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Touchstone leaves Arts Center; Kinkade of GABBF to take over as interim director

In a surprise move this week, Mary Beth Touchstone has retired as executive director of the Community Arts Center. Touchstone became the third executive director of the Arts Center in 2009.

Barbara Hall, Stodghill Professor of Music, Emerita, with Centre College, took over the retiring director’s position for this week, but will pass the baton on to a very familiar name — Niki Kinkade — who officially takes over as interim director Saturday.

Kinkade will continue on as director of the Great American Brass Band Festival while she fills the interim role at the Arts Center.

“The Community Arts Center vastly expanded its programming under Touchstone’s leadership,” says Jennifer Ahnquist, vice-president of the Arts Center’s board. “Mary Beth has overseen its remarkable growth from an exhibit space to a thriving hub for community engagement and creative expression.”

Kate Snyder, who came on board as director of marketing four years ago, seconded the notion of how much growth Touchstone oversaw in her time as executive director. Snyder also takes notice of what she considers incredibly important aspects of Touchstone’s character — not only as a boss, but as a person.

“When I moved to Danville and began trying to find a job with a non-profit organization, Mary Beth took me under her wing and introduced me to lots of people around town,” Snyder says. “The Arts Center wasn’t even hiring at the time — this was just her way of welcoming a new professional to the community.”

Snyder says when a job opened up, Touchstone encouraged her to apply.

“Mary Beth’s unwavering confidence in me and willingness to let me try new things has helped me to grow and expand my professional skills while supporting an organization we both love very much,” Snyder says.

“Mary Beth was a great executive director, in that she represented exactly the kind of change that the Arts Center can have within our community,” says Brandon Long, programming director. “She came from Texas to investigate Centre College’s potential for her daughter, happened to stop by the Community Arts Center, and just fell in love with the town so much that she moved here. She believes that a community’s appreciation of the arts is directly tied to its quality of life. I always loved that someone could come from so far away, yet get so involved and invest so much in a grassroots organization like the Arts Center.”

In a release, the Arts Center’s board stated: “Under Touchstone’s leadership, the Community Arts Center expanded its programming to meet the changing needs of the community. The Arts Center’s programs now include on-site and community-based classes for children and adults, rotating exhibits for local, regional, national and international artists, and a robust field trip program that introduces students from surrounding school districts to the arts. The Arts Center also serves as the fiscal sponsor for eight other non-profit area arts organizations. Mary Beth’s vision, community voice, financial expertise and passion for the arts have helped make the Community Arts Center a leader in the arts community in Danville, Boyle County and beyond. The Board of Directors of the Community Arts Center, with deep respect and admiration, wishes Mary Beth well in her retirement.”

Hall, who has filled the role for the course of the week for her friend and colleague, also commented on Touchstone’s qualities as a leader.

“Mary Beth is able to keep track of more things at once than anyone else I’ve ever worked with …” Hall says. A rare combination of an artist’s passion and an accountant’s practical brain made her an invaluable member of the Arts Center team, she says.

“She was never scattered, and made my role as board president much easier, more focused,” Hall says. “One more thing, she always expressed great delight over memorable moments — a breakthrough for a child artist, an amazing presentation at Lunch with the Arts, a big turnout for an opening of an exhibit. No staid decorum there!”

The Arts Center has been dedicated to a mission of “creating transformative arts opportunities for every member of the community.”

“Mary Beth lived that commitment,” says Ahnquist.  “We look forward to continuing the momentum she has generated as a leading voice for the importance of the arts in our community.”

Double duty

Kinkade, in her fourth year on the board of the Arts Center, says sure — it will mean more work, but it’s something she’s ready to sink her mind into. Not only has Kinkade successfully led the organization of the larger-than-life Brass Band Festival as executive director for eight years, but she has a strong arts background. She has a degree in art history, has taught in the arts, worked in galleries ….

