By LINDA KELLETT
LITTLE FALLS — Jane Malin is on a mission. Dynamic, motivated and focused, the new executive director of the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts, www.mohawkvalleyarts.org, has not only expanded the programming but also the footprint of the Canal Place-based arts organization — literally.
Since stepping into the shoes of former Executive Director Kevin Mihaly last fall, Malin has moved all of the expanded studio arts class offerings to nearby 411 Canal Place, opening up the gallery space at 401 Canal Place for “Arts for Health” classes including Tai Chi, Yoga, meditation, and salsa dancing.
The lateral move has virtually increased the size of the art center and its potential benefit to members and the surrounding communities. It has also made it possible to schedule more activities after business hours and on weekends so the programs can be more accessible to potential participants.
The goals are to build on the MVCA’s presence in the Mohawk Valley and to promote the arts, she said.
MVCA Board member Ralph Renzulli said the decision to move the studio arts classes to 411 Canal Place had an additional benefit: It also reduced the amount of work needed to manage the gallery space since its dual use as a gallery and classroom was eliminated, and it has resulted in a nicer looking gallery.
Among the art center’s expanded offerings this quarter include studio classes by artist John Famulare (“Realism with Charcoal”), pastel painting with Joan Balder Cook, figurative drawing with Yulia Levkovich, oil painting with Kathryn Bartscht, watercolor painting by Lynn Rogers, a “Master Copying Class” with Levkovich, mixed media instruction with Frank Wilcox, art classes with folk artist Jim Parker, and open studio sessions.
Workshops have included Toby Jacobs-Mijolovic’s “Fresh and Clean Cooking” at the Little Falls Community Center and Kelly Myszkowski’s “Creating ‘Me’ Time” program.
Spring gallery shows included Rosann Scalise’s mid-March book signing and show, “Brushstrokes that Shaped My Life”; John Famulare’s current exhibit, “Introspection,” which features his large, photo-realistic charcoal drawings through May 14th; and the upcoming photo exhibit by Alan Vincent, “Darkroom to Digital,” which opens on May 22 with a reception from 2 to 4 p.m.
The expanded class offerings and studio space aren’t all the Dolgeville native has been exploring, however. Malin, who has worked globally, doesn’t let physical walls limit her thinking.
She’s working to take the MVCA’s fine arts programming to local schools through the “Arts on the Move” program. Currently, she and Dolgeville School Superintendent Christine Reynolds are collaborating on a pilot program that will augment that school’s existing arts offerings.
“Everything I want to do I want to do in collaboration with the schools. I don’t want to take anything away from them,” Malin said.
In addition to prior experience as a member of the MVCA’s Board of Directors, Malin has also served as a member of the Dolgeville Central School District’s Board of Education.
Reynolds, who was a DCS graduate like Malin, said the district has a rich heritage of music and arts. Because it is an isolated community, the opportunity to enter into an agreement with the MVCA to expand visual and performing arts activities outside the classroom or to offer classes in yoga or gourmet food preparation is incredible.
She said, “We are at the opening stages of developing a collaborative piece. We’re looking at a written agreement to offer individual and group classes for students. We also hope to open it up to the community.”
Reynolds said the school district would offer space for the classes to take place.
Another of Malin’s goals is to introduce the arts-related programming to area health care facilities and nursing homes through the display of instructors’ and students’ artworks, for example.
In addition to Tai Chi and painting, arts-related outreach could also include programs such as Kevin Khoury’s harmonica work with patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and other respiratory ailments.
Renzulli said the success of such a collaboration between the MVCA and the Alpine Rehabilitation and Nursing Center has already been demonstrated. Based on the results of a study of the impact of MVCA sponsored arts-related activities on residents’ attitudes and deportment, it was clear that residents were positively affected, he said.
An alumna of Rochester Institute of Technology, Malin said she “kind of grew up in the technology and manufacturing arena.”
An industrial manufacturing engineer, she put her degrees in Business Administration and Industrial Engineering to work after graduation. Among the local companies for which she worked was Chicago Pneumatic of Utica. Following the company’s move to South Carolina, she worked as a consultant for the government and a number of corporations. She also owns her own firm, Bridge Consulting.
In addition to her work as a consultant for the U.S. Army, she has served as a consultant to Kohler Bath, Toro, and the Mayo Clinic doing mostly efficiencies, supply chain engineering, industrial engineering, and cellular manufacturing for the manufacturing world, she said. Critical thinking, problem solving, budgeting, and proposal and grant writing are among Malin’s strong points.
A vocalist, Malin’s passion for musical performance is another of her fortes. Even when she was on the road for work, she devoted most of her free time to musical performance: singing, conducting, doing choral work, and the like, she said.
The long-time conductor of Little Falls’ Emmanuel Church choir, Malin also performs with Homeward Bound, a local band that plays a mix of jazz, swing and pop selections in secular settings and sacred music for religious venues.
Malin has performed up and down the East Coast. “If anybody wants to hear me sing — and I want to do that — I donate everything back to somebody” — including her church or other worthy causes, she said.
Despite her background in the performing arts, Malin said her position at the MVCA is “all about the executive, not the artist.”
In that capacity, one of her duties is fundraising. She said, “Being a small arts center, we want to use as much money as we can for programming, but we still need to keep the lights on,” she said.
In addition to grant writing, Malin said she is also trying to find more sponsors to help with the organization’s operational funding.
MVCA Board President Patricia Rockwell said Malin’s credentials were “just unbelievable”; and her business experience, her talent, and her background in the performing arts were a perfect match for the arts center when a search for a replacement for former Executive Director Mihaly began.
Rockwell credited Mihaly for his instrumental role in helping the arts center to reestablish functioning committees that meet regularly, to revise the organization’s bylaws in order to meet state regulations, and to put a new strategic plan in place, said Rockwell.
Malin was the perfect candidate to pick up where Mihaly left off.
“Kevin spent two weeks transitioning with Jane, then she was off and running,” Rockwell added. “She’s incredible.”
Rockwell’s husband, Jeffrey Smith, who also serves on the MVCA Board, said Jane has “exceeded all our expectations in every sense of the word. She’s a take-charge person, and takes it upon herself to get things done. It’s as if she’s been there forever.”
He continued, “She definitely has a ‘wow’ factor going. I think ‘wow’ is appropriate.
“I don’t think she knows the words, ‘can’t do,” he added.
For more information about classes, gallery shows, or programs, please contact Malin at the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts at 315-823-0808, or visit the website at www.mohawkvalleyarts.org.