Thank you, Spiva

September 12th, 2014

Dear George A. Spiva Center for the Arts,

I'd like to take a step out of the whirling machine of my creative life to say thank you.

I arrived in the Joplin area in 2005, and very soon was sitting on the Board of Directors. I kept quiet for a year until I finally had a programming idea and mentioned at a Board meeting that someone should implement it. The Board President looked me in the eye and yelled, "YOU do it". Well, duh. Coming from Brooklyn, where I was a minnow in a vast ocean of artistic ideas and leadership, I had come to a place in Southwest Missouri with a legacy of art tradition, but not as many hands on deck to steer the ship. I became the whale in the puddle.

But let's be clear, I was not the only force of nature. I was encouraged and mentored by and worked alongside of a Spiva powerhouse. Jo Mueller, whose steady, piercing and innovative vision transformed Spiva in a mere decade. I hung shows with her approval (Jo: that corner is a touch too high; Me: Really?), I created gallery guides for exhibitions (Jo: logo needs to go in the other corner; Me: You bet!), I curated art and events for a huge summer show, Artworkers (Jo: I need you to really step in here; Me: I am here to translate that lead artist's vision for Spiva), co-created and taught the high school program (Jo: Current instructor needs to move on; Me: Let me teach a session), and on and on.

A myriad of professional art opportunities, and Spiva let me try just about everything. THAT is what a great art center can do; take the energy and vision of its citizens, and match it to the needs and potential of the art center itself. This is what Spiva has consistently done for me, over and over. I recently took a new job at Pittsburg State University, thankfully still in the Joplin metro area. I get to focus on the art education program there, and I am thrilled that I am immediately teaching the skills I learned at Spiva to these future art educators. It is seamless and natural to pass on those skills. When I look at my resume, many of the professional achievements I am proudest of were anchored by Spiva. The ideas may have been mine, but Spiva was the fertile soil.

I am honored to continue to serve on the Education Committee, and can't wait to coax a new set of undergraduate art students through Spiva's doors at my new job. We will continue to grow together.


Josie Mai