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What's Up Magazine

Carla Massoni

May 15, 2013 08:06PM ● By Anonymous

But sitting on the charming sun porch in the back of her historic Water Street home, looking out onto the glistening water of the Chester River, Carla laughs when asked if leadership has always been in her nature. “My former business partner is the type of person who runs an organization; I’m the kind of person who tells you how fabulous it is,” says the middle child of nine brothers and sisters. “I’ve always been more of the cheerleader, more of the ‘this is a great idea, people; let’s get involved.’”

Tall and slender in stature with short gray hair that doesn’t project age so much as grace, Carla is the type of person who commands your attention. Animated one minute, and reflective the next, she is strikingly down-to-earth, yet at the same time exceptionally sophisticated—a combination that is in a word, mesmerizing. Maybe that’s why she’s been so successful as a self-proclaimed “cheerleader”—people just can’t help but become absorbed in her passions.

And Carla’s passions certainly have shaped her life. An entrepreneur at 21, her early efforts were spent on “here and now” causes—from setting up training programs aimed at helping women access the job market with business partner Joyce Huber in the 1970s, to traveling across the U.S. and Soviet Union to promote alternatives to the nuclear arms race during the Cold War in the 1980s.

It was in the Soviet Union, though, that Carla’s thinking began to change. She met Anna Kapitsa, widow of the leading Soviet physicist and Nobel laureate, Pyotr Kapitsa, who gave her some lasting advice: “Nothing you do will make any difference, if your primary concern is not the education the next generation.”

“That made such an impression on me that I came back home and immediately changed my life,” says Carla, who then moved with her family from Washington, D.C., to Chestertown to spend more time with her children and become involved in local initiatives. Most of her charitable work since then has been focused on organizations with a defined educational mission, primarily that of education through the arts (her third, and final, career is as a fine art dealer). She currently serves on the board of the Academy Art Museum in Easton, where she says she is “blown away by the dedication of my fellow trustees, the quality of their commitment to the museum, and how hard they work to maintain the museum’s presence as a cultural center.”

“I don’t paint; I don’t sculpt; I can’t even do a little crayon thing. But I love being around artists,” says Carla, a true believer in nurturing creativity in others. “Nothing is more satisfying than being surrounded by creative people and creative energy. We’re all enriched by being around it.”

Carla also has lent her services in one way or another to Sultana Projects Inc. (on the founding board), the National Music Festival (on the advisory board), the Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, and, most near and dear to her heart, Women Helping Women, an annual concert she founded that is the sole fundraiser for Dr. Maria Boria’s efforts to treat the medical needs of migrant workers at a free clinic in Marydel.

“That concert every year is one of the most joyful things I’m a part of,” Carla says, reinforcing that the event, now in its tenth year, has been a group effort from the start, spearheaded by jazz singer Sue Matthews and incorporating the talents of local performers.

“I do it to support the many people in this world who do the hands-on work of their churches or become missionaries or go to Haiti and build houses. I feel like this is my opportunity to help, to make a difference to the people who do those things. I look at the Dr. Borias of this world as being unbelievably courageous.”

Like an artist who manipulates his or her chosen medium, Carla is skilled at shaping a conversation. She doesn’t shy away from talking about her involvements or offering a glimpse into her profound philosophies on life, but she always bring the attention back to the “No. 1s,” the people who take the entire responsibility of something on their shoulders.

“Sometimes I feel like sunlight on the river—scattered and bright,’” she says with a laugh. “I have so much admiration for the people in our midst who tackle the big jobs; being sunlight on the river is just fine with me.”