An Artist with Money

Feminist Georgia Lee Hussey ’01 leveraged her creative talents to launch a wealth management firm for fellow entrepreneurs who “do cool things.”

Georgia Lee Hussey ’01

At first, Georgia Lee Hussey ’01 bought into the conventional belief that to be a great artist meant being lousy with money. Then, after years as a struggling installation artist and writer, necessity changed her mind. “I came to a place in my life where I bought a house I couldn’t afford,” she says. “So I had no choice; I started learning everything I could about money.”

In 2010, Hussey decided to switch paths, earning her credentials as a certified financial planner. She quickly realized that being a creative person and being financially savvy didn’t have to be mutually exclusive. “The things that made me a good writer and artist and arts administrator make me really good with money,” she says. “I’m a good conceptualist, and most creatives are. Creatives are also really good with problem solving. And that’s basically what financial planning and wealth management are about.”

In 2015, Hussey founded Modernist Financial, a wealth management firm in Portland, Oregon, that caters to creative professionals. “Entrepreneurs who approach business with a creative mindset,” she says, describing her clientele. “Music producers, owners of design firms, creative executives.”

Hussey says her business model reflects her feminism. “To me, feminism is a belief that we can all evidence feminine traits and masculine traits,” she says.

“Creatives are also really good with problem solving. And that’s basically what financial planning and wealth management are about.”

At Sarah Lawrence, Hussey studied installation sculpture and creative writing “with a little geology and politics thrown in there.” She says the process of creating installation sculpture resembles the process of financial planning. “You have to envision this totally impossible thing you want to do,” she says. “You have to express the idea to people so they will give you the space and the material to do it. Then you have to take all the little steps it takes to get the installation in place.”

Hussey credits her alma mater with preparing her to pivot into a new career. “The opportunity to learn in that environment, with that caliber of curious, creative intellectualism around me, was the best thing that ever happened to me,” she says. “It shaped me for the rest of my life. So I created a business where I hang out with people who are like Sarah Lawrence people. They are smart, they are intellectual, and they do cool things.”

Though she lived in New York for many years, Hussey’s heart has belonged to Portland ever since she couch-surfed at a friend’s house after graduating. “I ate organic food and rode my bike and ran a gallery,” she says. “It’s different than New York. I didn’t have to have all these connections. I didn’t even have to have all that much money. If you engage in this community, it gives back a lot.”

And Portland keeps giving back, its creative community helping to fuel the growth of her business.