Island arts stalwart takes a new pat

Book the talent. Write press releases and text for the website. Design the posters. Set the lights. Welcome the audiences. Dress up for the auction. And once a year, roller skate through town, leading Vashon Allied Arts’ delegation in the Strawberry Festival parade.

For almost 20 years, Janice Randall has done all that and much more for VAA, serving in several high profile positions in the arts organization.

Most recently, she’s been VAA’s director of communications and performing arts, as well as the editor of its monthly publication, Island Arts.

In many ways, she’s become the most public face of the bustling arts organization.

A week ago, though, Randall straightened up her desk at the Blue Heron for the last time and walked out the door to chase new adventures.

“I feel like my job here is done,” Randall said over a quick lunch at The Hardware Store Restaurant, as she took a break from tying up the loose ends of her final week at the Blue Heron. “I want to make way for the next generation and the next phase of VAA’s growth.”

Randall has found a new job, as communications director for Plymouth Congregational Church in downtown Seattle — a place where she’ll continue to do some of the same things she’s done for the past two decades at VAA. The church has thriving music and art ministries, and concerts by well-known performers are frequently presented in its 350-seat sanctuary.

Randall said she’s excited to expand those arts programs, as well as work on social justice issues championed by the progressive church.

“I’m ready to move on to new challenges, looking forward to a bigger pond,” she said.

At the same time, though, the career move seems to have provided Randall with a chance to look back and gain a perspective on her VAA years that wasn’t possible while they were going on — she was just too busy.

Randall — a petite woman with corkscrew blond curls who always appeared meticulously coiffed and dressed at VAA events, even if the event was an afternoon children’s concert — moved to Vashon from northern California in 1993. By 1994, she’d been hired by VAA’s then-director Will Furth for a 20-hour-a-week gig as publicist for VAA.

It was a great job for her at the time, Randall said, noting that her son Alex was a toddler then and she was able to bring him to work with her. But soon, like little Alex, the job began to grow.

In 1997, her role expanded as she added the title of director of performing arts to her job description. With that switch, she became responsible for not only publicizing events, but also conceptualizing and booking a busy year-round calendar of concerts, plays, dance recitals and more. It was a perfect fit, Randall said, for her all-encompassing interest in the arts.

“I love theater, music, literary arts,” she said. “I’ve always sought out independent artists in my life, so it was a thrill to bring people into our community and uncover the talent on this island.”

Some of her favorite VAA events, she said, were its world music festivals at Camp Burton and its Arts & Humanities lecture series.

Welcoming audiences to watch VAA students dance, act and sing at VAA was another favorite part of her job.

“Standing up on that stage and introducing some of our youth productions, and watching generations grow as human beings and performers, to be a part of that was great,” she said.

Randall’s tirelessness at her job was especially visible when she strapped on roller skates each year to lead VAA’s contingent in the Strawberry Festival parade — and a depiction of her doing just that wound up stitched on the back of VAA’s 2000 benefit quilt, which was raffled off at the festival. By luck, Randall’s husand Matthew Mosteller held the winning ticket for the quilt that year, and it now hangs in her living room.

Randall’s personal life became entwined with her work at VAA in other ways, too, as Mosteller and their blended family all took  part in VAA’s programs. All three children in the family — Randall’s son Alex, as well as Mosteller’s daughters, Haley and Brianna, participatated in camps and classses at VAA. Her in-laws, she said, had supporoted VAA long before she arrived — her father-in-law helped maintain the Blue Heron building, and her mother-in-law created flower arrangements for the gallery.

The job also fed Randall’s  creative impulses, and throughout her tenure she also attended to her own muses, writing fiction, poetry and prose, creating fiber art and appearing in stage productions in her off-hours.

Randall stayed with the organization through good times and bad.

Nine years ago, Randall battled a life-threatening form of cancer. She got her diagnosis, she said, on the day of VAA’s 2004 art auction, and she returned home that evening to work at the event, parading through the crowd holding up paintings.

She added that throughout her treatment, her colleagues, including VAA’s director at the time, Jason Everett, provided her with deep support.

“I will always be grateful for the support Jason and the board and staff showed to me and my family,” she said, followed by a long pause. “It still brings me to tears when I think about it. The whole arts community was wonderful, and I’ll forever be indebted to everyone for their care and concern. I will never forget that.”

Nor is it likely that anyone at VAA will soon forget Randall, her contributions to the community or her dedication to her work.

“She made an impossible job possible,” said Molly Reed, VAA’s current executive director. “I’ve never known anyone as successful at multi-tasking as that woman. She was fast, and she was good.”

Jason Everett, who worked with Randall for many years, put it another way.

“She was an artist in her job,” he said.

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