Sawtooth School for Visual Art at its Board Meeting June 20, 2017 unanimously approved the appointment of Geoff Corbin as Executive Director. Corbin’s first day was July 5th. Geoff replaces Kevin Mundy, who has been serving as interim executive director since November of 2016.
Sawtooth Board of Directors President William Woltz says, “For thirty years, Geoff has been instrumental in the growth of nonprofits, especially cultural organizations. He is an accomplished fundraiser, advocate and administrator. Geoff also has a deep appreciation and understanding of our mission, the experience and know-how to ensure Sawtooth stays at the forefront of hands-on visual art education, and a clear vision for our future.”
In his 20-year management consulting career, Corbin has provided planning, leadership and fund raising counsel to a diverse set of organizations in communities ranging from Oregon to Detroit, Bowling Green (KY) to Miami, and Atlanta to Charleston. Prior to management consulting, the Seattle-native served Pacific Northwest based nonprofits in fundraising, marketing and executive director roles.
His appointment comes after a rigorous search, and he follows in the footsteps of well-regarded Sawtooth Executive Director, the late JoAnne Vernon, who gained deep respect and admiration for lifting Sawtooth out of difficult times and launching the organization on a very positive trajectory. Vernon stepped down last year to treat a recurring cancer, a battle she recently lost in May of this year.
“I marvel at JoAnne’s accomplishments, and at the dedication of Sawtooth’s board, staff, donors, and friends. Their remarkable commitment, passion, and frankly, very hard work, has kept the vital mission of providing accessible, hands-on visual art opportunities available in our community without their valued leader. I am deeply honored to lead such a tremendous group at one of the Triad’s finest cultural assets,” Corbin says.
“My goal is to amplify Sawtooth’s exceptional work so that more people of all ages, from pre-k to senior, and artists of all levels, beginner to master, share in this essential experience,” adds Corbin.
“Sawtooth’s hands-on approach furthers cooperative learning experiences that provide pleasure, challenge, and mastery,” says Elizabeth Repetti, Immediate Past President of the Sawtooth Board. “We know that through art activities, children learn complex thinking skills, master many developmental tasks, and improve literacy and brain development. In fact, meaningful, participatory art experiences at Sawtooth provide all of us, of any age or background, with growth, satisfaction, and authentic self-expression. Sawtooth truly represents a community effort, one that significantly contributes to Winston-Salem’s reputation as the city of arts and innovation,” adds Repetti.
Repetti echoed Board Chair Woltz’ enthusiasm that Corbin is the right person to continue and grow these efforts.
Corbin graduated in the inaugural class of Seattle University’s Master of Nonprofit Leadership program, one of the first graduate degrees in the country developed specifically for those who lead nonprofits. In his first executive director position, he served as the founding executive of Community Mental Health Foundation of South Puget Sound, establishing the regional foundation that funds mental health and substance abuse work.
“One early, successful program that I recall is the Youth Enhancement Partnership. I was able to obtain significant multi-year funding for the struggling program from the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority. Incredibly creative Master Craftsmen woodworkers and counselors served at-risk youth by teaching troubled teens how to build wooden Cape Ann Dories, sail them, and then test the water quality of the Puget Sound. It was astonishing to witness these kids—often court-ordered or suspended from school, or both, with serious anger-management and other behavioral issues—show up on-time and eager to learn to build sailboats through the artistic process of woodworking. They worked successfully as teams, with dangerous equipment, and in the process they discovered and defined their individual identity. For me, this demonstrated the power of hands-on art early in my career. The arts helped these kids successfully navigate their way through tough times,” Corbin said.
For the past two decades, Corbin has primarily consulted to cultural and performing arts organizations as Senior Associate with Tomlinson-Graham Group, a boutique national arts management consulting firm. He is eager to lend his expertise in marketing, development, staff and board management, to the visual arts. “I am particularly interested in expanding access to the arts. Wouldn’t it be great if Sawtooth could reach every school in the area, plus every home schooler, and if our churches and businesses socialized and celebrated with an afternoon, weekend or evening of making art at Sawtooth? Sawtooth is rare in its diverse array of talented faculty and unbelievable assortment of equipment—kilns, looms, dark room, computer lab, metal, wood, glass, jewelry, painting, digital and papermaking equipment and supplies, and more. Everyone in the community can explore the artist in them at Sawtooth,” states Corbin.
He adds, “I would like to see the building bustling at every hour. Clearly my goal is to engage the community and to encourage broad participation that transcends all barriers, as the arts do. Go see plays, operas, dance or classical music at Hanesbrands Theatre or UNCSA’s Stevens Center, enjoy SECCA’s outstanding programming or visit the impressive New Winston Museum, and even binge your favorite TV show. Please give to the Arts Council, because their good fortunes spells good fortunes so for many arts organizations and community arts initiatives. But I suggest that you try binging Sawtooth too; we have so much hands-on art to choose from and you are all but guaranteed to find a new passion here.”
“I’m thrilled to lead Sawtooth into its next era,” Corbin says. “If you look back at Sawtooth’s history, when it started in 1945 as the Winston-Salem Arts & Crafts Workshop, it adds up to more than 70 years of forging opportunities for artists and providing community access to participation in the visual arts. Now we look towards the future and working to expand that access,” he concludes.