APT in the News
Launching a Career in the Arts - Spreading Opportunity for Others
November 30, 1999
Kayleen Wilkinson finds opportunity at home at Auburn Public Theatre
From The Post-Standard | August 23, 2012 | By Dorothy Long, Contributing Writer
When Kayleen Wilkinson finished her graduate studies at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, she wanted to work in the arts.
“Everyone told me I’d have to go to New York or L.A. They said you can’t get a job in the arts here. It was like, pick a coast. I wasn’t really ready for that,” she said.
What everyone, including Wilkinson, didn’t realize was what was happening in Auburn, much of it at Auburn Public Theater, just three blocks from the house in which she grew up.
Wilkinson landed a job as administrative assistant at the theater. She recently became coordinator for the Finger Lakes Community Arts Grants program, as well as the theater's director of marketing and communications.
The community arts grants office is a branch of the New York State Council on the Arts decentralization program which was developed to make sure all areas get a fair share of the portion of state money dedicated to promoting the arts, Wilkinson said.
“They want to make sure the public money reaches every part of the state and suits the needs of the different areas. Each area has different needs,” Wilkinson said.
She is in charge of distributing grants in Cayuga, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne and Yates counties. Her duties include appointing two representatives from each county. The representatives will make up a panel that will decide how the grants will be distributed.
She will design an application and help artists if they have questions when they submit applications to her.
“I take them to the panel. They rank the projects,” Wilkinson said
The strongest grants will be the ones that reach out to the public, she said.
“It is public money so it goes back to the public,” she said.
Making sure the money reached the most people possible in every community was the goal that led the state to create the decentralization program, she said.
The Council of the Arts has developed broad guidelines for the program but local agencies such as the Finger Lakes Community Arts Grants has the flexibility to fit the program to local communities.
Grants are for three categories:
Community Arts: Funds exhibitions, festivals, performances and other activities by community-based groups that are open to the public.
Arts Education: Funds groups and individuals who engage public school students in artistic experiences in school settings.
Individual Arts: Funds new work that engages the community and highlights the role of artists as important members of the community.
The decentralization program has been around since 1977 and for many years the Finger Lakes division was administered by the Phelps Art Center in Ontario County.
“This is the first year Auburn Public Theater is administrating it,” Wilkinson said.
The state Council on the Arts offered the program to Auburn theater because it is a good example of what the decentralization grants can do, she said.
Thanks, in part, to state grants, the theater has been growing.
“They liked what we have been doing. They think we’ve been reaching Auburn and the surrounding area,” Wilkinson said. “We are reaching every part of the community.”
Auburn Public Theater received $10,000 in state grant money last year and is hoping to double that this year, Wilkinson said.
“We are yet again growing and bringing more artists into the area,” she said.
“I’m one of the newest on the scene at the theater. I started last fall. I started helping with a little bit of everything then became director of marketing and now the grants program.”
She also has helped write some of the grants for which the theater applied.
An Auburn native, she graduated from Wells College before going to Newhouse.
“I’m happy that I am staying in Auburn.” she said. “There are a lot of opportunities here.”
For more information on Auburn Public Theater go to auburnpublictheater.com.
For information on the Finger Lakes Community Arts Grants go to flcag.org or call Kayleen Wilkinson at 253-6669.