News Column

Arts and Humanities executive director retires

May 8, 2014

By Audris Ponce, Odessa American, Texas



May 08--During the past few years, new murals and structures have raised the beautification and art scene in Odessa with the help of Carla Bryant.

Bryant, executive director of the Odessa Council for the Arts and Humanities, is stepping down after 18 years.

The Odessa Council for the Arts and Humanities is a nonprofit that helps different arts, music and ethnic organizations obtain funding for projects throughout the city and county.

"I hope that the community understands and appreciates how much work she does behind the scenes, and every time you go see a museum exhibit or a classical concert or a theatrical production at the Globe or the Playhouse or wherever, Carla had a hand in it somehow," Randy Ham, the new executive director of the Odessa Council for the Arts and Humanities, said. "She has really touched all of the art community in Odessa, and she's made every single one of them a better agency with her help."

Bryant, who came on board the council in 1996, said she "knew" it was time to retire.

"It's bittersweet in a way, I've enjoyed every minute of it, but I just know that it's time," Bryant said. "One of my main goals was to retire when people said they were still sorry to see me go instead of saying thank goodness."

Bryant said about $50,000 is being granted a year to arts organizations and projects in Odessa.

"The grants have come a tremendous way. We have a standardized form, we do a grant committee, a grading system and evaluation process," Bryant said.

The council has changed the grant system, making it "equitable" for any organization that applies, including those that aren't nonprofits, Bryant said.

The red and metallic sculptures that went up March 30 at JBS Parkway and University Boulevard were part of a public arts project.

Bryant said the council has focused attention to the public arts and would like Odessa to become a more "attractive city."

"We don't want to have a reputation for being unattractive but a place that's nice to be and that is part of the arts too; it's to have things look good," Bryant said. "We're also focusing and branching out some with grants for the Hot Summer Nights, public arts and the literary arts."

Annie Stanley, education and outreach coordinator at Ellen NoËl Art Museum, said Bryant's presence in the arts community for the city was always noted.

"Carla Bryant has been a huge supporter to Odessa arts organizations for years and leaving behind a very rich legacy," Stanley said. "She's done such a great job and she's ready for something new. It's a big loss."

Stanley said she knew Bryant before she joined the board because she was always present in Odessa's arts events, including musical events, arts opening and downtown concerts.

Stanley said despite the city not having a prominent arts base, Bryant continued to help any arts organization that came to her, taking special care to support the newer and smaller organizations.

"She's always very optimistic. Sometimes when you live in a region where art is not a very popular thing you can get discouraged, but I never saw it affect her," Stanley said. "She always had a very positive attitude about things."

Odessa's Hot Summer Nights concert series, which has grown in popularity with each event since its inception, was planned with the help of Bryant, Ham said.

"She helps select the music -- get the right band, get the right performers -- that concert series really has Carla's fingerprints all over it. It's incredibly successful," Ham said.

Ham, who has known Bryant since he was a student at the Kaleidoscope Company at the Permian Playhouse and she served as office manager, said she helped him bring his One Book Odessa city-wide reading program idea to life.

When Ham approached Bryant for help on the program, she taught him how to plan a budget, where to go for funding, how the council could and wouldn't be able to help and how to write the grants.

"She really helped facilitate this from inception to execution, which is above and beyond administering a grant that I applied for," Ham said. "She was really instrumental in helping me get it off the ground."

"It's amazing to me that she's done it and it's a little daunting because I get to do it, but I've got a good teacher," Ham said. "She's really helped enrich the lives of all of Odessa, and I really admire that, it's something that I hope to continue. It's that kind of not just an appreciation for the arts, but also making the community a better place to live."

Contact Audris Ponce at 432-333-7782.

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(c)2014 the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas)

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Source: Odessa American (TX)