Vashon Center for the Arts announced last week that it had appointed long-time employee Angela Gist to the artistic director position.
Gist most recently served as the deputy director, a position she was promoted to in 2010 after joining the organization in 2009. Last week, Gist said that her former position was always intended to be temporary and was created to help the organization during the capital campaign to build the new building. She noted she is pleased to step into the new role.
“It is much more right brain,” she said. “I am returning to my creative roots and will be working more directly with artists and programming.”
A press release from the nonprofit said that the artistic director, in collaboration with the board and executive director, is responsible for delivering a year-round performing arts program and supporting the artistic vision of the organization. Areas that Gist will focus on include programming, audience development, fundraising, and strategic planning.
As part of that effort, she said she would like to diversify the audiences for theater and dance, bring in younger audiences and draw people to the center that have not been there before. She added that she is looking for works that speak to contemporary issues that are relevant to the community.
While the position is new, she said she has been involved in the booking of some of the recent large shows, including Paula Cole, kd lang and Matisyahu.
She added that she is also working to “refresh the relationships” the organization has with its longtime partners: Drama Dock, Vashon Chorale, Vashon Opera and the Vashon-Maury Island Chamber of Commerce.
She noted that it is exciting to have those longstanding relationships and at the same time feel like they are embarking on something new.
For many years, Gist focused on management and finance — which she called “really good skills to have.” But the press indicates her passion lies with the arts themselves.
Her background, in-cludes a master of art’s degree in theater and an executive master’s degree in non-profit leadership from Seattle University.
“I began my career as an actor and dancer performing in the Trail of Tears Drama at the Tsa-La-Gi (Cherokee) Theatre in Tahlequah, Ok,” she stated in the release. “I’ve worked as a scenic artist and set designer, and these days I claim playwriting as my hobby. There is nothing like witnessing an audience experience and engage with your play.”
She also spent time working for Village Theatre in Issaquah, where she helped to develop and produce new musicals.
Kevin Hoffberg, VCA’s director of operations, welcomed Gist to her new position.
“Appointing Angela to this important new role allows her to channel her considerable talents and great love for the performing arts to the benefit of VCA, our performing arts partners, and all our patrons and guests,” he said.
Currently, VCA is in a time of transition, facing financial challenges and leadership changes. Former Executive Director Molly Reed is helping out for a short time, and former gallery curator Janice Mallman is assisting some as well.
In February, many of the island’s visual artists voiced frustration with the direction of the organization. But Gist sounded an optimistic note amid the challenges.
“I really believe the future of VCA is one of endless possibilities, and I’m looking forward to collaborations that present art that is relevant to our community, that is brave and powerful, and that celebrates life and all its complexities,” she said in the recent release.