Allison Lederer: In the right place to make a difference

Tracy Haun OwensOur Town Leaders, West Knoxville

Allison Lederer has many roles in life: banker, board chair, philanthropist, mom, wife, dance coach. Whatever role she’s in, she’s in the right place to make a difference for her clients, her family and her community.

Lederer is vice-president, wealth advisor, Regions Private Wealth Management. This summer she finishes a two-year term as board chair at the Knoxville Museum of Art and passes duties to chair-elect Caesar Stair IV. She will then stay on the executive committee as immediate past chair and in two years will rotate back into a regular trustee role.

She says, laughing, “I think in the end I’ll have something like a 20-year-term. It’s been a good fit.”

Lederer grew up in Farragut and graduated from Webb School. Her mom, Wanda Lacy, is a math teacher at Farragut High School and a former teacher of the year. Her dad, Ray Lacy, is a longtime attorney in town.

While at the University of Tennessee, Lederer majored in business and spent all four years on the UTK dance team, serving as its captain. When she graduated, she got her real estate license to work in her family’s title business. She headed for New York City at age 25 – a little late, she says – to become a  professional dancer. She worked at Citigroup Private Banking while there, letting work in finance support her dance habit, and found that she really enjoyed it.

“Over time your career develops. One role leads to the next,” she says.

It’s harder to relate to people, she says, “if you’ve only done one thing.” She continues, “I love what I do. I get to help so many people see their goals and priorities realized.”

She appreciates the journey that has allowed her to work in a field she loves while still expressing her passion for the arts.

She moved back to Tennessee after she met her husband, Reid Lederer, who lived in Knoxville. She took his spot on the KMA board mostly because of her passion for the cause.

For many people, she says, the KMA is a building, or a calendar of gala events and gatherings. For her, it is its people, those who have made it the great institution it is today and those who are touched by its exhibits and its outreach.

During Lederer’s time on the board, executive director David Butler and curator Stephen Wicks have worked tirelessly, with many others, to build the largest public repository of Beauford Delaney’s work.

“He’s been more famous in Paris than in his hometown,” Lederer says of the late Knoxville-born master artist, whose brother, Joseph, is also part of the KMA collection.

As board chair, Lederer says, “My mission was to expand demographics and bring in more youth.”

Museums are traditionally supported by empty-nesters. She has helped expand support for the museum into her own demographic: adults with families who also have busy careers.

For this demographic, there is Art House of Knoxville, which allows adults to learn about art through experiences, like painting a large-scale canvas under the direction of a working artist.

“It’s bringing people together through art,” she says.

She says Rosalind Martin, director of education, is an amazing resource for the museum, finding ways to reach out to communities and schools.

The museum annually sends out ART2GO travel cases, with interactive art lessons, to schools all over the area. Each year the museum hosts the East Tennessee Student Regional Art Exhibition, which brings 700- 800 people from all over to see student art.

The mother of two, an 8-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son, Lederer says the arts can be “a revelation” to children as they look for ways to build confidence and esteem.

This includes dance. One of her happiest roles is as the Webb Middle School dance coach. Seven years ago, the school approached her and her sister, Cindy Wagner, about starting a dance team. This year they have 27 students.

With children under so much pressure today, she says, “You want them to have something to feel positive about,” something that engages them.

Staying engaged and involved – and following her interests – has been her own path to a full life.

“If you build on your strengths and skills, you will end up where you are meant to go.”

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