Shane Kinder and Salem Gibson are on a mission to make sure the arts are accessible to all Columbus residents.
Gibson recently joined Kinder at the Rosenzweig Arts Center, where they share leadership duties at the Columbus Arts Council. Kinder, who has been with the organization since 2015, now serves as creative director, while Gibson serves as operations director.
In his new role, Kinder will do much of what he does at the arts council.
“I will still be lining up artists to exhibit, handling the social media, hanging the works in the gallery, managing the gallery store,” Kinder said. “I’ll still be booking music for the Omnova Theater. I will be working with Salem on booking classes and scheduling teachers for classes.”
Gibson will handle more of the council’s day-to-day operations, as well as working on the financial aspects, which includes fundraising and grant writing.
Jami Nettles, chair of the council’s board of directors, noted that the board is pleased to have two professionals devoted to bringing the arts to the community.
“We were able to staff the council in such a way that it will move us forward to our strategic plan and improve our outreach to the community,” she said.
Gibson has been on the job for about two weeks and said he has spent some of that time getting out in the community, talking with arts council’s sponsors and supporters.
He is a graduate of Columbus High School and Mississippi University for Women. He spent 14 years working at the Frank P. Phillips Memorial YMCA in various roles before accepting the position at the arts council.
Gibson said he is working with the board and Kinder to pursue new opportunities. Among their future plans is taking the arts outside of the Rosenzweig Arts Center.
“I think a lot of people pass by this place and don’t really know what we do,” Kinder said.
Gibson said he is really big on offering free arts programming, but knows that the council will need support of grants and donations to make that happen.
“I know that offering free activities requires finances to stay afloat,” he said. “ We’re hoping that, with the support of a lot of companies, we can help provide a free art community across multiple disciplines.”
Another way the council needs support is through volunteers who are willing to help lead workshops. Gibson said the people can stop by the council and express their interests.
“We have an opportunity to find a good fit for them,” he said. “We’re going to find where you fit best. We’re not going to try to put you in an environment where you won’t thrive.”
The council also offers memberships.
“Your donations through your membership go to supporting programming that we plan to have,” he said. “There are people who maybe don’t want to be the person that comes in and do it, but they want to support us monetarily.”
By having two leaders at the CAC, both of them have the opportunity to leave the center to do education activities and fundraisers.
“It also gives us an opportunity to get into the schools, into the nursing homes, and leave these four walls,” Gibson said. “Instead of expecting everyone to come to us where we’re at, we now have an opportunity to meet them where they are.”
Kinder said he’s excited to work alongside Gibson.
“I’m super excited about having his energy in the arts council,” he said. “I think it’s something that this town is going to thoroughly enjoy.”
The board is in the process of revisiting the details of the council’s strategic plan, Nettles said. The overall plan remains the same, and includes proposals, such as increasing representation of diversity in the arts, being more sustainable, having a wider range of programs and being more visible in the community.
“Shane and Salem are just perfect in their roles,” she said. “They have an appreciation of the arts and solid program-building skills. It’s a great combination that we’re just really excited about.”
Nettles noted that several exciting projects are going on in Columbus that are aimed at improving the downtown area. She encourages the public to become engaged by attending events and voicing their opinions. That includes visiting the arts council and talking about what programming they’d like.
“People should take advantage of these potentially powerful changes by getting involved and helping shape downtown toward something that’s in everyone’s interest,” Nettles said. “If everyone gives input, we can make it something really spectacular.”