A Q&A with Marion Art Center’s new director

Oct 7, 2018

Marion Art Center named Jodi Stevens as its new executive director in mid-September. Sippican Week sat down with her on the last day of the “Taking Flight” exhibition to ask why she wanted to work in Marion and what her short and long-term plans are for the art center. 

Sippican Week: So you’ve been here a month, a little less?

Jodi Stevens: A little less. This is my third week, toward the end of my third week.

SW: How has it been so far?

JS: It’s been good. I’m still meeting a lot of people and learning a lot about Marion. We’ve had a board meeting since I’ve been here and we’re about to do an exhibition changeover, and I met the theater committee, so there’s so much going on here. It’s a lot to digest, but I’m glad that they have so much happening.

And we’re lucky to have Jenny Costa, she was the interim administrator, she’s been here for several months, so she did a great job getting me on board. And she did a really great job organizing the office, so that’s made it much easier for the transition. We are lucky to have her, we are going to keep her on for some help, so that’s great.

SW: Your previous experience at the New Bedford Port Society seems different from what you’re doing now. What drew you to the position?

JS: My background is in the arts, both my degrees are in the fine arts, so I am a studio artist. And I did some curating for the Deedee Shattuck gallery, out in Westport, that was a few years ago. And then after that I transitioned to the New Bedford Port Society, which is another non-profit. I was there for a little over a year, and that kind of happened by accident, but it brought me into the nonprofit world. Except it’s more about the history of the Seaman’s Bethel and the Mariner’s Home. We did a lot of programming there, but I was eager to come here because it was back in the arts, and that’s really where my heart is.

The theater aspect will be new for me, but it seems like we have a great theater committee, and people who really take charge and seem to be involved in getting the programming happening.

For me, I’ve always been a person who makes art, but having been in a nonprofit in that administrative role, I felt like I could bring something here but also  get what I needed and be a part of the arts world. I’ve done some teaching too, and I know they have teaching here, so I’m hoping that I can bring some new ideas for some of the programming that they want to do.

SW: What are you most looking forward to in the immediate future?

JS: We will be installing our next show, and I’m actually really looking forward to seeing how that happens, because I know they have the committee, and I’m not sure how many people will show up to install. It’s a challenging project, to curate an exhibition of not only a lot of work, but a lot of people’s work. The next show is the Sippican Lands trust show, which is a non-juried show, that means they can get anything and everything for the show. So that will be interesting to see how they make decisions about installing.

I’m very excited for the theater performances. I haven’t really been involved with a lot of theater productions or anything like that, so I’d love to sort of sit back and see how they do things and offer my help when I can.

I know we have a lot of programming that happens in the summer, especially with ArtStart and some of the other kids’ programs, so that will be something that we will be planning for, probably starting soon, after the new year.

SW: What are your long-term plans for the art center?

JS: I’ll be working directly with the board, of course, I know that they have a strong vision for the future, and they’re hoping to maybe develop more committees. We have so much programming going on, but we would like to just do more. We have the kids’ programming, and we also have adult classes, but [the art center is] such a great space that we’ve been really talking about ‘how could we utilize this space more often?’ We have space upstairs, which is nice, you could have music lessons. When the theater’s not in use we could certainly use that space. We want more volunteers, we want more people in Marion to be involved.

I’m hoping to get a sense of what people in Marion are looking for. I know the art center has been here for a long time, and a lot of people are still happy with what we have to offer, but if I could find out what’s missing that would be great.