“I’ve been in Danville for 10 years, and when I first moved to town from Naples, Florida, I started a children’s art program called The Creative Treehouse and did my art programming at the Arts Center,” Kinkade says, describing her fond recollections of renting the Kids’ World space in the basement of the center. Her strong interests in the arts and its impact on a community are what pulled her to step up for the interim position.

“The Community Arts Center is such a fundamental part of the community for me. Especially when I first got here — as a Centre professor’s spouse, I loved knowing such a thriving arts center was here; it brings such a sense of culture.”

Another inviting thing to her about the center is how established it is.

“I feel very strongly about the importance of the building and the organization; it’s such a strong organization already. It’s established, and the staff know what they’re doing. It’s like the Brass Band Festival — it’s very much in a forward motion, which is exciting to me. It’s the perfect time to really kind of strategize and look at the organization fully, and do this kind of analysis of the community, and see how to go forward.”

She says April is actually “a lull” for GABBF. “I want everyone to know that I will not be leaving my post as executive director of the festival. I’ll be doing both. And Leigh (Jefferson) will be doing extra in the GABBF office and going above and beyond for the festival in order to allow me to do what I need to for the Arts Center. We have everything in place that we need to for the festival at this point.”

Kinkade says the only way organizations like the Arts Center can continue to surge forward is with the support of its community.

“I want the community to continue to look at us, see what we’re doing. We’re doing so, so much. We invite you in the doors, we invite you to the multitude of programs and experiences that happen at the Community Arts Center,” she says. “And there are always opportunities there for the community — as a volunteer, as an arts student, a donor, or just a citizen who wants to get involved.”

A search for a permanent director will begin in the near future, but Kinkade says it is too early in the game for her to talk about taking on the role permanently — “One step at a time; lets get through this, first,” she says.

SO YOU KNOW

For more information about the Community Arts Center and its programs, or to learn about exhibits, classes, scholarships or making a donation, please visit www.communityartscenter.net.

A Q&A with out-going Community Arts Center Executive Director Mary Beth Touchstone

AM: Can you tell us what went into your decision to retire?

MBT: “I’ve enjoyed serving the community for the past eight years as the director of the CAC. The time has come for me to seek out a new assignment. Danville/Boyle county is such a charming, unique, and wonderful place to live. I want to continue to do my part to help in any way I can.”

AM: Will you be spending more time with family, traveling — already have your fingers into anything extracurricular you’re excited about you want to fill us in on? 

MBT: “All of the above!  I’m headed to Peuto Rico with my youngest daughter in May, to Houston for two weeks in July  — can you imagine Houston in July? What am I thinking?…

“I may do some family portrait photography but not on a large scale. I’ve been talking with someone at Centre about a small project. So, I have a couple of ideas that I’m excited about.”

AM: Ok, we want you to brag — looking back on your eight years at Community Arts Center, is there a specific program, event or change you are particularly proud of that happened on your watch?

MBT: “I love the way that the CAC has grown — more classes, super exhibits, arts opportunities for all. I am so proud of the collaborative efforts of cultural organizations. For instance, Danville (is) a designated creative district. It’s reflective of close collaboration among our cultural organizations.     

“I’m proud that CAC staff are specially trained to provide meaningful arts activities to children with special needs.”

AM: What is it that you will miss the most about being at the Arts Center on a daily basis?

MBT: “I’ll miss the visitors, kids on field trips, and the immensely talented artists. I won’t miss the long hours. You wouldn’t think so, but this is a 24/7 job.”

AM: Will you continue to be involved with the center in any fashion? 

MBT: “Watch for me as a volunteer for the Art-a-thon. Can’t wait!”

AM: Is there anything you’d like to add, anything you’d like the community to know, or your replacement? 

MBT: “Nonprofits are responsible for delivering big missions on shoestring budgets. During the hard times, I have to remind myself that if the good deeds that nonprofits do could be done at a profit, someone would already be doing it.

“So, it is important for everyone to pick a couple of nonprofits with important missions, dig deep and financially support them. Of course, I’d love for all of your readers to pop a check in the mail to the Arts Center!

“I’m looking forward to the future filled with art — and more public art would be great.”