Nina Doyle, the Woodstock School of Art’s new executive director, says her management philosophy is simple: to listen and learn. She sees her work with the bastion of traditional artsmaking in the area, now 49 years old but taking up on the same historic campus where the Arts Students League once taught earlier generations, as being all about helping the organization move to a new level, per its board’s vision.
She’s happy to be taking the WSA reins not long after new directors have also come in at the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, Woodstock Artists Association & Museum, and Center for Photography at Woodstock.
“It’s important that we complement what others are doing, and not duplicate,” she says. “It’s important not to step on any toes…We want to start with a strategic plan that can look one to three years out.”
Doyle is coming to WSA from the Poughkeepsie-based Mill Street Loft, where she served as Director of Development, responsible for the growing youth arts program’s grant writing and fundraising. Before that she worked with Cornell Extension, the Girl Scouts, and with Dutchess County 4H, managing the ag organization’s buildings at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck. Her years working with nonprofits, and especially fundraising and program development, have been fruitful.
Doyle replaces former executive director Chris Seubert, who moved over to a program director position at the end of last year, to be replaced for the past three months by former director Nancy Campbell on an interim basis as the WSA board hired a consultant to help them on the search that resulted in Doyle’s hiring two weeks ago.
“We really saw Chris’ strength as program outreach czar — he kept finding wonderful new students to work with and we wanted him to grow our community in that way,” noted the school’s board president Kate McGloughlin in an email this week. “As an artist and instructor his strengths were a perfect match for this new position…we wanted him off the hook for fundraising and development and put him in the position where his heart truly is — working with young art students and creating new classes to enhance their experiences at the WSA.”
Doyle grew up on Long Island, and came up to SUNY New Paltz 22 years ago to get a Masters of Professional Studies in Humanistic Education after earning her B.A. at Long Island University. She lives in Rhinebeck and is the mother of a 12-year old girl whose interest in arts is what first got her to Mill Street Loft…and who has given her mom a thumbs up for the new school she’ll be working for.
“I have aspired to be the director of a small nonprofit so when I saw this opening it looked like a perfect fit,” Doyle said. “I like Kate a lot — she brings a smile to my face and has amazing drive and enthusiasm — and I’m impressed by the energy everywhere I look at WSA, from their care for the historic buildings to the quality of all its instructors and classes.”
The new director added that her first two weeks have been busy getting to know the school’s three main staff members, other than her, as well as its very involved board of directors. She added that she’s also been able to meet with the directors at the town’s other main arts organizations, and is currently busy readying several grants with deadlines in the coming weeks.
In an introductory statement sent out recently by Campbell to the school of art community, Doyle introduced herself enthusiastically with a smiling image and concise rundown about her background and interests.
“I am proud to be a part of the dedicated team of staff and volunteers that make WSA the special place you all know,” she noted. “I am eager to build upon WSA’s successful programs and expand the capacity of the organization to advance our mission and vision. Next time you are on campus, please stop in and say hello!”
In the context of our interview, she added that while never an artist, she feels she has the ability to become one dormant within her. She also noted that she’s long been a jewelry maker and avid cook, having started and run her own chef’s school for several years. But most of all, she stressed, is her ability to help enable others artistic and art teaching dreams.
“Basically, the WSA does not have any grants right now — I want to work on that and grow their events,” she said. “I want to explore strategies for the endowment and initiate a planned giving campaign.”
One key goal, at the moment, is to get a Raise The Roof campaign up and running immediately, given the need — and high expense — involved in repairing the New Deal era buildings’ slate tops. There’ll be a one-day Ulster County Gives tie-in announced on that soon, Doyle said, along with the WSA’s annual print going out, with an individual donations request next week.
As for possibly moving to Woodstock, it’s something Doyle said she’d love to do, but not until her daughter finishes school in Rhinebeck.
“That said, all my extracurricular activities have long been on this side of the river,” she added.
While speaking excitedly about calibrating the school’s educational offerings to local high schoolers and college students, as well as some New York City tie-ins that could play off WSA’s roots within the Arts Students League, the new director said it was too early for her to talk of such things. Furthermore, she said her position wasn’t about what her plans were, but what the board and organization as a whole might envision.
“I don’t see any need for me to drive the ship,” she said. “Right now my head is spinning with all I want to learn about the school and the community. I need to know the history. I have a big task but I’m eager, and am glad to have such a very involved board as we move forward.”
McGloughlin, for her part, seemed pleased at the new fit the Woodastock School of Art had assembled.
“Having both Nina and Chris on board really puts a fire under everything we’re doing at the school,” she said. “It’s really an exciting time for us.”
For more information on the upcoming Ulster County Gives opportunity and other ways to help with the WSA’s Raise The Roof campaign, see www.woodstockschoolofart.org