The Cherryville, North Carolina native, who has been in his position at the ACI for a little over a year, secured most of those funds while serving as a grant officer for Bering Omega Community, an HIV/AIDS caregiving organization in Houston; as director of Opera Studies at Old Dominion University in Virginia; and as general director of Opera Beaumont, the Chamber Opera Company of Southeast Texas.
However, development is not Stanton’s only expertise. With advanced degrees in vocal performance, musicology and arts administration, as well as certifications in non-profit management, Stanton is also a professional opera singer who was artist-in-residence in Mannheim, Germany, and has performed throughout the United States.
He completed doctoral coursework in musicology and vocal performance at the University of Houston, and he holds a master’s degree in Music in Vocal Performance from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Communications from Wingate University.
Stanton also holds certifications that include extensive coursework in grant writing and basic graphic design, workshops on planned giving, annual campaigns and various other areas of philanthropy.
As VP of the ACI, Stanton assists CEO Dave Lawrence in overseeing the daily function of the organization. According to Stanton’s bio, he “manages all fundraising activities through corporate and foundation solicitations for Arts Council programs, projects and operating support. He also directs and leads planning for the Arts Council's annual fundraising effort, Start with Art, and is integral in the process of raising the visibility of the arts and Arts Council, as well as creating and enhancing key community, civic, corporate and organizational relationships.”
Stanton has also been an avid volunteer with and supporter of the SPCA and Humane Society and has worked as a volunteer event planner for both the Special Olympics and the Human Rights Campaign in other cities. Hoping to become more involved here, he has already been appointed to the development and marketing committees of several organizations and is working to re-establish the PAWS program, which provides care for the pets of people receiving treatment for people with terminal illnesses.
Stanton, who lives in Irvington with his partner, Kerry Jennings, a professor of music at DePauw University in Greencastle, met recently at the ACI with Examiner.com to chat about his first year with the organization.
What’s your first year at the ACI been like?
Mainly it’s been really, really busy. When I’ve been in new places or new positions … I tell my mom, who I talk to regularly, “I’ve never been so busy in my life.” And it’s always been true, and this time it’s truer than ever before.
Give me a progress report.
A lot of the things that I have the luxury of being a part of are very visible for the arts council, like Start with Art. The vice president’s position also oversees Art & Soul, which happens every year on February 1 — something I also plan with our marketing person. And we launched Power 2 Give, which is from Charlotte, N.C., the area where I am from, and I am thrilled that another piece of the South has come up. Dave, of course, was integral in getting that to happen, and I was part of that process that launched Dec. 12. It felt like one thing after another … all of these big initiatives and I came in just after the mural project was over and the Super Bowl was over. So it has been a little bit of a whirlwind.
The launches of Start with Art, Art & Soul and Power 2 Give have all been successful. As for fundraising … we are better off now than we have been in a long time, and I hope that is in part because I am here. Start with Art was the most successful it has ever been. Yvonne Shaheen is the chair of that event, and it wouldn’t happen were it not for her. But across the board, things are really solid and this is a solid organization.
I know the staff ... it’s a very small staff of 14 people doing a lot of work. I think we are lucky that we are able to have really close-knit relationships. Everybody helps each other in whatever they are doing. Even though I am not a visual artist … if something in public art is happening, I sit down at the table and I have the conversation too, because at minimum I can help with the relationships part of it or the logistics portion or planning, and we are trying to do that with other organizations as well.
I have learned so much from my colleagues. The staff, with Dave Lawrence's leadership, really is a dynamic group of compassionate people, and they work nonstop to make a difference in the community. I feel so fortunate to be a part of this organization.
Do you manage your time well?
I do, but it’s been compartmentalized. So it’s one of those things where I have to make myself structure time for me and for exercise and for personal time with my partner. Everything has to be relatively planned. And as much as I’d like to be a spontaneous person, it doesn’t happen that often unless I say, “I’m going to take this week off and do whatever I want.” But if you are talking about standard week-to-week activity … everything is structured. But, without meaning to sound negative, it has been very busy because a lot of things have been a trial by fire.
Your background indicates that you are a generalist. Would you say that’s true?
I think it’s a great word, and I think if someone says, “I have a lot of understanding of a lot of things and lots of expertise in a lot of areas,” that’s what a generalist really is. My position certainly requires an expertise in the arts. You also have to understand how to fundraise and develop relationships. But it really is more about understanding big-picture concepts and how large-scale initiatives work together in the community … working with things like reconnecting with our waterways, which isn’t an art but something we are assisting with.
And working with organizations like Big Car, Art with a Heart and Very Special Arts … trying to find ways that we can help build bridges and create new networks. The largest majority of my time — and I say it all the time — is spent taking a giant step back and looking at everything going on and saying, “Oh, if this person meets this person and makes an introduction, and maybe if I can talk this group into including this then they can work together with this place.”
You know how to connect the dots.
I do, and I am fortunate that Dave is a master at that and understanding that the big-picture concepts are essential. That was one of the first things he talked to me about: “This is not a political job, as far as political office, but it is political in understanding everything that is going on … on everybody’s preferences.” You want to be fair to everyone. At the same time you only want what is best for your community … looking at that from a global perspective and asking, “How do you do everything?” But I describe this as being a dream job, and I have described it that way since day one. That is the idea I can bring to the fundraising and marketing and business strategy tactics that I have learned from my dad, who was a major CEO.
Plus the fact that you are an artist … Would you say that you “get” artists?
Yes. Shannon Linker, who is our director of artist services, refers to it as “artspeak” … being able to understand artspeak and translate it into something that a corporation is going to understand … and it really is a lot of that. And helping others — whether it is the average Joe or big corporate America or major philanthropists — understand what it is we do for artists and arts organizations. And everything I know goes “squish” to one place. It really is a dream job.
What are you working on now?
We recently had a “blue skies” meeting. Our staff all sat around a table and talked about 2013 being an internal year. How do we just focus internally and be introspective? What are the things that we want to accomplish? This is going to be an internal year, but there are a solid 15 community-based initiatives that are extremely visible. We want to be a good neighbor, but we also don’t want to deny ourselves the opportunity to continue to grow and polish. So finding the time to do both is important.
Do you feel like you've settled?
After a year and a half of Indiana life, I have settled into the historic Irvington neighborhood in a 1911 Craftsman-style home that we just purchased in December. It is a beautiful place to nest and call home. Indiana really has become that for me, my partner and our two cats — the home we were hoping to find. I feel fortunate to be at the Arts Council. It is complex work but incredibly rewarding, and I learn so much from my colleagues every day. I am fascinated by the arts leaders in our city. There really are some world-class artists and arts administrators here in our city. I wish I could sit with each of them and learn what makes them tick, who they are, what they know, etc.
Do you have a message for the community?
My message to the community is to support something passionately. I would love for that “something” to be the arts, but I realize that all roads don't lead to the arts. I always say, “Even if it isn't the arts that you support, please support something!” I have always believed in the “high tide raises all ships” philosophy. If everyone gives passionately to what they support, then good things will happen. That is how I try to run my life — connecting people and always being hopeful that positive change is possible.
I am such a lover of collaboration, and, being the new guy in town, it took a while for people to know that I really do want to partner on ideas and initiatives both in and out of the arts. Perhaps it is just part of being a Southern boy, but I want to be a good neighbor, get to know people and, ideally, inspire a greater sense of social responsibility. Everyone wants to create betterment — sometimes they just need someone to dare them to try. I hope that is why I am here.
For information about the Arts Council of Indianapolis call (317) or visit www.indyarts.org.
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