Belfast — Four years after taking the helm as Belfast Creative Coalition’s first executive director, Kimberly Callas is departing later this summer to lead Monmouth University’s sculpture department.
Callas joined the coalition in 2012 after moving to Maine with her family. While searching for teaching jobs in the area — she was a teacher before moving to the state — Callas got involved in the region’s growing creative economy.
Her arrival in Maine, and the Belfast area in particular, was timely because a Creative Communities = Economic Development grant from Maine Arts Commission provided funding to establish the coalition, which is composed of arts and culture groups, as well as education, nonprofit, business and municipal leaders.
During her tenure as executive director, Callas has been instrumental in creating an online arts and culture directory, Cultivate: Belfast Area Farm and Art Trail and Fall Tour. She also helped coordinate Belfast Art Walks.
Cultivate has been nominated for a $75,000 national award, Callas said, as one of only six programs in New England to receive such recognition.
“Waldo County is so creative and so rich in agriculture and local food,” she said.
Programs like Cultivate are important because they help give exposure to artists and producers who are tucked away in more remote areas in the Midcoast, Callas said. Having an online directory to highlight arts and culture events is also beneficial, Callas said, because it allows residents and visitors to discover what is unique about the area.
In addition, the coalition launched a professional development series to help artists, gallery owners and nonprofits manage their businesses.
While her role as executive director has focused much of her attention on helping other artists, Callas said the position has benefited her personally by encouraging her to ramp up marketing for her own work, write grants and harness social media, which in turn has led to her getting more shows and a feature article in “Art New England” magazine.
The creative coalition intends to hire a new executive director by July to give Callas time to help her replacement during the transition.
“When Kimberly came on board as BCC’s first director in 2012, we knew she would quickly build a strong foundation, and she has indeed,” Martha Piscuskas, Waterfall Arts co-director and BCC board president, said in a news release announcing Callas’ departure. “We are thrilled for Kimberly’s personal success in her next adventure, and wish her all the best. BCC has some very exciting possibilities coming right up, so we are eager to find someone with the energy, creativity and vision to keep the organization growing.”
Callas, who departs Aug. 1, said she would like to see the next executive director continue working on building the coalition’s funding base and membership.
“It’s bittersweet. I’m sad to go but I’m excited for a new adventure,” Callas said.
She said at New Jersey’s Monmouth University she will have the opportunity to teach traditional sculpting techniques in combination with more modern digital modeling, 3D printing and laser cutting.
Callas said she plans to return to Maine in the summer, while her husband will make more frequent trips to run his business.
Callas’ work will be featured in three exhibits this summer in Maine and New York.
For more information about Belfast Creative Coalition’s executive director position, go to belfastcreativecoalition.org.