Herndon Last week, the board of Arts Herndon named longtime Fairfax City arts leader Joanna Ormesher President and Chief Executive Officer. Ormesher has been the City of Fairfax Cultural Arts and Marketing Director since 2003 and brings 28 years of experience in fundraising, leadership and externals relations to her new role. Ormesher said she would assume her role as President and CEO at Arts Herndon on Sept.1.
Ormesher will lead Arts Herndon, an independent 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization that serves as the official arts agency of the Town of Herndon and operates ArtSpace Herndon, a small art gallery and performance space at 750 Center Street in Historic Downtown Herndon.
Among its many services, the organization provides arts events, programming and education both on and off-site, works of public art, scholarships and grants.
On Thursday, July 19, Ormesher sat down for an interview about her new position. She welcomed all in the community to experience the arts and talked about the positive impact the arts have on local and regional economies. Ormesher shared her thoughts on possible ways to increase revenue streams for Arts Herndon, maintain and create new programming and events, retain existing supporters and stakeholders while attracting new ones and measure success.
Q: Are there any myths or common perceptions about the arts you would like to debunk?
A: Ormesher: "Too often when people say 'the arts' it becomes an overarching perception of specific art forms such as a symphony, an orchestra, a ballet, an opera, an exhibit or a portrait gallery. Art is actually everywhere in our day-to-day lives, and arts are for everyone."
Q: How best might Arts Herndon reach out to diverse populations in the town and surrounding communities?
A: Ormesher: "People coming into the arts do not see geographic boundaries. They want to come in and see a show, participate in an art walk, experience a class. There are a couple of existing programs Arts Herndon could use to encourage new audiences, such as our children's programming, and we might also look into possible resources to go out into the community bringing arts out to the community. However, it is early days, and I need to understand better what happens, and where everything is based."
Q: There is a phrase, "Make new friends but keep the old." If friends are events and programs, what new ones might be explored at Arts Herndon, and how will you decide which existing programs and activities to keep?
A: Ormesher: "When I look at the current arts programming at Arts Herndon, it is superb. It will be exciting to work with staff and expand the arts in Herndon as we look to the building of our new 18,000 square foot arts center."
Q: Who or what groups do you hope to reach out to cross-pollinate skills thereby fostering even more dynamic programs, events, and classes?
A: Ormesher: "We will continue to reach out to all businesses, schools and the community at large for their input and public outreach."
Q: How do you seek to foster and nurture partnerships with corporate and community leaders?
A: Ormesher: "It's about recognition and building on existing partnerships and encouraging new partnerships. Arts Herndon might potentially consider a new public art policy which could take art into the community."
Q: What do you anticipate might be some fiscal challenges for the arts in Herndon and what ideas do you have to overcome them?
A: Ormesher: "Arts Herndon will continue to seek income from grants, sponsorships, corporate partners, and general public support, as well as continuing to generate revenue from other multiple sources such as rental and sales income, ticket sales and class and programming fees."
Q: How will Arts Herndon measure and gauge success?
A: Ormesher: "You have to look at your return on investments. We are entering a new phase of Arts Herndon; the goal posts are changing. We are moving into a new temporary space. Success can be gauged through increased attendance at programs, events, and classes and through customer feedback."
Q: What about marketing, how are you going to do it?
A: Ormesher: "The simplest way I can. It's about social media, talking to the press, getting to the families. The way we market has changed drastically in the last years. When we look at how people receive their information, it’s changed so much. Facebook, blogs, Instagram. They bring in the people.
We can partner with other programs already underway. We are not reinventing the wheel; we are responding to needs in the community."
Q: What is the best thanks Arts Herndon can receive?
Ormesher: "Support. The public's support would be the very best thanks Arts Herndon can receive. Come and be with us. Come on this journey with us. Be part of it and tell us what you want."
Q: What inspires you personally and makes you smile?
Ormesher: "The arts create a community and a great place to be. I feel we can make so many stunning things together. I love what I do, and I want others to be part of the arts. When I see children, people, families, people of all ages enjoying the arts, really enjoying the arts, I know we have checked the boxes."
Q: What are you most proud of accomplishing before coming to Arts Herndon?
A: Ormesher: "Other than my own children, I can think of two things. The first is 'Spotlight on the Arts' in Fairfax. I was hired in 2003 by former Mayor John Mason to work on the 'Spotlight on the Arts Festival.' It has grown from a weekend event to a full four weeks, encompassing the whole community including local businesses, Fairfax County Public Schools, George Mason University. This year we staged 67 events, something for everyone.
"Also, I have just finished a Bronze Medal project with Girl Scout Troop 470. They wanted to do something for their community, so we talked, and they created painted pavers to go in the city’s Butterfly and Pollinator Garden. They weeded the garden and then placed their pavers amongst the plants. I'm so proud of their achievement. They epitomized what fine young women we have in our community. They created public art, and it is beautiful."
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: Ormesher: "Initially, my aim is to listen to people and our partners. What we are looking to do is develop the arts as an economic driver in the new downtown development.
"Herndon is already very arts-centric, the Mayor and Council, the businesses and the residents are all supportive. We are on the cusp of a great opportunity for the whole community, a new downtown anchored by an arts hub, an 18,000 square foot arts center and an Arts Walk that will create vitality and viability in this beautiful and historic downtown."