It’s All in the Details

By Charles Hall, John Parker, and Moika Nduku

Arlington County Detention Facility, July 17, 2023

As part of our creative writing series, our writing teacher Alexa Fleming emphasized the importance of details. For this writing exercise, she told them, center on the importance of employing details in everyday life — how these elements add interest, color, and context; make conversation accurate and interesting; and are imperative in improving memory and focus. Memory and focus, she added, are the two components that are backbones of success.

Just look at the level of detail in their essays:

Charles Hall









































John  Parker





















Moika Nduku




Jailhouse Rock

July 2023: It’s a little known secret, but our singing teacher Bharati Soman and our executive director lead a karaoke night at the Alexandria Detention Center every summer evening on Wednesdays. We began on June 7 and end on August 30. It’s been quite an adventure, and we didn’t expect such a positive response. (I say “we” loosely. Bharati does the work and I, the ED, sing loudly and badly). A few of the guys show up faithfully and have really become comfortable singing and soloing. A few sang in high school choirs and it shows. They still have the pipes! I imagine them telling their story to Simon Cowell when they are released one day. City

We can’t take our phones inside and record our amazing singers, so we’re posing in front of the gate. Bharati is on the left, holding her all-important pitch pipe and I’m on the right.

Puppet Masters

July 12, 2023: With just two days’ notice, Sharmila Karamchandani led the most amazing visual arts class with the alumni of Together We Bake (haven’t tried their chocolate chip cookies yet? They are amazing). Sharmila said she asked the women to “… create puppets of a person who had the most positive influence on them. There was some very interesting sharing and there were so many lessons hidden in what people shared. I am so humbled with the trust all the participants had and openly shared some very personal stuff. So grateful for today’s experience.” Here’s four of the new puppets below, and the heartwarming stories that accompanies them:

“She made a puppet of her daughter who has immense compassion. Her daughter pushes her to be a better person and is constantly focused on helping everyone. Even strangers. Some personal stories were shared and we were all in tears with so much compassion shown by a 12-year-old.”






“She made a puppet of her 7-year-old and told us how her young daughter is truly her sunshine. Her daughter and her profound comments encourage her every single day and makes her feel like she is a rockstar. Her story and the details about certain events left us speechless as to how this young child is such a blessing in her life.”






“She made a puppet of her mom. Her mom was an eccentric person. She is gone but our artist feels her presence. She shared how her mom was always saving all the animals. She was taking care of a wolf and a wolf puppy and they had all sorts of rescued animals at home. Growing up she found these things weird but now she appreciates these aspects of her mom.”

We’re Hiring! Seeking our Next Executive Director

Attention fun-loving, people-oriented bureaucrats! If you would love working with talented and caring artists who empower local, underserved people by bringing the arts to them, this job is waiting for you! It’s part time, fun, challenging, and extremely flexible. It’s perfect for someone with management and leadership experience wanting to enter the nonprofit sector, move up from a staff position, or transition from a fulltime nonprofit or executive career but still has that fire to conquer challenges and make a real difference.

Could we be talking to you? If we are, here are the details:

About Heard: We are a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit that contracts with local artists to meet the needs of program partner nonprofits and local government organizations in the Alexandria area. We teach creativity and life skills through art to adults, families, and youth in need who may be in recovery, survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault, LGBTQA, older adults, immigrant, incarcerated, or transitioning from incarceration or homelessness.

Heard works through 16 program partners in Alexandria (14), Arlington (2), and the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center in Winchester, Virginia. This program is the first of our foray into virtual classes with carceral facilities throughout Virginia and we hope to expand.

In summary, Heard supports people in need, program partners, and artists. We can’t think of an organization that creates so much good for so many!

About the position: Our Executive Director oversees fundraising, relationship building, art team and program partner support, programming, communications, and administration. If you are familiar with our partners and the nonprofit sector, that’s a huge plus!

Location: You must live in or near Alexandria, Virginia because this is where the action is. That said, you can work from home, a coffee shop, or Hawaii, but you must communicate and meet with artists, program partners, board members, funders, and program participants as needed.

Job Components: You must love our mission and understand the value of the arts and their life-changing impact on those who don’t have a voice. Here’s what you may do on a typical day:

  • Support our artists and program partners. You will build relations, train, support, communicate, program/ schedule artists, track hours and attendance, and run our two writing contests each summer at area detention centers. It’s incredibly rewarding!
  • Fundraise. This is your bread and butter; nothing happens without it. You will apply for and manage grants and progress reports, seek new funding sources, cultivate large and small donors, and do other fundraising activities (fundraising is heaviest in February to May, and the end of the year).
  • Communicate. This includes branding, messaging, general awareness building, participation in local, relevant groups and events, and writing the occasional newsletter. You will also update content on our website and social media. The site is built on WordPress, and we contract the heavy lifting of our website management.
  • Perform general administration and operations. This includes managing the annual budget, accounting and payments, contract management (our artists, not federal), being a member of the Board of Directors, and maintaining Board relations and requirements.
  • Expand our work. Our impact is life-changing, and we have the scores and comments to support that. So should we grow? Where and how? We’d like to hear your strategy after 6-12 months as our ED.

Qualifications & Education Requirements:

  • An excellent communicator, relationship manager, and possessor of interpersonal skills. You’re working with artists, people in need, and nonprofit and government program managers. So many kinds of people! How well do you listen, and know when to adapt and when to stay the course?
  • Passionate, idealistic, positive, and bursting with integrity. Good characteristics to have no matter what.
  • Mission-driven, action-oriented, adaptable, and self-directed. You make it happen with the many people in your Heard universe. It can be lonely at the top, but our current ED has agreed to stay on for up to a year at your discretion to advise, share the load, and help with the transition.
  • A veteran of the nonprofit or art management sector. Success in corporate? No worries, you can learn this.
  • Experience with trauma-affected populations. If not, be empathetic and open to learning.
  • Experience in growing small organizations to larger scale preferred. Because we should be everywhere.
  • Bachelor’s or master’s degree preferred, but experience can substitute.

Hours: This is a contract position reporting to the Heard Board of Directors. This job will take about 15-18 hours per week for the first 6-12 months. Then, we want to hear your plans to grow the program. Expansion, of course, equates to more hours and more compensation.

Payment:  $25,000 the first year, paid quarterly or as mutually agreed. The following year and beyond? It’s up to you and the board. We want you to succeed!

Final Details: We will ask you for references and we may conduct a background check. Our current executive director/Heard’s founder is ready to help as much as you need. Or disappear, if that’s what you prefer.

Ready to apply? We’re ready to hear from you! Please email and include a cover letter outlining your qualifications, experience, and interest, and your resume and LinkedIn profile (if you have one). Not a dealbreaker if you don’t.


Heard is an equal employment opportunity employer.  All applicants will be considered based on their qualifications without regard to age, race, color, national origin, gender, religion, disability, or other protected status in accordance with applicable federal, state, and local equal employment opportunity laws. We strongly encourage applications from members of underrepresented groups.