Allens Lane Art Center is the 2019 winner of the George Bartol Arts Education Award for their Vision Thru Art program but that is only part of their story. Executive Director Craig Stover filled us in on the rest (and his love of tacos) with his answers to our questions of the day.
What about your work keeps you up at night?
In a word: sustainability. Running an art center that has been around since 1953 presents certain challenges (and big shoes to fill). Although we do make new classes, exhibitions, productions and other events all the time, the challenge for us is to make things that our community wants and needs while making sure that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every year. Making sure that the things we offer are well funded, well marketed and responds to the community’s needs that can withstand the test of time is often harder than it looks.
When do you know your work is making a difference?
When I see the smile on a kids face when they arrive for camp, when I see a student who throws a new pot on the wheel, when I see an actor take a bow on opening night, when I see and artist being the center of attention during a reception, that’s when I know that my job makes a real difference. At Allens Lane Art Center, everyone who works at the center is an artist in their own right, from the instructors down to the administrators, and we’re all here because we believe that we can all help people by introducing them to the arts or by helping support their artistic dreams.
What is the coolest thing a participant in your program ever said to you?
When I took over as Executive Director in 2008, the center had just gone under a major renovation of the building and unfortunately, a good number of our constituents didn’t return. During that first year or so, it was a real struggle trying to build back our audiences, especially in light of the recession that just started. Eventually, we found our footing and our programs all came back to life. This was reinforced by an artist who was working in our ceramics program one evening and came to me and said “Last night I was working in the studio and took a break and walked through the center. It was amazing that there was something going on in every room of the building. Actors were rehearsing on the stage, dancers were practicing in the dance studio, and an artist was giving a talk in the gallery. It was amazing to see the center come to life.”
What is the best tip you can give to someone doing arts education programs like yours?
Try it all! It’s extremely helpful when administrators know first-hand what the program is like so taking that class, seeing that show or participating in program events really helps. A better understanding of those who are running the program not only give you a clearer picture of how to support it, it also helps build a stronger bond between the administration and the artists and those bonds help make for lasting relationships.
Best. Snack. Ever.
Tacos. They’re a snack and a meal. I’d be very wary of any who turns one down.
Part of a continuing series featuring our 2019 Bartol grantees.