Brave had only been opened a couple of weeks and I had the sweetest surprise. One of my parents' friends (who over the years has become mine as well) was visiting Bend and wanted to get together. Her name is Britta Franz and she is one of those women of my childhood that led the parade when others were still just twirling batons. She’s a force of creative power that not only lights up a room but makes real impact—the type that changes individuals and communities.
Britta has a deep driving passion for LOTS of things including politics, culture and transportation issues. She’s a clipboard carrying octogenarian that takes notes wherever she goes. As we sit she writes down new terms she hears from me like “disruptive economy”, “rev share” and “B-Corp”. She can also waltz around Google, Skype and Gmail with ease—not wanting to miss a conversation or a new idea.
Perhaps her drive to be persistently present stems from her early awareness of how precious time and life is. She and her family left Nazi Germany in 1937. Reflectively we now would say they escaped the horrors that followed. Fortunately for all of us, her father had the foresight to understand where the world was going.
Britta’s father became a successful merchant and I remember their stores called LaPoint dotted northern California and the Oregon Willamette Valley. In Salem it was “the place” to shop—personal, impeccable clothes and fabulous service headed by Britta. She and her husband would travel to New York on buying trips several times a year which seemed incredible glamorous at the time.
As the chain stores like Macy’s and Nordstroms grew in size and buying power, the small family run mercantile establishments slowly got pushed out including LaPoints. That last day must have been tough—to see a legacy close its doors.
Britta didn’t stop moving in fact LaPoints closing seemed to give her the wings to fly even higher and faster. Her passion for bringing culture to the Monmouth and Salem area grew as she created an event series at the college.
She found that she could attract big name acts to a small town stage by luring them as they traveled between San Francisco and Portland. It was pretty “disruptive” thinking at that time and she was relentlessly successful at introducing diverse cultural experiences to the area. The Peking Acrobats made a lasting impression on me as a child.
Today Britta is bringing awareness that the transportation program is broken in the capital of our state, Salem, Oregon. Currently the public bus system does not exist on the weekends. Britta thinks about the people, who are reliant on this transportation, trying to grocery shop or see friends and family on their days off. Living without mobility is stressful and complicated.
To bring more attention to the problem, again Britta thinks in a “disruptive” way. She’s not petitioning or raising money, there’s no committees, board members or voting—just a handful of like minded friends who have a mission—and they’re using art to get their message across.
Britta invited artists and architects to submit designs to beautify the bus stops. It’s a new approach for a long worn out problem. I’m anticipating heads will turn, conversations will be shared and more attention will be given to find a solution to the problem.
Britta is one of my childhood SHERO’s. She was an example to me that we women have a powerful voice and can do more—more than even we believe we can. That we can triumph over setbacks and that we can be brave. Do you have a childhood SHERO? Please share with us what she meant to you!
(Britta's beautiful kaftan from brave collective.)