An artistic change

Fall brings new works and a new director to the Columbia Art League
Tuesday, September 9, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:23 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

At the end of each season, the Columbia Art League changes the works in its Ninth Street gallery. This fall, there’s a new executive director as well.

Jill Stedem, 37, started her new job Aug. 25 and says she’s trying to get to know the groups and artists she works with. She said she has already noticed enthusiasm and support from the art community in Columbia.

“People are what make an organization,” Stedem said. “That’s one of the nice things about Columbia, it’s very art-oriented.”

Founded in 1959, the Columbia Art League is a nonprofit organization of about 500 artists and people interested in the arts. Its objective is to maintain and enhance the art community in Columbia. The group hasn’t had a director since June, when Jody Spriggs resigned to finish her education.

The board of directors, headed by President Tom O’Connor, chose Stedem based on several qualifications.

“Her resume really stood out,” O’Connor said. “She was personable and had all-around good sensibilities.”

Janet Ghio, the league’s administrative assistant, said the executive director has many duties, and being able to balance and prioritize all of them is a necessity.

For the past three years, Stedem was the community development director for Vocational Services Inc., a nonprofit group that provides rehabilitation and employment help for people with disabilities in Liberty.

Stedem said she will apply tools from her previous job, such as fund-raising, grant-writing and marketing to her new position. She is responsible for overseeing sales, the gallery, educational programs and the general fund-raising of the Art League.

While her work experience impressed the selection board, one of its initial concerns was her lack of professional artistic ability. But O’Connor said it did not worry him.

“I figure we’ve got hundreds of members who are artists. We’re heavy on artists,” he said.

In addition to increasing membership, funds and community awareness for the League, Stedem said she would like to create advocacy groups for artists.

Originally from Chillicothe, Stedem moved to Columbia in 1988 and attended Columbia College, where she majored in business administration. After living in Kansas City for the past seven years, she returned to Columbia with her husband, Marty, and 16-year-old daughter. She said she is glad to be back in Columbia.

“Culturally, it’s so much more pleasing,” she said. “It’s a small town with so much to offer.”

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