As the new executive director for the Paint Creek Center for the Arts, Elizabeth Chilton is hoping to build on success and expand its offerings in a meaningful way.
"I want to look back on my life and say that I made a positive change in my positions," Chilton said. "It's nice to be in the executive director positions where I have that agency."
Chilton has more than 20 years of experience in metro Detroit's cultural sector, specifically for non-profit agencies. She started out fundraising for the University of Michigan, then moving into non-profits at the Mosaic Youth Theater of Detroit, where she was able to double the organization's budget before being promoted to the director of development.
"I have worked in non-profits for virtually my whole career," Chilton said, noting that she entered the field after passing on a career in teaching.
"I was a really lousy English teacher," she said. "I loved the theory of education, and I like working with kids when I'm not in charge of teaching them, but I'm not great at classroom management."
It was at the youth theater where she found success and her ability to make positive changes. She later worked as director of exhibit content for the Detroit Science Center, and most recently as manager of curatorial affairs for the Arab American National Museum, in Dearborn.
"It's so important to me that I spend my life using the tools that I think I'm good with to make a difference," she said. "I want my position to have a small part in making the world a better place."
In terms of success, Chilton, who lives in the Grosse Pointe area, said it would be hard to make the Center's Art and Apples event much better — the art festival was just named among the top 10 in the country by the Sunshine Artist. Still, she said there are other offerings that could impact the lives of those in the greater Rochester area that are near to her heart.
"I really want to work to expand and fill unmet needs in the community to work toward filling holes," she said. "We've already established partnerships with organizations to create programming for underserved populations."
For example, Chilton said she is seeking funding for art programs to help people with dementia and Alzheimer's, and trying to develop programs for individuals with low vision and hearing. She also hopes to expand programs to those on the autism spectrum. The latter is close to Chilton's heart, as her eldest son is on the autism spectrum.
"That personal experience is part of the reason I want to provide services," she said. "He gets so much enjoyment from art... he's been drawing trains and spaceships from a young age, now (at 25), he's doing anime and working full time, which is wonderful. He's buying computer software so he can do is own computer animation."
Additionally, Chilton hopes to expand on offerings to those who ant to pursue art as a career, as well as those who want to use art for a social element. Of course, all of those plans will require additional funds and space, the latter which is limited to its current location.
"I think Tammi (Salisbury) will be seen as the person who turned this organization around and put it on solid financial footing," Chilton said of the former director. "I'm hoping I will be seen as a positive influence on the organization, as well."
Photo: Laurie Tennent