Career Journeys: Judy Tyrus

Judy Tyrus is the CEO of ChromaDiverse, Inc., recipient of the 2021 SAA Diversity Award, and author of Dance Theatre of Harlem: A History, A Movement, A Celebration.

What do you like most about your work? What’s most challenging?
I enjoy helping dance companies preserve their historic records so their history can be told dynamically and effectively. I also enjoy introducing them to ChromaDiverse’s uniquely designed Digital Asset Management System (DAM) that can open up so many possibilities for their growth. I take pleasure in motivating companies to think forward, as opposed to the old paradigm that archives are only about the past, kept in dusty vaulted rooms, and with limited access.

It is extremely exciting for me that my work is to not only preserve, digitize, access, and create ways for organizations to utilize their archives; but to also help them share their history; help them use their valuable materials in fundraising; and help them to efficiently market their services.

What are some career accomplishments you’re most proud of?
I am proud of being a principal classical ballet dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) for 22 years. I was also thrilled to return to work for DTH in the development and marketing department as a volunteer. I was given a monumental task to organize hundreds of historical programs, documents, production photos, and media items. It was my first experience in archival work. My success in organizing these assets led to my recruitment as the DTH archivist to inventory, process, and take care of fifty years of archival collateral.

In 2008, to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of DTH, Arthur Mitchell, DTH’s legendary Artistic Director, asked me to curate an exhibition titled Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts. To highlight and showcase the company’s contributions to the field of classical ballet, this exhibit displayed rare costumes, photos, set pieces and other memorabilia. This multi-media exhibition toured for 8 years and appeared in 12 museums throughout the United States.

As an archivist, I came to realize that the history of DTH was excluded in books being written about classical ballet. Our history was being erased. I knew that a book had to be written. In the years of the Company’s existence, a book such as this had never been written before. This motivated me to use the archives to tell an inspiring and dramatic story. This year, my co-author Paul Novosel and I, published the first authorized history of DTH, titled, Dance Theatre of Harlem: A History, A Movement, A Celebration. This important book is published by Dafina, an imprint of Kensington Publishing.

What advice would you give someone who is considering this type of job (or field)?

Prepare with the best education and never stop gaining life experience. If you are in the information sector, be as professional as you can, and try your hardest to make things work. Calendar everything and write it down, if it’s not written down, it’s not real. I would advise those considering this type of work to never give up, and when challenges arise, think outside the box for solutions. There is always a solution, a way out. Networking is important, but one must be very selective in finding perfect business partners. 

If you could start all over again, would you change your career path in any way? Why?

I would not change anything at all, because as a classical ballet dancer in a major ballet company, there were many life skills that I honed and used daily. In addition to perfecting technique, I had to be extremely disciplined, develop an eye for detail, and never quit or give up. These skills have accompanied me to each position I have taken as an artist, archivist, curator, CEO and now author. 

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