Teri Orr: She made Art Matter…
So very many years ago — when I was just a journalist — my Texan friend used to talk to me about folks who were “meaner than a box of snakes.” It made me laugh every time — because it was a such a clear visual and she was in every way such a classy broad — perfectly coiffed and turned out and bejeweled — it always seemed so out of context.
When I got involved in the world of arts and the greater nonprofit community I understood her phrase “box of snakes.” Because in this state and county and city, it plays out every day. There is competition for donors and Opening Nights — for exhibits and performances and artists — visual and performing. Creative souls offer up their work and ideas and find them shot down or stolen. The dirty little secret in the arts turns out to look like a whole lot of black swans who often behave like ugly ducklings.
This isn’t exclusive to this state or county or city — the arts by the very nature of creativity and star power — lack collaboration, coordination, thoughtful consideration. So other than a partner here or an associate there — I spent most of my time in this field keeping my head down and wearing boots. Snakes bite the ankles first.
And then a couple of years ago a charmer with great spunk and copious amounts of energy and enthusiasm came on the scene to try and recreate a defunct arts council for the county. We gave the new kid little more than a sideways glance but secretly welcomed the change and the enthusiasm.
Hadley Dynak landed here, looked around, and took her experience at a variety of projects from Code for America to filmmaking to advising the mayor’s office in San Francisco and agreed to take the whole thing for a spin. And spin we did. Her first project was straight from the sophisticated world of TED and featured working with the worldwide JR organization (which won the TED prize in 2011). Oversized photos of Summit County faces of folks who were successful entrepreneurs. The giant faces — four maybe five feet tall — took over the empty window spaces at Kimball Junction. For two months folks would wander there and point to their friends’ faces and marvel at the great photography and short bios of the people doing work in the county.
There was a project called BRANDed PC or PC BrandED (not certain I ever got that right). It highlighted folks who were working in a bunch of creative ways — from designing clothing and jewelry to creating craft chocolates, pottery and whiskey. It was smart and clever and collaborative. For a couple years now — they have showcased dozens of artisans making a living here in Summit County.
There were open houses and art shows in the county and Hadley made a point to encourage us all to get out of our comfort zones — geographically as well as artistically — and celebrate The Work and the community.
A little over a year ago Hadley realized an assessment of what was working and what needed to be helped needed to happen countywide. She thoughtfully laid her idea out and got funding and raised more money from all of us in the arts community who desperately wanted cohesion and creativity to result in greater awareness about why arts matter.
And it happened. Everything as she said it would — the surveys, the studies. The questions and the meetings. Oh the meetings! And finally — the meeting of minds. In all my years of working in this field it was the most collaborative, positive and hopeful we all ever felt about what we did, but also about what our fellow artisans did and wanted to do. We were proud to be part of the Arts Council working together to shine lights on each other’s work.
A few weeks ago Hadley announced she would be returning to California — because of her family needs … her husband’s work … but there was a bit of a dark message encoded some of us recognized. All her hard work and spectacular creativity had not been recognized by some key funders — needed to make the next chapter of her visioning work. Being an arts leader is terribly lonely and most often not financially supported. Many of the projects we all wanted to see grow and experiment with for the Arts Council — were not considered. And hope — the thing meant to float — sank like a rock in a box filled with snakes in a lake.
Hadley’s work in this community — in a few quick years — was nothing short of transformational … for the arts … for leadership of all kinds … for collaboration … for vision … for unbridled creativity. And she did it all from a place of compassion and loving kindness. For a few years we had reason to collectively believe — arts do matter.
What happens next is not just up to the Summit County arts board — it is up to all of us — to fight passionately to continue the collaboration and commitment to shared creativity, shared activism and shared passion.
But just for this week we need to also admit we have lost a leader we should have found a way to convince to stay here. We all should have spoken up sooner about how government funding in this city and county is inadequate for the level of arts being produced here and the amount of revenue and visibility it generates and all the other businesses it supports.
Art Matters — in how we see the world and each other. We were reminded during Hadley’s tenure art also matters in how the world views us. Godspeed Hadley and family in your next creative adventure. We were all BRANDed PC (and beyond) by your remarkable time here. And we hope you leave with good memories and the satisfaction of a job done exceedingly well every day, including Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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Columnist Tom Clyde has been unable to nab a ski reservation so far, so instead he’s catching up on all the important animal-related news going on in the world.