News Column

Gibson assuming 'many hats' as arts director

June 29, 2014

By Donna Stinnett, The Gleaner, Henderson, Ky.

June 29--When he takes over on Tuesday as the new executive director of Henderson Area Arts Alliance, Greg Gibson will be forging another link in the chain that's been his professional life.

The arts have always been a key component of it, but not all of it.

The Gold Medal Art Student of the Year in the 1977 graduating class of Henderson County High School has allowed the business side of his genetic makeup to possess a few links in the chain.

He earned bachelor's degrees in both business and industrial design, but it was his creative side that led him to internships at Macy's Department Store in New York City and at Walt Disney World in Florida.

Since then he has chained together more than 25 years of experience in marketing design, creativity, leadership and project management for corporations, and through the entertainment design business he founded 14 years ago.

He joins the arts alliance after five years of consulting with the Housing Authority of Henderson in grant writing, art instruction and after-school programming, and after successfully helping launch a new satellite office for Big Brothers Big Sisters in Henderson County in 2010.

"Life is a journey, and one link was missing," Gibson said. "That was artistic programming. I've produced a lot of different types of events, but never booked a talent.

"There's a reason I'm here (in this position)," he added. "It's a link in the chain I'm going to learn, and I'm excited about learning it."

Perhaps that's why on Friday, as he discussed taking the executive director's job after serving five months as an interim director, he already had at least 15 pages of handwritten notes about things he wants to works on come Tuesday.

His list contains such details as planning for a board retreat in August, contacting corporate sponsors and writing thank-yous for a recent arts alliance fundraising event, but he's also got bigger things on his mind as he settles into his new job.

Top on his list has to do with communications and information.

"I would really like to see the arts alliance become an umbrella agency that promotes the performing arts, the visual arts and all things in between," Gibson said.

He imagines it as a collaborative effort between arts groups, the school system, churches and other organizations that would collect details about arts opportunities and list them in one place for arts enthusiasts.

Working together through the arts is one of Gibson's central themes, as he sees many opportunities for "anybody who's passionate about arts" to help build the community's stake in the arts.

He thinks one way to accomplish that is through new and improved educational outreach, not only for children and students, but to those who have less opportunity to experience the arts.

"We need to expose them to the power of creativity," Gibson said, adding that he would like to see more schoolchildren brought to the Fine Arts Center for performances because simply being in the building can be a "jaw-dropping experience" for young people.

Gibson also wants to survey and evaluate the arts alliance's current audience to find out what they really like and don't like, and he wants to figure out how to "engage a younger audience as we grow the arts."

He knows that last thing is a challenge with the demands on young families of both time and resources and the competition for their attention.

"I've got to make it a big enough hook and draw that they want to be out here," Gibson said. "I think I can."

The new director said he feels very fortunate to walk into an organization that was left in very good condition by five-year director Kyle Arnett, who took a job as executive director of the Henderson County Tourist Commission, and that has strong support of the community.

He's learned in his five months of on-the-job training that he'll be required to wear many hats -- of programming, marketing, fundraising, hospitality and more.

"I had no idea how broad this job is and how much is required," Gibson said, adding that he is excited about getting started. "I love challenges and I love multitasking. That's the way I'm wired."


(c)2014 The Gleaner (Henderson, Ky.)

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Source: Gleaner, The (Henderson, KY)

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