Meet the Changemakers of Roland Park Place: Sue Hess
RPP is profiling some great women as part of Women's History Month.
It started with an elocution class that inspired her love of the arts.
At the tender age of three, Sue Hess approached her teacher and recited:
”I have a house that’s made of brick.
It’s large and full of space.
You can’t do this, you can’t do that,
And I don’t think that’s fun.”
At 84, the Roland Park Place resident has been synonymous with two things: performing on stage across Maryland and raising funds for the arts.
In her home at RPP, Hess’s apartment is a small tribute to her life’s work. There are her pillows of the musicals in which she played lead roles such as Guys & Dolls, Gypsy and Hello Dolly.
Her dog, Dolly, from Hello Dolly, prances to the beat of showtunes during their morning walks.
And then there’s her hidden wall she’s created, showcasing photos from all of her advocacy work. Pictures include an array of Who’s Who in Maryland, from governors to senators and actors.
“I feel like I live two lives,” she said. “There’s the quiet me that walks Roland Park Place and the active me that advocates.”
Hess cofounded Maryland Citizens for the Arts, (MCA) with Judge Francis Murnaghan, Jr., a chairman of the Walters Art Gallery.
MCA is an organization that has helped centralize and lobby arts funding for all 23 Maryland counties and Baltimore City.
This past Valentine’s Day the nonprofit celebrated 40 years of work in Annapolis, with over 600 advocates participating.
There was also more reason to cheer. This year MCA received over $20 million in state arts funding.
That’s a long way from the $400,000 the organization received when it first started, Hess said.
Soon after the founding of MCA in 1977, Hess became the chair of its board and is the longest serving member on the Board of Trustees.
Working on her own for the first three years at her kitchen table in Ocean City, she began forming a network of grassroots art supporters across the state.
Hess said early on she knew she wanted to perform. Though she had dreams of being a dancer- she had studied ballet for 18 years- it was the stage that enticed her more.
For two years she studied theater at the University of Maryland, College Park and Catholic University. She made the decision to transfer to Goucher College in her junior year.
There she became active in student government and was elected senior class president.
It was at Goucher Hess learned she had a passion for public service.
She met her husband John, whose family owned The Schleisner Co., a high-fashion store for women in Baltimore.
After meeting her husband, she continued to perform, advocate and raise a family, including eight beautiful grandchildren.
Hess still remains busy and active in the theater community.