Park City Films Series chooses new executive director
Ryan Summerlin November 21, 2012
Katharine Wang has worked with many nonprofit organizations in the Park City area including the Park City Foundation and the Wasatch Community Gardens.
She and her husband Canice Harte cofounded Waterbox, a lifestyle water bottle company based in Park City, and is well versed in fundraising.
Wang also loves film.
So, when the board of directors for the Park City Film Series, the locally based, year round non-profit art-house theater organization needed to choose a new executive director, it chose Wang.
"Her reputation in the community, coupled with her nonprofit experience and impressive business background, along with her passion for using film as medium for creating community dialogue convinced us she was the best fit for our organization," said Irene Cho, president of the film series board.
Wang, who is known as Katy by her friends, said she plans to build on the foundation the Park City Film Series has established over the years, and elevate the dialogue in the community around a variety of topics.
And with the Park City Film Series endowment fund that was established by Wang’s predecessor Kim Page, Wang feels the future is wide open.
"The Film Series, right now, is poised to get to the next level in terms of where they fit in the strata of nonprofit organizations to take a leadership role," she said. "What we want to do is look to the future and find out how to expand upon our programming."
However, before Wang makes any commitment, she wants to look at the Film Series with a critical eye and see what types of changes will benefit the organization.
"I want to do a 360-degree assessment of the Park City Film Series in the immediate future," she explained. "I want to see how other people – our patrons, other nonprofit organizations, people in the film community – perceive us externally.
"I also want see how we, ourselves, see us internally and what niche is there that we can fill," she said.
The changes, when they do come, will not replace the offerings the Park City Film Series already has in place, Wang said.
It will continue to offer the weekly film screenings and provide a venue for special screenings and other events, she explained.
"What we do well is show those art-house films that we have programmed throughout the year," Wang said. "They have only gotten better the past few years and that will continue as is, but the board of directors certainly has a lot of ambition of where it would like the film series to go. And in terms of providing leadership, I would love to start some events to be not so amorphous."
One of the ways to do that will include looking at future partnership opportunities, and strengthen the partnerships the film series already has within the community, she said.
"I would like to look at all these ideas we have and find what makes the most sense and create at trajectory for the next three years and then talk to funders to see if they will support them," Wang said. "And when more new ideas come, we’ll have a means to see where they fit within the arc of our story."
Another goal is to expand the audience demographic.
"I would love to bring in younger audiences and families into the films," said Wang, who has two daughters.
The key to achieving those goals is to be open minded to where those types of opportunities will take the organization.
"It’s also about being strategic, because if we don’t have a plan, it will be hard to achieve these goals," she said. "That’s why we need to do that 360-degree assessment."
Wang, who has always been an avid reader, discovered the power of art films while growing up in New York City.
One year, she took a class in high school about existentialism and the teacher introduced a couple of films – Peter Weir’s 1975 film "The Picnic at Hanging Rock" and Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 film "Wild Strawberries."
"They complemented the things we were reading in class and they opened my eyes to the ability of film to express ideas in different ways that books could," Wang remembered. "Like many people my age, I grew up on ‘Star Wars’ and other megaplex films, but that was the first time I saw that films can be art."
Film, she found, had a certain capacity to introduce ideas that may be are disparate from the way people would normally think.
"It is also a good way to introduce a foreign culture into your life, but at the same time, make it accessible in such a short time," she said.
While attending Georgetown University, film once again found its way into Wang’s education.
"I was an American Studies major, which is a liberal arts degree in American arts and culture, and one of my professors brought in films, TV shows and documentaries that gave the class an opportunity to look into a different slice of life that would be hard to articulate in a book," she said. "That was something that has always stuck with me, and everywhere I lived, I looked for the documentary film house or sought out film festivals."
During the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, Wang experienced another film-fueled epiphany.
"I’m half Chinese, although I don’t look it, but I remember seeing one the films at the festival called ‘Up the Yangtze’ in the Cinemark Theater," she said. "I looked and noticed that people all around me were Chinese.
"I grew up in New York City and I am used to diversity that we don’t necessarily have here ethically," Wang said. "That never happens in Park City. I’m never surrounded by Asian people, let alone Chinese people here, but it happened at that screening, and it was, again, that cultural opening of a different life.
"I am looking forward to seeing how the Park City Film Series can make a bigger difference in our community," she said.
For more information about the Park City Film Series, visit www.parkcityfilmseries.com.