By Marie Bradby

Even before the Speed Museum opened its modern $60 million renovation and addition in 2016, Laura Ross and the marketing team at this venerable Louisville institution were hopping, helping to plan new exhibits and programs, and tying events and activities to them.

“We’re quite the hub of creativity and beyond now,” says Laura, 49, the Speed’s Public Relations Manager. “We’re not just an art museum with 6,000 years of creativity from ancient to modern and contemporary art. We have the Speed cinema, major exhibitions and events year round, children’s programming, music, and concerts. There’s something for everyone.

One huge success story has been the Third Friday After-Hours At the Speed event with drinks, music and art. “We have welcomed more than 1,000 people at each event,” she says.

“We just opened Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism, a blockbuster national exhibition focusing on women artists who made their mark and overcame major obstacles in the late 19th century,” Laura says. “We are celebrating women all year at the Speed, with exhibitions, events and programs.”

Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism (February 17 – May 13, 2018) features more than 80 paintings by 37 women artists. It’s billed as a time when “social and cultural barriers began to give way, revealing the breadth and strength of women’s artistic achievements.”

“I would encourage people who haven’t been to the museum to come,” Laura says. “It’s free on Sundays.”

Pearls are one of Laura’s main fashion accessories and is reminiscent of her mother’s style. Photos by Sunni Wigginton 

A former TV news editor and producer and public relations executive, Laura is part of a large marketing team at the Speed. “It’s almost like a small agency,” she says. “We have graphic designers, public relations, social media, marketing and communications. We work together to tell the story of the Speed and let people in the state and across the country know what’s going around here.”

For her work wardrobe, “the key is flexibility and creativity, which is my role in work as well,” Laura says. “One day you may be hunkered down and writing all day long and just want to be comfortable. That can be a blue jeans and sweater day with boots. And there are days that I need to be presentable and on air. For that I usually do professional dress. The days of suits are thankfully gone. The other nice thing is that panty hose has been on the decline. I am quite happy not to wear those every day.

“Then, you have the parties. You have to have that little black dress in your closet to pop on and go to a fundraiser and promote the museum. You have to have a versatile closet and be ready to change on a dime, depending on what your day holds.

“The best piece of advice that I got was when I was in college. I worked for a bridal boutique. After they marked down the holiday dresses, the owner would help us purchase a little black dress as a Christmas gift. I’ve always kept one handy just in case. That is the staple we all need, and it’s very southern.”

Her main accessories are scarfs and pearls.

“I have several beautiful scarves and people give them to me as gifts. It’s an easy accessory to dress something up. You can take a normal sweater or top and put on a lovely scarf or pashmina and make it fancier.”

Laura’s mother passed several months ago. “I am my mother’s daughter. My mom wore pearls constantly. You have to have a nice strand of pearls. You can dress them up or down. Pearls can take you all through the day, from morning to night. That’s a connection to her, and has even more meaning for me now. That she is with me.”

Her go-to outfit: a black pair of pants and sweater with a scarf. And pearls.