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After holding the top spot at the Shasta County Arts Council for 11 years, Gini Holmes has let go of her director’s position.
Board president Kathy Weaver said the SCAC will begin its search soon for a new director, someone who’ll operate the arts organization located inside the 102-year-old – Old City Hall in downtown Redding.
According to the SCAC’s website, the non-profit organization was founded in 1981 to promote artistic awareness and participation in the Shasta County.
In addition to hundreds of private donors, the SCAC is funded in part by the California Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Art and the City of Redding.
Holmes, an SCAC employee since 1991, began her association with the organization as a working artist in 1987. She became the Arts in Education Director in 1991 and Executive Director in 1997.
She recently took a two-month break from her job. Holmes said she had every intention of returning.
But Holmes eventually reconsidered, citing two years’ of personal losses, including illness and deaths of her parents and some friends, a hit-and-run accident that injured her youngest son, and finally, Holmes’ worsening health problems. Holmes said the combined mental and physical toll led to a medical leave of absence, which ultimately led to her decision to leave the SCAC for good.
“The past few years have been a bit rough,” Holmes said.
“I channeled all of my energies into SCAC, not truly acknowledging grief. I finally had a meltdown and was placed on medical leave – grief related – in September.”
As Holmes dealt with her personal trials, the SCAC board struggled with its own issues.
According to some members, the board dealt with conflicts between old members – some of whom had been on the board for nearly 20 years – and younger, newer board members. Differences of opinions abound, with disagreements over traditional ways of doing things versus new ways and new ideas. The dissention reached a head during a June SCAC board meeting when five board members resigned en masse.
The board members who resigned in June were Troy Hawkins, ArtHop co-founder and artist; Ty Bos, artist and designer; Renee Cooper, KIXE CFO; Leah Hawes, media and advertisting executive, and Joshua Corbelli, freelance writer.
Corbelli said he served on the board for one year and finally left after it became apparent board members were unable to agree on SCAC’s direction.
“The way I see it, the debilitating weaknesses lie with a board that hasn’t yet embraced a concept of being proactive in adapting to evolving environments,” Corbelli said.
“Instead (it) relies on aged, weak retorts or, in some instances, sees no opportunity for, let alone support of, improvement.”
Hawes, creative director of Cornucopia Enterprises Advertising lasted just six months on the SCAC board.
“During this time, I and a few other new board members attempted to make changes – including increased promotions, new artists and emerging trends and increased outreach to a broader demographic, Hawes said.
“These changes were met with skepticism and reservations. While some of this was related to budget restrictions, ultimately, the board and its director were resistant to change. This resulted in five board members eventually walking off the board, myself included.”
Although some SCAC insiders characterize Holmes’ leadership style as strident and rigid, others – especially longtime SCAC board members, have nothing but praise for Holmes.
Weaver, the SCAC board president, referred to Holmes as a “brilliant” director.
“Gini not only built many programs for our county but was able to provide the funding and staffing (through grants) to continue those programs,” Weaver said.
“She has put hundreds of thousands of dollars back into the community every year and provided opportunity for many artists, students of the arts and those entertained by the arts.”
Likewise, the organization’s secretary, Janet Applegarth-Yarbrough, recognized Holmes’ “devotion” of 18 years to the Arts Council.
Applegarth-Yarbrough, who’s president of the Shasta Community Concerts Association, said she knows the value of loyal people – like Holmes.
“I so appreciate her dedication to the arts in our area,” Applegarth-Yarbrough said of Holmes.
“As a talented artist herself, she brought many perspectives to the council. She will be missed. Much of the success the Arts Council enjoys today is due to Gini.”
In the meantime, Weaver said that the SCAC membership will be informed of Holmes’ departure in its upcoming “This Week at SCAC” publication, and a follow-up article in the organization’s next newsletter.
For now, Weaver said, the SCAC board of directors are serving as the interim director while they search for a new director. As an aside, Weaver confirmed that although SCAC employee Frank Treadway is fulfilling the duties of his position as SCAC’s fundraiser, he is not a potential SCAC director candidate.
Weaver said the search for Holmes’ replacement will begin soon, but the SCAC continues to be busy and is currently installing its annual Holiday Show, that opened Wednesday.
Meanwhile, former board members Corbelli and Hawes remain hopeful about SCAC’s future — but only if the SCAC undergoes some significant changes.
“The ideas and procedures that worked in the’80s have lost their steam, Corbelli said.
“For this organization to succeed, and I believe it can, there needs to be a fresh, new set of individuals who embrace change, are willing to appeal to a younger generation of artists and, subsequently, newer styles and forms of art. Leadership, connections and fresh ideas and board members are crucial to the survival of the organization.”
Hawes expressed a similar viewpoint, with a caveat about the SCAC’s next director.
“SCAC is an important asset to our community and has done a good job in supporting the arts,” Hawes said. “But it is time it asked of itself: ‘What more can be done?’ The answer can be found within the active pursuit of new additions to the board and a visionary leader in the director’s position.”
Regarding the position of the SCAC’s director, Holmes said said that no organization should ever become the identity of one person.
“Successful organizations such as SCAC are run as a team,” she said.
Moving on, despite Holmes’ stresses while she worked at the SCAC, and the board’s revolving door of members and its internal tribulations, even Holmes’ partial list of SCAC’s accomplishments during her guidance leaves her with a sense of pride. Specifically, she mentioned four NEA sponsored programs for arts outreach to under-served communities; continued success with AmeriCorpsVISTA program, continued collaboration with Far Northern Regional Center, expanded Artist Referral Service, collaboration with Whiskeytown Artist In Residence program; beginning collaboration on MarketFest, re-furbishing of Old City Hall; continued support of start-up arts organizations, continued advocacy on behalf of artists in spite of major funding cuts; return of Annual High School Arts Exhibition … “and a bunch of other stuff” that Holmes hoped benefited artists of all disciplines.
Without her position at the SCAC, Holmes knows exactly what she wants to do. In fact, she’s doing it.
“I’m selfishly focusing on my art and my family and my friends,” she said.
Click here for Gini Holmes’ art website.
Click here for the SCAC site about Gini Holmes.