The Arts: Creativity’s top players

The Arts
The Charlottesville arts community, with support from the Charlottesville and Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau, recently took part in Arts & Economic Prosperity IV, the largest-ever national study of “the economic impact of nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their audiences.” The study, which included participation from 112 arts organizations and thousands of audience members in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, found that the arts contribute $114.4 million to the a local economy each year. Everyone knows you can’t put a price tag on a creative community, and our town has long been a Bohemian hideout for actors, fine artists, and writers. But it’s fast becoming an arts industry destination, too, a place creative people come to make their way in the world, thanks in no small part to the savvy five listed below.

Maggie Guggenheimer (Photo by John Robinson)

1. Maggie Guggenheimer
Arts consultant
It’s a good thing Maggie Guggenheimer can juggle (metaphorically, at least), because she has a lot of balls in the air. The UVA art history grad currently holds three major arts administration positions. Within Charlottesville, she serves as the managing director at The Bridge/Progressive Arts Initiative, and as the consultant for research and planning at the Piedmont Council for the Arts (under which she spearheaded the implementation of the study cited above). Plus, she’s been a research assistant at Randi Korn & Associates, Inc. in Washington, D.C., since 2006, and she guest lectures for arts administration classes at UVA and contributes to a number of art blogs and research endeavors.

In keeping with the tenets of both PCA and The Bridge/PAI, Guggenheimer focuses on collaboration within arts organizations, as well as connection with the community as a means to challenge and grow each organization. She sees effective collaboration as a way to expand the potential of each organization by allowing them to blur the lines between them to create something new. It’s a fitting approach for someone with so many affiliations, don’t you think?

Jody Kielbasa (Photo courtesy subject)

2. Jody Kielbasa
Director of the Virginia Film Festival
Jody Kielbasa has a long and varied history in the arts. After receiving a B.A. in history from Rollins College in Florida, he earned a B.F.A. in theatre from Florida State University and an M.F.A. from Asolo Conservatory for Actor’s Training. From there, he moved to Los Angeles, where he had a brief career as an actor and founded the Tamarind Theatre, which produced over 100 plays. In 1999, he moved back to Florida and became a founding member of the Sarasota Film Festival, where he was responsible for its growth into a 10-day festival featuring a number of famous films and filmmakers.

If that sounds a lot like our own fall film festival, that’s because it is. Kielbasa is similarly responsible for the growth of the Virginia Film Festival since accepting the position as its director in 2009. He has focused on rebranding the festival to focus more on Virginia, as well as working hard to get contemporary films that connect with the Charlottesville community. Attendance has increased every year. By collaborating with a number of theaters and venues, he has been able to involve the entire community in the festival. Kielbasa knows that a film festival has to be about the whole medium, not just about screenings with famous actors. He’s fostered the growth of side projects like the Adrenaline Film Festival* within the VFF, which allows students and community members to create and display films that they have written, directed, and produced in 72 hours**, creating yet another connection between the professional and community aspects of the festival.

3. Matt Joslyn
Executive Director at Live Arts
When John Gibson announced his resignation as artistic director of Live Arts a few years back, it was clear that a shake-up was in the making. As Charlottesville’s most influential theater company, the happenings at Live Arts cast a long shadow over our town’s dramatic subconscious. After an exhaustive search, the reins were handed to Matt Joslyn, a 33-year-old Ohioan with a personal vision taken straight from Live Arts’ mission statement: community relevance.

As executive director, Joslyn oversees the mechanics of the theater: streamlining budgets, spearheading fundraisers, making sure the lights are on and the water’s running. And with a resume that includes the executive director’s spot at the State Theater of Ithaca and the Mansfield Renaissance Theater, the man knows what he’s doing. Show business is just that: half show, half business. If your theater can’t pay the bills, it’s not making any magic. As the foreman of Charlottesville’s community stage, he’s the guy calling the shots. His first major decision? Appointing new artistic director, Julie Hamberg.

4. Steve and Russell Willis Taylor
Director of Second Street Gallery and President and CEO of National Arts Strategies
When we say “power couple,” we don’t mean the kind of folks tethered to their iPhones, wheeling and dealing. No, Steve and Russell Willis Taylor wield their power a bit more, shall we say, artfully. A native of North Yorkshire, England, Steve followed up art school with 22 years in advertising. When he moved to Charlottesville in 2001, he returned to his first love, pursuing interests in photography and art and later serving as director of marketing and communications at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. Now, he’s an associate member of The McGuffey Art Center and the director of Second Street Gallery, the first nonprofit community gallery in Central Virginia.

Russell Willis is the President and CEO of National Arts Strategies, a position she’s held for 11 years. She served as director of development of the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. Afterwards, she traveled back to England, where she received her education, to work at the English National Opera. She organized its first fundraising department. In Charlottesville, she serves on the advisory board of the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, but still has ties to Britain, where she’s a member of The British Council’s Arts & Creative Economy Advisory Group.

Andrew Owen (Photo by John Robinson)

5. Andrew Owen
Managing Director of LOOK3: Festival of the Photograph
Talk about immersing yourself in your craft. Local photographer Andrew Owen practically breathes through his lense, constantly exploring his creativity and working to inspire the community as the managing director of LOOK3: Festival of the Photograph, an annual event Owen’s been involved with since its inception in 2006. This year’s three-day fest featured 11 photographers, from Donna Ferrato to Bruce Gilden, and drew crowds—professionals and amateurs welcome!—from in and outside the United States. In the six years since the festival began, it’s become a pretty big deal, earned sponsorship deals with Canon and National Geographic, and redefined the way a community can interact with art photography.


Anthony Restivo (Photo by John Robinson)

Anthony Restivo
Struggling artist, age 24
“If I ruled the world, I would try very hard to shirk the responsibility, because nobody wants an artist ruling the world. I feel that artists would like it very much if everyone else around them lived like artists. I would, to be sure, but we can’t all get up at noon, work very hard at some mediocre but honest attempt at self-expression for three hours, then call it quits.

You would see a total breakdown of infrastructure. No trash pick up, no cops, no road work, no lawn care (I might write a mandate against lawn care). It would be a nightmare, hellish in scope, where the only hats were berets, the only justice poetic, and the only thoughts post-modern.

You’re better off asking Bruce Nauman. He could do it better.”


* An earlier version of this story stated that Jody Kielbasa “initiated” the Adrenaline Film Project. The festival was launched by Richard Herskowitz along with Charlottesville native, filmmaker Jeff Wadlow as part of the 2004 Virginia Film Festival, which was built around the theme “Speed.”

** Also, the Adrenaline Film Project takes place over 72 hours, not 48.

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