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What's Art Got To Do With Leadership?

Friday, June 26, 2015

What's Art Got to Do with Leadership?


            "The arts are integral to a healthy community," says Alyssum Wier, Executive Director of the Arts Council of Mendocino County. "We need more artists in leadership to bring their important perspective and talent to further economic opportunity in the county."

            Soft spoken, her lively little Italian Greyhound Dmitri often by her side, Wier is the face and force of the county-wide Arts Council. Headquartered at the Ukiah train depot on Perkins Street, Wier manages the website, keeps up the calendar, serves members with the assistance of a part time employee, and is an artist herself on the side. She also teaches Arts and Crafts Marketing and Art History at Mendocino College.

            Wier has a degree in English and psychology and studied art history at Kenyon College in Ohio and a masters in Arts Administration from Columbia University.

            She is a graduate of Leadership Mendocino and serves as vice chair of the Leadership Mendocino Steering Committee (LMSC). "I benefitted so much from the program both professionally and personally as someone who cares deeply about the past, present and future of Mendocino County," says the 2011-12 Class XIX graduate.

            Joining the LMSC was a way "to focus on solutions and opportunities while making sure that motivated class members get introduced to the various sectors within Mendocino County -- roughly organized around class days -- and to the diverse individuals at work throughout the county."

            Wier has headed the Arts Council of Mendocino County, established in 2000, since 2010. The two most well known programs are Get Arts in the Schools Program (GASP) and the popular online, email, and printed arts calendar.

            GASP provides grants to professional artists to deliver arts enrichment to Mendocino County students. The GASP mission is to infuse the arts in the core curriculum and provide opportunities for students to experience quality, educational, curriculum-based artistic programs and performances. Performing artists appear and visual artists offer workshops at K-12 schools around the county.  The Mendocino County Office of Education and the Arts Council are partners in awarding the grants to interested artists.

            Through a grant from the Community Foundation of Mendocino County, the Arts Council created a step by step arts curriculum for teachers. It and many other valuable resources are available on the website. The arts calendar on is updated daily and emailed weekly to anyone who signs up. The Arts Council also publishes a county-wide arts guide that lists galleries, music venues, arts organizations and annual events.

            Once a year, the Arts Council chooses recipients of their Arts Champion

awards which are presented at a ceremony during a Board of Supervisors meeting in October. Nominations are made by community members and winners are decided by the Arts Council Board of Directors.

            Wier's background in art is felt in the curriculum at Leadership Mendocino. Class XXII finished their ten-month program with Arts and Tourism class day in the village of Mendocino. The last session of the day was spent creating visual expressions of what the year in Leadership Mendocino meant. The experience was guided by Janet Self, community artist extraordinaire, at her FLOCKworks studio at the Odd Fellows Hall in Mendocino.

            "My intention in hosting the group," says Self, "was to experience a dynamic

exhibit titled 'The Art of Letter, Word & Book' featuring the work of the Thousand Prayer Project by renowned artist Larry Thomas." She also engaged the class in a conversation about Flockwork's focus on the role of art and creativity, in building community, fostering individual resilience and problem solving, bringing people together, and FLOCKworks' focus on creating with children.  

             Everyone was given a thin strip of paper on which to apply design and words related to their Leadership Class experience. Self applied bees wax to the pieces "giving them a translucent, glowing feel." Then she added ribbons at the bottom of each piece, and hung them from a mobile form, inspired by the Thomas exhibit.

            "It was a real pleasure to host the Leadership Mendocino team again," says Self. "I had enjoyed it in past years and I am very proud of the unique leadership we have added in building community through creativity. It has some amazing ripples in bringing the community together."