TELLURIDE - The Ah Haa School for the Arts announced its new executive director, Jodi Pounds, in November. Pounds relocated to Telluride from Berkeley, Calif., where she managed intellectual property for the University of California at Berkeley. With an interest in bioethics, her academic and professional work has focused on the intersection of leading-edge science and technology, law and humanities. She has a B.A. in Philosophy from Colorado College and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Minnesota.
“I see art and science as important avenues for understanding, inspiration, awe and creative expression,” said Pounds. “Tapping into those sources is key to confronting and solving challenges on a global scale and also to living life to the fullest on the personal scale. So, shifting my focus from science to art feels very fluid.”
Pounds arrives on board at a vital point in the Ah Haa School’s 21-year history as Telluride’s beloved community art school. Since the acquisition of the town’s historic depot building in 2007 (and a long term financial obligation to go with it), the school has not only been redefining and refining itself, it’s also in the midst of a substantial capital campaign.
“The board [of directors] has set a high bar for me, which I think is really good,” said Pounds. “There’s an immense opportunity to take this fundamental piece of the Telluride community and grow it and grow it.”
To that end, one of Pounds’ first goals for 2012 is to embark on an accredited art program that will bring students to Telluride in the fall and spring for a semester of, say, painting, jewelry or film. Ah Haa’s model for this program is their already successful American Academy of Bookbinding, an internationally known, degree-oriented bookbinding and book conservation school that graduates professional-level binders and book conservators.
“AAB is our model, that’s what we want to replicate” by offering more rigorous fine arts classes to students outside of the Telluride region, said Pounds. So far, “We are mostly serving locals, which is good…The next step is to reach out [and bring people into this] beautiful community that is so bright and so dynamic…Who wouldn’t want to come to Telluride and express themselves creatively? The challenge is how to make that go on the ground. Ah Haa needs someone to be a leader and make that happen. That’s where I come in.”
After jumping into her new role at the school in early December, Pounds was already on task to introduce a strategic plan, business plan, vision and implementation components in the first quarter of 2012. Among her goals are several projects, some as simple as establishing better exterior lighting on the building to give it more visibility, and as broad as building partnerships with other nonprofits to create more opportunities for the public to take part in Ah Haa’s programs. For example, Pounds foresees establishing a relationship with the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program, wherein Ah Haa would open its doors to provide art classes to disabled athletes and their families at a discounted rate. “We want to become a venue for understanding in both directions for people of all abilities to be striving,” Pounds said. For TASP’s Women’s Wounded Warrior retreat (directed at wounded women veterans), the school plans to open its space for yoga and movement classes as well as art.
“We do have something special to offer here,” she said.
To familiarize more people with what Ah Haa does, Pounds plans to bring the school out into the community more, such as having a booth at the summer farmers’ market to exhibit a rotating display of artists’ work and provide an on-site art project for kids. Ah Haa will also continue celebrating October as The Art of Being a Woman month, which culminates in a Bra Invitational and Bra-vo fashion show and auction at the New Sheridan Bar, where local men strut the bar-top runway modeling bras decorated by members of the Telluride community. Funds raised benefit not only the Ah Haa School, but also the San Miguel Resource Center (which provides domestic violence intervention services, prevention education, support and advocacy), and the Breast Cancer Fund.
“We’re only here to be in service,” said Pounds.
“There’s no real trail for what I’m doing,” said Pounds about her transition from large-scale university to small town art school. But so far, “It feels really good to feel like I’m having a bigger impact on a smaller organization… I feel like we’re on the cusp of exploding into an international art school…To be a part of that transition is exciting.”
To attend the Ah Haa School’s New Year’s Eve Gala or to learn more about its programs, call 970/728-3886 or visit ahhaa.org.