The early summer shuffle is underway at Mobile Arts Council (MAC), as the board has selected Lucy Gafford successor to the departing executive director, Shellie Teague. Gafford was named MAC programs developer in October 2015 and program coordinator in January 2017.
“[Gafford’s] the best candidate, really, because she knows the ins and outs of the arts council better than anybody else,” MAC board president John Mims said. “We’re excited and she’s excited and the arts community loves her.”
Gafford takes the reins on June 1. As evidence of her devotion, she pointed to seven years’ involvement with the umbrella organization, starting as a volunteer and exhibiting artist.
“I’ve worked with the education program, coordinated the teachers and their schedules, worked in the office and managed the programs, so I’m obviously invested and committed to the organization and the Mobile arts community,” Gafford said.
An alluring employment opportunity prompted Teague to make a move. A marketing specialist, she was named executive director in September 2017, the first permanent director since Bob Burnett resigned in January 2015.
“It’s really not a breakup,” Teague said of her resignation. “It’s just there’s no way I could turn down an offer like this. I told the board almost two months ago.”
The open executive director’s position was posted to ZipRecruiter.com on April 26. The MAC board’s executive committee received six resumes for the job, according to Mims, and voted on the final choice just prior to Memorial Day weekend.
“[Teague] has done a great job and we’ve been real happy with her,” Mims said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for her since she walked into a situation where we haven’t had a director in a couple of years. There wasn’t anybody there to show her the ropes and she had to figure it out on her own and get things going.”
“It’s been hard because we’ve been having such a good year and I feel like things are just so great and moving in the right direction,” Teague said. “We put maybe three years’ worth of work into my 20 months there.”
Both Mims and Gafford cited the outgoing director’s solid groundwork as beneficial to this transition. Teague told Artifice she has already verified a date and place for the upcoming Arts Throwdown, MAC’s biggest annual fundraiser, along with plans for other events such as the Taco Takedown and Arty Awards.
“Shellie [Teague] has us where everything is in a good place now with our board and our programming planned out for the next year. I’m excited and confident all is going to go well,” Gafford said.
Mims is unsure if MAC will restructure duties or how that might affect any hire for Gafford’s previous position. Mostly, it will depend on Gafford’s wishes.
“I don’t know if [Gafford] still wants to kind of have her hand in that, so maybe she can do that and then we hire somebody to do more marketing and community outreach, fundraising kind of thing. We’ll be talking about that at our next board meeting,” Mims said.
For now, Gafford wants to build on the council’s success and widen MAC’s impact.
“We need more efficient ways to advocate for art organizations and artists. A lot of what we’ve done before has involved MAC-generated programs. Our main function is to serve the community, so we need to figure out better ways to get more involved with groups that aren’t just visual arts,” Gafford said.
The other major transition at hand is a relocation of MAC headquarters. At June’s end, it will depart 318 Dauphin St., the space it’s used for offices and galleries since 2005. Rising rent was given as the cause.
The group has since acquired permission to stage its art exhibits in the 1927 Room adjacent to the Saenger Theatre’s entrance at 6 S. Joachim St. Office space is another matter. The MAC board has its eyes on an approximately 1,000-square-foot Joachim Street space, but hasn’t signed a lease.
“It’s perfect for three or four people to work out of, but it needs a build-out. We’re working with them right now and it’s pretty promising,” Mims said.
Interim offices might be secured at the Container Yard (853 Dauphin St.), a co-working space under construction in the former Red Cross building at Dauphin and Broad streets. With Gafford penciled in for the top spot, the board president is relieved.
“One fire put out, so on to the next,” Mims said, laughing. “As long as we’re moving forward, then we’re doing good.”
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