BY SALLY DESKINS, EXHIBITS AND PROGRAMS COORDINATOR, WVU LIBRARIES
What’s GLAM? GLAM stands for galleries-libraries-archives-museums, and, for this series, The Hub is partnering up with Sally Deskins of WVU Libraries to put a spotlight on what happens when groups and institutions related to these collaborate. As Sally says, “Sharing resources can bring in more audiences, and lead to a better course for sustainability amongst all, as opposed to seeing each other competitively and bringing each other down.”
Brittany Javins is Executive Director of FestivALL Charleston, a nonprofit organization that creates, produces and presents vibrant arts experiences and opportunities. She started out as intern, then assistant before she become Executive Director of this organization that relies on the dedication of volunteers, and “collaborates to survive.” Read on for more about this creative and far-reaching organization and Javins’s advice for those wanting to collaborate too…
Sally Deskins: Tell me about your background and why you got into what you do.
BJ: I grew up as an artist (mostly ballet dancer) in Charleston. I worked for several years as a dance instructor for different studios and English teacher for Kanawha County Schools. A desire to incorporate the arts more into my daily work led me to pursue a Master’s degree in Arts Administration. I studied at Florida State University, but for my internship, I reached out to FestivALL. I wanted to remain in touch with my community. I also felt that interning with FestivALL would help me build on my existing knowledge of the Charleston arts scene, while introducing me to lots of new people and experiences. I was right!
Throughout my program, I continued to remain involved with FestivALL, and once I finished my program, I took a position as Assistant to the Executive Director. I have always loved how FestivALL brings everyone together, and that is what attracted me to wanting to work with this organization. As an artist, I loved that FestivALL was a time when the arts community collaborated and worked together. As a community member, I loved how FestivALL brought our city to life with people out enjoying the arts and being with each other. Now, I get to work toward creating this type of environment in a place I love.
SD: Tell me about your organization and your role, what you do.
BJ: FestivALL is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to create, produce and present vibrant arts experiences and opportunities and serve as a catalyst for others in the community to do the same. We serve this mission through a variety of multi-arts events and programs throughout the year. Our longest standing and most well-known event is FestivALL held every June. For 10 days each summer, Charleston comes alive with music, art, theatre, dance, and more. We also have other mini-festivals throughout the year, a monthly speaker series, and a Neighborhood Arts Initiative which partners with artists, arts organizations, and groups serving children and youth year-round. FestivALL partners with over 90 organizations each year and works closely with the City of Charleston. We aim to highlight local and regional artists and organizations while also bringing in national and sometimes international experiences.
I am the Executive Director. We are a small staff with a mighty volunteer team, so we all wear many hats as many organizations in WV do. As ED, my main responsibilities including overseeing and maintaining partnerships and funding, working with board and staff for overall strategies and planning, ensuring our events and programs align with our mission and goals while serving our greater community, and maintaining a structure and team that helps balance the organization and promotion and sustainability of so many events and details throughout the year.
SD: So what are some ways you have or will collaborate with either outside organizations or groups?
BJ: We are all about collaboration at FestivALL. It is the only way we survive. First of all, we work very closely with the City of Charleston, which supports us financially and also works closely with us on planning for city services and other event logistics. We also partner with over 90 arts organizations and community groups each year. While we produce 4 events on our own, the majority of events at FestivALL are done through partnerships in which we co-produce or present other events as part of the full lineup. We often work with non-arts groups to get creative about ways to incorporate the arts into their events, or we work with artists and arts organizations to plan for new ideas and projects.
SD: Why is collaborating important to you and your position, and WV moving forward?
BJ: We are a small city, and we are stronger together. A thriving arts scene is an indicator of a thriving city. The more we can collaborate – both within the arts world and cross-sector – we will be stronger for it.
SD: Any advice or tips for people wanting to collaborate—how do you approach people about it without knowing them? How do you think up such ideas?
BJ: Be open! And communicate that. We have monthly meetings that are open to the public where we accept new ideas from the community. We also have a form on our website for submitting event proposals. We try to let people know as often as possible that we are always open to new ideas. One of our favorite and largest events this year was a temporary art installation – Brickscape – proposed by a local artist. We were able to work together to help make it happen, and it was an incredible and unique addition to this year’s FestivALL. Sometimes we also come up with ideas internally. If it involves someone whom we might not know, we find it helpful to find some common connections – someone who might be able to vouch for us as we present a new concept. We’re in a constant state of exploring and welcoming new ideas. It’s a part of our culture.
FestivALL Fall is this October 17-21, 2018 in Charleston. For more information visit festivallcharleston.com.
Interested in having your group or initiative featured as a part of GLAM? Email Sally at email@example.com.