The Exeter Bulletin — Spring 2001

Belinda Ann Tate ’90

April 15, 2001

‘Let Your Spirit Lead You’

In her journey from her hometown of Winston-Salem, NC, to Phillips Exeter, Yale, and abroad, Belinda Tate ’90 has tried to follow a simple path: “Tap into your soul,” she says, “and let your spirit lead you to your destiny.” That journey has brought her full circle back to Winston-Salem, where last fall she was named director of the Diggs Gallery at Winston-Salem State University, which specializes in bridging the racial and cultural divide through the works of artists from the African diaspora.

“Belinda is an amazing woman to watch,” says Lark Hammond, Tate’s English teacher at Exeter and now a good friend, “because of her age, the wide range of her intelligence, her spirit, and the difficulties she has overcome”—including the death of her mother and a beloved grandfather. “It’s nice to see her in a job that’s rewarding and unique.”

Tate says her parents made considerable sacrifices to help her in her journey, beginning with their decision to send their only child off to Exeter. Her experience at the Academy, she says, “was a powerful influence. The faculty, my friends, responses to both positive and negative situations, and the rigorous environment all gave me the opportunity to express my feelings and to move forward with difficult challenges,” including diversity issues on campus. With the help of some classmates (and with Principal Kendra Stearns O’Donnell serving as faculty adviser), she founded the Diversity Council, which serves as a link between the Academy’s religious, ethnic and cultural organizations and helps the school community “understand, engage with and celebrate the diversity of the Academy.”

Tate’s interest in art history led her to major in museum studies at Yale, and she continued her studies during travels in Africa and Europe. She also interned with the Yale Center for British Art and the State Department’s Art in Embassies program. Initially, however, she began her career in the financial world when she returned home to Winston-Salem to become an officer with Wachovia Bank, where she rose to assistant vice president. This background in both art and finance helped Tate win her current position with the Diggs Gallery.

Tate found herself in synch with the Diggs Gallery’s two-part mission: to exhibit the works of artists from the African diaspora and to bring people of all races, cultures, and socioeconomic classes together for dialogue about the best of art and other community issues. But she also sees the gallery as a community service organization: “It is very important for me—after going to Exeter and Yale and getting the great education I have—to bring this back to my hometown.” The gallery is located near the neighborhood where she grew up and where her father still lives. Tate is determined to give back to both the children and the adults in those communities who may never have stepped inside a museum.

One way Tate has done this is with The Underground Railroad Children’s Opera, which was performed at the gallery last fall with a diverse group of children from the community. This became an opportunity for them to study a period in history where people of different races and different religions were working together towards a common goal, setting aside their differences to do something good for society. “Children who normally did not have the opportunity to even see an opera production now had a chance to participate and interact with some very powerful and talented African-American artists, including Dr. Maya Angelou, who was the narrator,” says Tate. “This was a life-changing experience for the children.” Also, she adds, “It was a lesson learned from Exeter: share the power of bringing great minds together.”

Her new position brings another bonus: “My father loves my new job,” Tate said. “He didn’t get to see me when I was in banking. Now he attends all of the opening receptions, it’s been great for him as he had never been in a museum before.”

— Alice Ann gray