The Executive Director of The Sailing Museum in Newport, Rhode Island, Ashley Householder loves her work.

“I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, that bastion of sailing!” Ashley chuckles. “That said, I was lucky in childhood to have a best friend whose father was incredibly passionate about sailing. He was a neurosurgeon at Vanderbilt University Hospital and I think sailing provided a catharsis from the gravity of his work. He was a founding member of the Harbor Island Yacht Club, served as Commodore and was incredibly generous in sharing his knowledge and love of sailing with others, especially young people. I sailed with their family on their Baltic and after gaining some confidence on the water, understood the allure.”

“There is nothing more important than having access to different experiences as a young person. It can send you in directions you didn’t know were possible. Learning something new is never a wasted moment. Even if you think it’s outside of your immediate interest, it helps build your character, your life. It can help show you what you’re capable of. Incidentally, HIYC is located on a beautiful lake northeast of Nashville. One of the important points we make at The Sailing Museum is that you don’t have to live on the ocean to enjoy sailing. There’s great sailing to be found all over the country.”

“I come to this position by way of museums rather than sailing, and I absolutely love museum work. I lived in Washington, DC after college and began work on Capitol Hill. After a few years, I shelved politics for art. I went to Parsons School of Design for a Masters in Decorative Arts History because I wanted to have a career in museums and learn how to tell relevant, powerful stories through objects that connect us all. My work at both the White House and the Smithsonian Institute are a result of that training. At the White House, I curated my first small exhibit about the Old Executive Office Building, its history and architecture. At the Smithsonian, I was the assistant director of a graduate program that connected students with collections from a number of museums in the campus. I also managed to do a bit of sailing on the Potomac – another non-ocean waterway!”

“My most important mentor in museum was my first real boss at the Smithsonian, Dr. Cynthia Williams. Cindy’s a consummate professional. She let me make mistakes and then helped me learn from them. I was young and wanted everything perfect. She taught me to let things roll off. There’s so much noise in our lives now that I really appreciate that lesson. It helps me focus on bigger outcomes.”

“After DC, I spent five years in New York City in arts publishing and then moved to Rhode Island. I’m proud to have been the Preservation Society of Newport County’s inaugural curator of exhibitions, and had the opportunity to build that program from scratch. My work in exhibitions connected me with The Sailing Museum, and I was hired as the consulting curator to source objects for the exhibits. When the project ended and the museum opened, I was hired full time to direct exhibits and programs.”

“I have the good fortune to lead a talented, dedicated team, and we’re approaching our two-year anniversary. I oversee all aspects of our operations and work to increase visitorship, refine our messaging, increase our educational programming and partnerships, create opportunities to be meaningful community members, and ensure that everyone feels welcome at The Sailing Museum.”

“This month we launch an America’s Cup exhibit which will feature dynamic video of New York Yacht Club American Magic as well as artifacts relating to this Cup and Cup history. We’re expanding our National Sailing Hall of Fame by giving visitors a glance at the Legends of Our Sport to complement the interactive exhibit already in place. We’ve expanded our membership offerings with more robust benefits, and we’re launching exciting new programming this summer and fall.”

The Sailing Museum enjoys a relationship with The Audrain Automobile Museum [another must-visit destination – Ed.] “We’re pleased that The Audrain has a retail space in our lobby serving as a satellite presence to their Bellevue Avenue location. We share in a sporting ticket with The Audrain and the International Tennis Hall of Fame so visitors who love cars, tennis and sailing can indulge all three with one discounted ticket. There’s incredible sports history in Newport and we’re happy to support that.”

“Our interactive exhibits are loads of fun, and the Hall of Famers’ stories are inspiring. One can be inducted into the Sailing Hall of Fame from one of three categories: sailing, technical, and contributor. We honor not only racing legends who won iconic regattas, but also those from every corner of the sport such as hull designers, writers, pioneering navigators and rule makers. Your visit may spark an interest in an avocation and perhaps lead you to think more about getting out on the water. It’s more accessible than you may think. One of the exhibits visitors encounter on their way out is a memory wall where we invite them to leave a note about their favorite sailing memory or favorite thing about the museum. I read those every day and it reminds me why this place is important.”

“I share my life with my wonderful boyfriend, his two college-aged sons and our one-year-old golden retriever,” says Ashley, who lives in the Pawtuxet Village area of Warwick. “We love spending time outdoors hiking and at the beach snorkeling and swimming.” The best things about sailing, says Ashley, are “the freedom and camaraderie, which are often at odds, but in sailing, beautifully coexist.” ■

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