Up Close with Kelly Roberts

by | Nov 19, 2021 | News

There are three different women-in-lighting organizations and two have the exact same name: Women in Lighting (WIL), which is a committee of the American Lighting Association; Women in Lighting (WIL), which is a world-wide ambassador program run by The Light Collective out of the U.K.; and Women in Lighting + Design (WILD), which is the focus of this article.

At ArchLIGHT Summit in September, we caught up with Kelly Roberts, the new president of this 1200+ member organization. Surprisingly, the organization has been around for about 30 years with no formal structure. Not only is Kelly the new president, but she is also the first president.

Kelly is a lighting designer and serves as Studio Director of WALD Studio in New York. Her role with WILD is voluntary, as it is with all WILD members. Kelly attributes a lot of her success with WILD to WALD. She explained, “My supervisor, William Armstrong, has been super supportive in giving me the time and mental space to dedicate to building WILD as a community for the lighting industry.”

Kelly pointed out that the organization started with small groups of women in lighting meeting at industry conferences. She said, “Most conferences were like old boys’ clubs and didn’t give any time or space for women’s issues or opportunities for networking.” About seven years ago, the organization began to grow and establish chapters in different cities, making waves nationwide.

In August they held their first election and installed a National Board of Directors to help guide WILD into the future. That board elected Kelly president.

Today, WILD has 14 chapters that vary in size and levels of activity. She stresses that the organization is 100% volunteer with no paid employees. As of this writing, there are no dues, no income, and not even a checking account.

Kelly gives great credit to many people who brought the organization to where it is today, and she singles out Megan Carroll who was one of the founding members and a mentor to Kelly. Recently, Megan stepped down from her duties with WILD as she was elected President of IESNYC.

Although membership is open to all genders, their focus remains on issues that affect a woman’s ability to be successful in the industry. She explained that as the organization further developed, they changed their name from Women in Lighting Design to Women in Lighting + Design. This seemingly minor change is colossal as it opens the door to all in the lighting profession, including, but not exclusively, designers. Her goal is to make WILD a resource that people can look to, including employers, for best practices.

She discussed other organizations with similar missions to increase awareness of minority issues in the lighting industry, including the North American Coalition of Lighting Industry Queers (NACLIQ). She said, “Partnering with these relatively new organizations help us amplify their message as well as keeping to our mission of inclusivity.”

Recently Kelly has been leading WILD NYC as they partnered with Paddle for the Cure for the fundraiser LIGHT FOR LIFE, which is a 90FT long x 3FT high ribbon of dynamic color-changing light. Individuals have the chance to “Buy a Light” in a tribute to thank a frontline worker or honor a loved one who has been touched by cancer or COVID (survivor or departed). Names provided in the “Buy a Light” program are illuminated across the installation throughout the day and provide an opportunity for the community to create a deep, personal connection with the installation. The display opened earlier this month at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens and is available to view throughout the month of October. Tivoli donated the lighting equipment. More information here.

As our industry evolves and transforms and we see traditional organizations pulling back and laying off, it is great to see a grass roots organization taking shape, expanding, and influencing our industry for the better.

This article was originally featured in the October issue of designing lighting (dl).