Amy Kligman, the new director of Charlotte Street Foundation, on what the future holds for the arts organization

%{[ data-embed-type=”image” data-embed-id=”” data-embed-element=”aside” ]}%

The future of local arts organization Charlotte Street Foundation has been a bit murky since the departure of founder David Hughes in 2013, and artistic director Kate Hackman in 2014. 

Last week came word that Julie Dalgleish, brought in to succeed Hughes as executive director, is already on her way out the door. She’s being replaced by Amy Kligman, a visual artist and one of the founders of PLUG Projects. Kligman was brought in this summer as director of programming. As part of a restructure, Kligman will continue in that role in addition to being the new executive director. 

We called up Kligman last week to get a little clarity about the situation over at Charlotte Street. 

Can you talk a little about what Charlotte Street is these days, and what’s changed, what’s new, etc.?

Sure. So, there’s three main categories of what we do: We provide space, financial support, and visibility. What that means is, we offer free studio space downtown to 25 artists every year — and there are exhibition opportunities that come along with that. A lot of times those artists are emerging, or transitioning from schools, and it’s a great way to get people acclimated here in Kansas City. 

In terms of financial support, there’s the artist awards. We give out unrestricted $10,000 fellowships every year to three visual artists and two performing artists making original new work. Those are chosen by juries that include people of national recognition — we bring in people from national organizations who are working at a certain level of excellence to make those decisions. We also team with the Spencer Museum in Lawrence to give out Rocket Grants, which are smaller grants. 

And then there’s the exhibitions and programming we do at the spaces we run: La Esquina, the Paragraph Gallery and Project Space. 

What’s different in terms of the structure of the organization? 

When I came on earlier this year, I was hired to do work that Kate was doing when she was here. Pretty soon after that we started talking about a restructure, and internally the staff had been looking at that for a while. Julie is the one who pitched the idea of a staff restructure — she had a pretty expansive career as a nonprofit consultant before coming to Charlotte Street. 

What that will look like now is, I manage the staff, I’m still organizing programming through La Esquina, and I’ll be handling some fundraising responsibilities along with the development director. My role is primarily keeping the mission and vision of Charlotte Street on track, and managing relationships with funders, artists, and partners.

Julie has done a lot of shoring up of our infrastructure here. Charlotte Street for a long time was running on the sheer will of two strong leaders [Hackman and Hughes]. Now we’re in a place where we’re growing up as an organization, we have a bigger staff, and we’re getting people into positions where they have expertise — like the development director role, which used to be handled jointly by people here and now is its own position. And we’re hiring a marketing person as well. 

The press release said something about how an artist-centered organization should be led by an artist or curator. 

Yeah, I think that’s something that we’ve been talking about — realigning to the idea of an artist-led organization. Aside from me in the leadership position, we have a programming advisory council now that’s made up of a group of eight artists from the community that meet regularly to talk about programming. We’re trying to find ways to keep people involved and also keep in mind what we learned from the assessment done a few years ago trying to figure out what people think is important for Charlotte Street to be doing.

Can you talk a little about your background? Hallmark, PLUG?

Sure — my corporate background is that I was at American Greetings for five years as a designer, then came to Hallmark 10 years ago. I started in creative, then moved over to creative leadership. Did some art direction, creative strategy, project-lead type of stuff. 

With PLUG, five years ago, five of us collaborated and started an artist-run space. We showed local and national artists, and ran programming out of the space. We’d do critique nights, film theory, all sorts of things — a really robust programming effort. Now there’s two spaces to show, and PLUG does 12 exhibitions a year. I think PLUG was really great experience in terms of what I’m doing now at Charlotte Street. It was a fiscally sponsored project but it behaved as a nonprofit. It was also awarded a Rocket Grant, and received mentorship through Charlotte Street, so Charlotte Street was important to its entire existence.

What’s on the horizon? 

There’s a lot of exciting things in motion that I can’t quite talk about yet. We’re doing some strategic planning for 2017, which will be the 20th anniversary of Charlotte Street. It’s exciting to be on board at a time when people will be talking about the great legacy Charlotte Street has established here in Kansas City. And now we can put bodies into place here and manage that legacy and continue it.  

Categories: A&E, Art