field, and there is always a wonderful breeze. No matter the weather, the kids always want to play in the fountains. Young and old alike can find a wonderful and rejuvenating, true Charleston experience while soaking up the ocean breeze and the views. Did I forget to mention my favorite part- it’s completely free! As far as restaurants, if I want someone to have the quintessential Charleston/Lowcountry experience, I recommend my favorite restaurant for southern cuisine — Husk.

Courtney's three children pose in front of the Gibbes. When they're not visiting the Museum, they enjoy playing at nearby Waterfront Park.
Courtney’s three children pose in front of the Gibbes. When they’re not visiting the Museum, they enjoy playing at nearby Waterfront Park.

—March 9, 2018

Top image: Gibbes CFO Courtney Soler and her three children enjoy the Solomon R. Guggenheim Collection at the Gibbes Museum.

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