Killacky: Making the Arts Accessible

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Thursday October 13, 2011

A page, protection, and a pony: all are important to South Burlington resident John Killacky.

Killacky has been Executive Director/CEO of the Flynn Center since June of last year, and the front page of the Flynn’s brochure illustrates his approach to Flynn programming. Instead of containing a photo of one notable performer, the cover features photos of 48 performers contained within an 8 x 6 grid.

“The Flynn Center presents a full array of world-class artists across a broad aesthetic spectrum,” Killacky explains. “Throughout our 30-year history,” he continues, “the Flynn has brought to Burlington: emerging to established, avant-garde to mainstream artists.  In the current season, for instance, we’re bringing in performance artist Laurie Anderson, as well as comedian Joan Rivers.  We have five Broadway shows, as well as an array of experimental theatrical productions in FlynnSpace.  Ravi Coltrane in jazz, a bluegrass tribute to Bill Monroe, and India. Arie with Idan Raichel are just some of our music offerings.  With that kind of eclectic range, I wanted to make sure our marketing invited everyone in the community into the Flynn.”

Killacky also believes that it is essential for nonprofit arts to have a protected tax status. “I fiercely believe arts organizations earn their nonprofit status not only through presentations, exhibitions, and screenings, but also through educational and outreach programs,” he exclaims. “Yes, the Flynn presents great artists to our audience, but we also serve over 41,000 students statewide through student matinees, classes, workshops, and camps, as well as subsidize tickets for partners in social service agencies, educational institutions, and community organizations. All of that is supported by donations.”

Killacky waxes fervent when he describes the Flynn’s mission. “Our double bottom line is making the arts accessible and serving those less fortunate,” he says. “A triple bottom line is achieved when the changed lives of those we reach further contribute to society. The arts are where hope lives.”

Even with a heavy schedule of “friendraising” and fundraising for the Flynn, Killacky still finds time for working with his beloved Shetland pony, Pacific Raindrop. “At the pony barn, I’m a beginner,” he concedes. “My teachers range from teenagers to one amazing horsewoman in her eighties. Their help has been essential, since fifteen years ago I became paraplegic, losing much function in my legs. Being a novice at mid-life is rejuvenating. I love grappling with new skills that take a long time to master.  Laughing at failure and learning from mistakes propels improvement.  These beautiful ponies allow me to move and dance freely again in the world—exhilarating for this middle-aged guy who ambulates with a cane.”

Working with Pacific Raindrop revitalizes Killacky and readies him for his daily business tasks. “Meeting colleagues on their terms, starting where they are, and patience with newness seems like a pretty good idea to bring back into the office each morning,” Killacky philosophizes, “after I finish mucking Pacific Raindrop’s stall, of course!”

SOURCE: Bill Wargo, Correspondent