Staff Q+A: Get to know Kristy, Associate Director of Institutional Giving

We are into Part 2 of the Polar Vortex of 2014, so while you cozy up at home under a pile of blankets [for all the Chicagoans out there], take a few minutes to read about yet another of Urban Gateways’ very awesome and very artistic staff members – Kristy Conway, Associate Director of Institutional Giving. First, a photo of Kristy jamming on a Mini-Flying V at Gibson Guitar Factory and Museum in Memphis, TN. Then, read on!

UG: What is your background in the arts, and how did you get into arts education as a career field?

Unlike so many of my talented Urban Gateways colleagues that have degrees in arts management, art history, etc., I kind of happily and unexpectedly discovered this field when a position at Urban Gateways opened up over 5 and half years ago. My goal has always been to work to “even the playing field” and alleviate hardship for as many people as possible with my psychology and social work background. Before joining Urban Gateways, I was doing anti-poverty work and discovered countless communities coming together in really difficult circumstances through the arts. I also witnessed the power of the arts to soothe teens who have experienced extreme trauma, and the elderly with managing cognitive skills during early onset of dementia. It was like everything I had worked on thus far had led me to the field of arts education….it just really clicked for me! As for my background in the arts, my thought is that when you stop creating or stop seeing the world in new ways, you’re dead. So I try to surround myself with art and creative people whenever possible.

Can you sum up for us what you do as Associate Director of Institutional Giving?

My dream job! I have the pleasure of talking to corporate, foundation, and government funders and writing grants about our amazing programs all day, every day! I’m so happy we had the capacity due to the recent merger with A.R.T. to welcome Abby, our new Associate Director of Individual Giving. The new structure has really allowed us to divide and conquer. We see the impact of the newfound ability to hone in on our talents and focus on more specific tasks and strategies every day.

What is your favorite part of your job? What do you find most challenging?

I’ve got to be honest, the actual act of completing a grant from beginning to end and sending it out into the world is gratifying in and of itself, but when you are notified that all that hard work paid off and you receive the check….that feels REALLY good….kind of an unexplainable feeling to play such a role in ensuring equitable access to the arts. Most challenging – I guess I would have to say that there just isn’t enough time in the week to pursue the endless number of leads to finding more funds for our programming.

Your position entails keeping your ear to the ground and thinking all the time about what’s up-and-coming in the arts ed realm as we propose new programs. What’s one exciting development you’ve seen recently in this sector?

I have to choose just one?! Then I would have to say the CPS Arts Plan and how the arts are FINALLY an acknowledged and mandated requirement for a well rounded education. It’s an exciting time right now for all the arts partners as we work together to figure out how to make this mandate a reality.

What are some of your pastimes when not at the office?

My husband and I like to travel as much as possible. We’re skipping town twice this winter! When we can’t get out of town, art nights with friends and my sister really help beat the winter.

What are a few of your favorite Chicago activities? (In any season – we give you permission to daydream.)

Yeah, I can only think of summer activities right now during this polar vortex – tennis, co-ed rec softball, bike riding, eating out, trying my friends’ home brews, I gave trapeze a whirl this year, and going to see my friends and husband play lots of local, live music!

Any artistic or cultural events you’re looking forward to in the coming months?

I’ve got a core group of good friends that keep me current and drag me out to see new bands (what’s up Todd Bapton and Mike V!!!?) and they’re always right! I would love to catch Neutral Milk Hotel again in a couple weeks at the Riv if I wasn’t out of town. I’m ready to really let loose at the Metro in April to see TrashTalk. The National is playing Chicago Theater in April too. Screaming Females may be a pretty good show at the Hideout next weekend, 1/31. Hannah Ireland’s “Walking Driftward” exhibition at Spudnik right now looks pretty amazing. My husband and I also like to frequent our neighborhood’s Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art that features cultural exhibitions, literary events, film screenings and music recitals. And for special occasions, we have really never gone wrong at the Harris, CSO, Lookingglass, or Joffrey. I love supporting all the artists on the Urban Gateways roster and attending the UG New Arts Forum events too! The summer is when it really picks up though – endless music, street fests, art fairs…and finally the highly anticipated Bowie exhibit at the MCA in September!

Two truths and a lie?

1. I climbed the 3,330 foot Mt. Nevis. 2. I can play Stairway to Heaven on guitar. 3. I was an all-regional basketball player in high school.

Tell us about this Staff PROPS Award that you just won. What are you planning to do with the award? (PROPS is a grant awarded to one Urban Gateways employee each year to embark on a personal or artistic endeavor.)

I’m so excited and grateful!!! Through the PROPS Award money, I’ve been able to start printmaking classes at Spudnik Press. We’re learning lithography, etching, mono printing, screen printing, letterpress, and more. Then, I will take several months of specific, more advanced, screen printing classes in hopes that I will get good enough to utilize Spudnik’s facility independently. Angie, the owner and my instructor, is GREAT! I highly recommend classes to all. This opportunity is really amazing….I’ve done a few weeks here and there of painting, mosaic, and ceramics classes in the past, but this allows me to really commit for months…even years. Thanks Urban Gateways!

Thank you, Kristy! See two examples of her artwork below. Questions for her? Leave a comment!

Ink and water

Mixed media collage