Staff Interview: Jessie Kilguss

Arts For All’s new Development Associate Jessie Kilguss is an impressive creative and administrative mind.  Check out her interview below, and check out her band in NYC sometime!

AFA: What are 3 words to describe yourself?

JK: Creative, passionate and reflective.

What interested you in Arts For All?  How did you get involved?

JK: I found Arts For All in 2010.  I had had some previous experience helping to teach art and music to at-risk kids (with Art Start and Free Arts NYC) and came across Arts For All and applied to volunteer.  At the time, I was considering a career as a Teaching Artist and was looking to gain more hands-on experience.

I started volunteering with AFA at Brooklyn Hospital, running arts and crafts workshops with kids who were living there for various periods of time due to different types of illness.  I volunteered there weekly doing basic arts and crafts projects.  It’s an incredible feeling, helping kids unlock their creativity.  For the kids at Brooklyn Hospital, our art class was a time when they could shift focus from being hospital patients, to working on their art projects.  For me, this was a really powerful and uplifting experience.

Apart from Brooklyn Hospital, I also volunteered at AFA’s Day at the Met in 2010 where I gave students a guided tour of the Temple of Dendur, a two thousand-year-old Egyptian temple and one of my favorite exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum.

I’m really excited to be part of the administrative team at Arts for All.   AFA offers diverse, much-needed arts programs to NYC kids who might not otherwise have access to arts education.

What is some of your previous experience in non-profit development?

Before coming to Arts For All, I was the Director of Development and Public Relations at Art Start, a non-profit that runs daily creative arts workshops with kids living in NYC homeless shelters and alternative to incarceration facilities.  As with Arts For All, I started at Art Start as a volunteer and fell in love with their mission.  I asked to volunteer in the office and they offered me a development internship which turned into a job as the Development Assistant which turned into my role as the Director of Development and Public Relations.

I believe that creativity and the imagination can help people transform their lives.  Art can be an especially powerful tool for kids dealing with difficult life circumstances.

With arts programming being cut from so many schools, Arts For All is filling in a really important gap in our students’ learning.  I’m excited to use my skills in development to help Arts For All grow and reach more kids who will benefit from our programming.

What is your own artistic background? Childhood, professional, all of it!

JK: I trained as an actress both at NYU ( Tisch SOA) and graduate school in London ( the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art).  Highlights from my acting career include the movie “the Crucible,” with Daniel Day Lewis and Wynona Ryder, “As You Like It” directed by Sir Peter Hall (UK & US) and Tom Wait’s “The Black Rider,” starring Marianne Faithfull and directed by Robert Wilson.

I’m no longer an actor though.

I’m a singer/songwriter. I’ve written three original records and perform regularly around that city with my band and also singing back-up with a friends’ band.

What is one moment that stands out from your theatre and film experience?

JK: Working with Marianne Faithfull was a career highpoint for me.  She’s one of my favorite singers ever.  It’s hard to meet your idols though — I got really tongue-tied around her.

Who’s one of your favorite songwriters?

JK: Leonard Cohen is one of my favorite songwriters.  For me, nobody tops him in terms of lyrics.  I’ve been lucky enough to see him live twice and he puts on a great show! I would love to be one of his back-up singers.  I recently read a great biography of him called “I’m Your Man,” by Sylvie Simmons.  It’s worth checking out if you’re a Leonard Cohen fan.

Thanks, Jessie! We’re so excited to have you on the team!

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