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Meet the Staff: Kathy Signorino

Meet the Staff: Kathy Signorino, Individual Artist Coordinator  

A lover of spreadsheets, fine arts, and cats, you can find Kathy Signorino at her desk in the Ohio Arts Council's Artist Programs Office or traveling around the state for the Ohio Percent for Art program. While in the office, she spends her days with her “work husband,” Ken Emerick, providing support to the amazing artists of Ohio.  

Q: How did you become an individual artist coordinator at the Ohio Arts Council? Kathy Signorino at the Ohio Online Visual Artist Registry Juried Show at the Columbus Metropolitan Main Library
Well, my journey started at The Ohio State University while I was in my junior year. The University told me I had to finally declare a major. I went to meet with my academic adviser because I had no idea what to declare, and while I was waiting for him, there was a sign on his wall that said "arts administration." It was truly the "lightbulb moment" like people describe. I asked about the program and realized it was the perfect melding of my love of the arts and my business acumen. 

At that time, OSU offered both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Arts Administration. The undergrad program was treated like a liberal arts degree, and I was allowed to create my program with areas of focus that I thought I would need like accounting and aesthetics. As part of my curriculum, I was able to take graduate-level classes with Wayne Lawson, who was the executive director of the Ohio Arts Council at that time. A large part of the degree requirements were internship hours. So, I approached the OAC about an internship and I was able to complete all of my internship requirements at the OAC. One great part of being at one place for such an extended period is that I was able to work with all areas of the agency and was able to gain real insight into the functions of the organization. 

Once I graduated in spring of ’94, there was a position that was available in the grants office. I worked in the grants office for five years, honing my skills in the grants database, and agency grant programs, and really loved it, but when a position opened in the Individual Artist office, I knew I that it would be a good next step in my career at the OAC. Here I am, 23 years later, still working with individual artists, still loving every day.  

Q: Can you take us through a day in the life of an Artist Programs coordinator?  
It’s hard to say what is a “usual day.” The usual part of my day is that I am skipping from one thing to the next. That’s what I really like about this job.

Within this office we handle the Individual Artist grant programs, which are the Individual Excellence Awards and the Traditional Arts Apprenticeships, as well as the services we offer for artists like our Online Visual Artists Registry and our calls for entries. The other big other part of our duties is the administration of the Percent for Art program, which takes a large portion of our daily duties. Additionally, we have special projects that we do such as the Spotlight program with the First Lady’s office, and the Civil Rights Commission student art exhibit.  

Ken Emerick, who everyone in the audience knows, is my colleague, and we share all duties for these programs, with help from our wonderful intern Fan Su. Ken will do one part of a project for Percent for Art, and I’ll do another part of the process, or he’ll be working on one project and I’ll be working on another. We share an office because we need to keep the communication flowing. 

Q: You and Ken have been described as the “Dynamic Duo,” the “Work Couple,” “Batman and Robin,” and all kinds of different things. Can you describe your relationship with Ken?  
Did he set you up to this? We have a shared joke that he’s the personality and I’m the brains. It is funny, but slightly true. What I mean is that we match our job responsibilities with our strengths.   

For example, on a Percent for Art project, he will be meeting with the committee, talking about the vision, and visiting the spaces, and then I do all the nitty-gritty duties like sending out commission announcements, writing contracts, and processing payments. We complement each other well.

If Ken could describe me in three words, he would say, “bossy, happy, and efficient.” 

Q: When you’re not at the OAC, what are you doing? 
I joke that I don’t have enough to do, so I work another job when I get home. I am the treasurer for my younger son Paolo’s scout troop, and a band-booster for my older son Gianni’s band at Whetstone High School—Go Braves! Oh, and my husband, Angelo, is one of the longest-tenured brewers in Columbus, so I have to taste his beer, sometimes.

Kathy Signorino and her son, PaoloQ: How has your relationship with art evolved?  
My brother, who is two years older than me, was musical, a great writer, as well as academically gifted, so I often felt in his shadow. When I began taking high school art classes, I really felt like I had something that distinguished me, and something that not only was I good at, but that I was passionate about. Art gave me a way to feel like I had an identity of my own.

As I made my way through college, I realized I was missing the artistic drive to make a living at being an artist, so I realized I could stay in the art world and help supports others' drive and passion. I work with artists of all disciplines, but that drive to make their art is the same. I’m so fortunate to be able to see their passion and vision for their art, to see how they continuously explore ideas. It is my inspiration to do my best by them. 

Q: What does being a part of the OAC mean to you and what is the best part about working here? 
Being part of the OAC means I work at a place where people are proud of doing a good job for something they fell really strongly about. The OAC has a reputation of being one of the best state arts councils in the country. It has had that reputation long before I got here, but happily, I think I’ve contributed to it maintaining that status.

Also, as a state agency, I think we defy what people typically think of as a bureaucracy or a government agency. We put a very friendly, approachable face on state government. That’s what makes me proud, and I see that across all staff members.  

I also enjoy the long history of finding innovative ways to do the laborious process of awarding state money and improving processes. I’m a process person, so I like that we’re constantly attempting to make our processes less burdensome for our constituents.  

Q: Do you have a favorite part of your job? 
Well, my go-to thought is the Percent for Art program. When we have an open commission announcement and the committee has selected the three semi-finalists, we get to meet them and tour the intended artwork site. They then come back to make a proposal for art to the committee. I love to see how three different people create artwork proposals from shared information. You get to see artwork that is made for a specific space or community.

My other favorite thing to do is to work in spreadsheets and databases. I love databases. I love to put data in, sort it, and extract the information. I know, GEEK!  

ABOUT THE OHIO ARTS COUNCIL
The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at oac.ohio.gov.

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Article by Kayla Draper, 2017-18 Social Media and Special Events Fellow
Photos courtesy of Kathy Signorino



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