Oscar Wilde famously argued that life imitates art far more than art imitates life. Well, no offense to Mr. Wilde, but Paula Beavin would take imitation out of the equation completely. Because the way she sees it, life is, in fact, art: “Art is something that’s included in every person’s life every single day—you just don’t realize it,” she said.
From culinary arts (making coffee and breakfast) and design (picking out your outfit for the day) to photography (snapping an Instagram pic) and performing arts (pitching an idea to your boss), art permeates all aspects of human existence—and that’s what makes Paula so passionate about arts promotion, appreciation, and education. And while she’s not an artist herself—at least not by the traditional definition—she’s always felt a deep connection to visual, musical, and theatrical forms of expression.
Paula’s fascination with the sensory world goes all the way back to her childhood, when she spent entire summers at her grandparents’ lake house in northern Wisconsin. There, she and her siblings fell asleep to the sound of a cricket choir; watched the surface of the water dance in the wind and sparkle in sun; and turned sweet, brightly colored berries into hand-crafted pies and jams. She still cherishes those summers and the memories they left imprinted on her mind. “That’s my favorite place to go for vacation,” she said, adding that even after residing in Arizona for years, she still considers Wisconsin home.
And while hundreds of miles now separate Paula from her native Badger State, she carries with her a piece of home wherever she goes: the lasting influence of her grandmother and grandfather. “They taught me so much—my appreciation for the outdoors comes from them,” she said. “And I remember whenever we played cards or board games, they would be playing footsie under the table. They showed me that it’s okay to be affectionate when you love somebody—not just in your words, but in your actions.” And Paula knows better than anyone that talking the talk won’t get you very far; to achieve your goals and realize your potential, you also have to walk the walk.
Case in point: at the ripe old age of 13, Paula marched up the winding driveway of the biggest, ritziest house in her hometown of Menomonee Falls, knocked on the front door, and asked for a babysitting job. “Nobody thought I was really going to do it,” she said. “But, I did. I wanted to see how it looked from the other side.” And that gumption paid off: “The kids were great, and the home was as beautiful on the inside as it was on the outside.” From that experience, Paula learned a simple, valuable lesson that has guided her entire career: “Just go for it,” she said. “You have nothing to lose by asking.”
You do, however, have something to lose by refusing to dress for the Wisconsin winter—that “something” being fingers and toes. Paula came dangerously close to learning that lesson the hard way during her first official foray into the working world as a server at a drive-in food joint called Dog ’n Suds. “I remember sloshing through the parking lot and carrying metal trays with no boots, gloves, or coat—because you just didn’t wear those things in high school,” she said. “I ended up getting frostbite on my feet and fingers.” Thankfully, Paula made it through her drive-in days with all of her appendages intact, though she’s still very sensitive to cold temperatures.
Of course, bone-chilling cold wasn’t much of a worry for Paula after she and her husband picked up and moved to the Phoenix valley back in the 1980s. “We arrived in mid-July, and when I opened the truck door, it really felt like I was putting my head into an oven,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘What have I done?’ I was ready to turn around and go back.” But, she stuck it out, eventually putting her administrative skills—which she’d sharpened at a life insurance company in Milwaukee—to use in the Valley of the Sun. After filling roles in the insurance and investments fields, Paula tapped into the same entrepreneurial spirit that had landed her that sweet babysitting gig back in her junior high days: “I met this woman and decided I wanted to work for her, so I arranged to go talk to her, and we ended up working together for 15 years in marketing and public relations,” she said.
She enjoyed those years so much that when it came time to make a change, Paula was pretty picky about where she would take her talents next. And when she saw the listing for an executive assistant position at WebPT, it stood out like a prize-winning painting. “It captured my attention because it was so different. It was that power of uniqueness,” she said. She accepted the job just shy of a year ago, and since then, Paula’s affinity for WebPT has only gotten stronger. “Great culture, great people, great product—that pretty much sums it up,” she said. Plus, in her role as executive assistant to WebPT President Heidi Jannenga, Paula is constantly tackling new and different tasks, which allows her to tap into her creative side. “No two days are ever the same,” she said.
Some days, though, prioritizing tasks can be tough. “It always seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day,” she said. “It all works out in the end, but I just have to accept that my to-do list—at work and in life—will always have more things on it [than I can get done]. And I have to be okay with that.” In other words, she has to remain fluid—and she advises anyone else who feels stuck in a perpetual time-crunch to do the same. “Priorities are constantly changing and evolving,” she said. “Some days, I have a [to-do] list I never even look at, let alone tackle. It’s about being flexible—and responsive.”
And just like art, work—and life in general—requires balance. So, when she’s off the clock, Paula likes to relax with her family—especially her two children and five grandchildren, all of whom reside in the Phoenix area. She also enjoys volunteering at local arts organizations, including the Mesa Arts Center Foundation, which just wrapped up its street pianos program. “The idea is to get pianos donated and then decorated by artists and placed throughout the community for people to play,” she said. Then, once the exhibit is over, the pianos go to various schools and community organizations. It’s a way to breathe new life—and art—into old instruments. And that’s something no one—not even Oscar Wilde—could argue against.
Fave Five with Paula
- Favorite food: Lobster
- Favorite movie: Any musical (can’t pick just one!)
- Favorite sports team: Don’t have one
- Favorite musician: Lindsey Stirling (most recently)
- Favorite place: Northern Wisconsin