Mobley Passing On the Brush

By Paige Browning

Karen Mobley has been a point person for arts organizing in Spokane for 17 years, currently as head of the Spokane Arts Fund. Since her announcement that she’ll be stepping down, the focus in Spokane has turned to what is next for the arts community.
Karen Mobley during a volunteer event at Spokane Public Radio. (Courtesy Spokane Public Radio)Karen Mobley is a painter, a poet, and an arts organizer.  Her work in Spokane goes back to 1997 when she became the City of Spokane Arts Director.  Year after year Mobley crafted art events, facilitated instillations, and at times stood tall as a lone arts ambassador in City Hall.

Mobley: “We have had more than 100 exhibitions in the Chase gallery, we’ve had numerous artist lectures, poetry readings, media training, copyright workshop… we’ve done 43 public art pieces, murals, community art projects...”
As the list went on, an ongoing project was vying to keep art in the city’s budget.  And when the city closed the book on its art department in 2012, Mobley became the first executive director of the non-profit Spokane Arts Fund.
Linda Finney, executive director of Leadership Spokane, was board president for the Spokane Arts Commission for several years with Mobley as a member.  She says some of Mobley’s most important work has been in publicizing the work of artists.

Finney: “Many of them by their very nature work in a solitary way, and I think having a public organization that supports them, having a website that supports there work, having someone who is caring for public art, really kind of keeps artists here and keeps them connected, and keeps them feeling successful in a business way.”
The picture for how art is organized in Spokane will change in January, when Mobley leaves the executive director position.  She says she stuck around until now to prepare the Arts Fund for a new director.
Now that the fund has a three year budget outlined, Finney trusts it’s in a good place.

Finney: “I think Karen has left a platform for the next person who takes that leadership role to do very well, to be successful.”
The Fund board will start seriously searching within the next few months for a director.  The Fund collaborates with the Downtown Spokane Partnership, the Public Facilities District, and Visit Spokane.

One person particularly interested in the future of city arts is Sue Bradley, owner of Tinman Gallery and past board of trustees president for the Spokane Art School and NW Museum of Arts and Culture. Bradley says the Arts Fund was created as a stopgap for city arts.
Bradley: “The challenge for them going forward is to take these four different groups, who do not have art as their number one mission, and turn it into a group that does have art as its priority.  It could be done, it’s going to take a lot of work and the people who are on the board are going to have to do a lot of work within the organizations that are funding it.”
She says good can also come out of the Fund, since the organization is free of any particular governmental budget.
For now, Mobley is completing final touches of her organizational work. 
Mobley: “It’s not my enterprise; it’s the community’s enterprise.  I’m one person the mix of a while bunch of committed, very, very energetic people.”
While her 17 years of work are on public display, she’s moving on to new projects which entail writing two books and availing herself for architectural project management related to art.
Copyright 2013 Spokane Public Radio
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