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Meet the Staff: Janelle Hallett, Investment Associate

Meet the Staff: Janelle Hallett, Investment Associate

One of three people in the Investment Office, Janelle brings an art history perspective and funky style to the Ohio Arts Council (OAC). In this Meet the Staff Q&A, she tells us about her experiences as an arts administrator and which rock stars her kids are named after.

Q. How did you get started in the arts?
My grandma is very into the arts, and she used to take me to the Toledo Museum of Art a lot. I did classes there, and she would take us there on the weekends just as a thing to do. I was really into Picasso when I was younger. My grandpa would buy us books, and he started getting me art books and art history books—he was a history professor, so he was always encouraging that. My dad is a drummer, so I just had a lot of exposure from a lot of different art forms at a young age.  

I have an undergraduate degree in art history, and when I was nearing the end of my undergraduate career, I thought, “I don’t really know what I want to do with that degree.” I didn’t really want to pursue that path on a graduate level, but I still wanted to do something related to the arts. I started volunteering wherever I could find a place to do that. I volunteered with VSA Ohio and worked on their career forum in the arts, and then I worked on a status survey of arts education with the Alliance for Arts Education. And that’s where I met Donna S. Collins, who is now the OAC’s Executive Director.

I decided to go to graduate school for arts policy, and at the same time, I had a job at the Alliance and Ohio Citizens for the Arts. I didn’t intend to work full time and go to school, but it kind of worked out that way, so I just moved forward with both. I really liked the non-profit work, specifically in the arts, and I kept moving forward with that path.

Q. What brought you to the OAC?
I worked alongside the OAC for about eight years when I worked for Ohio Citizens for the Arts and the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education. Part of my role at Ohio Citizens for the Arts was working on the Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Ohio event, and so I partnered with a lot of people at OAC, particularly in the Public Information Office, in planning that event. I had worked with a lot of people here (at the OAC) and then this Investment Associate job opened, so I thought it would be a natural progression for me. I was hoping to get a little more experience in the grants side of things because I had some previous experience writing and applying for grants, but I was excited about working on the funding side of it. 

Q. What does being a part of the OAC mean to you?
You get to support a lot of opportunities for other people to have. Being in the Investment Office, you get to see hundreds of projects allowing kids arts experiences they might not have. 

I work with the Big Yellow School Bus project a lot, and just the people who apply … they’re teachers, and they don’t typically apply for grants. A lot of times, they call and they’re a little bit intimidated by the process and they say, “I just wanted this experience for these children.”

I think just being able to see and make happen all these opportunities for people to experience art within their communities is a really great motivator. And we get to do fun stuff. There are fun perks where we get to go to some of these events and get out in the community and see the things that even just a couple thousand dollars helped make happen.

Q. What exactly does your position as an Investment Associate entail?
I usually tell people that my role is to handle the black and white of the grants side of things. If you have a question about the budget in the grant, I can help you with that. If you have questions about deadlines, I can give you your answer for that. “When is this due?” I can tell you that it's due on this date. The coordinators handle the gray area in terms of, “I have an idea for this project and where would that be the best fit for a grant?” As an Investment Associate, I deal more with the “yes and no” kind of answers. I also started when we developed ARTIE, the OAC’s online portal for grant management, and I’ve seen it develop from the ground up.

I have a lot of troubleshooting experience. I talk with people when they have an issue with ARTIE and I can walk them through that. There were a lot of changes when we implemented ARTIE—we moved everything online.  For some, that was a welcome change, but for some it was a challenge. I also spend a significant amount of time changing things in ARTIE and helping to develop and improve things in the system. That’s one of the nice things about it—it’s constantly changing, and we can constantly improve. Learning some of the more technical things, I had a little bit of experience doing that, but I’ve learned a lot.

Q. What is your day-to-day work routine?
It’s cyclical, so in the larger picture over the scope of a year, you can kind of map out what that looks like. But day to day, there is always something new. I’m making changes in ARTIE, making sure everything looks good and the applications are asking the questions we want to ask. Then, people will be working in those applications. Our deadlines are staggered throughout the winter and spring, and through that process, we’ll be preparing for our panel meetings. We’ll have our meetings toward the spring and that’ll take us to the board meeting, when the board approves the awards. Each day is a little different depending on what phone calls I get. I have my list of things I need to get done every day, and I sort of grouped it by what to do by Nov. 1, Dec. 1 and Jan. 1, etc. I work a little bit in the short term, medium term, and long term. 

Q. When you’re not here at the OAC's office, what do you like to do?
I do a lot of things with my kids, and I try to take them to new experiences. Frank is my 3-year-old, and Fredrik is my 1-year-old—we call him Freddie. They’re named after musicians, Frank Zappa and Freddie Mercury. They’re still kind of little, so there are certain things we can’t quite do yet, but we get outside a lot and go on hikes and play in our neighborhood, where we have a nice little park. I get together with friends, and I like to go to concerts. I have family in Toledo and Cincinnati, so at least one weekend out of the month we're traveling around Ohio.

Q. What are you most proud of?
I’ve only been at the OAC for a little over three years, so it hasn’t been a long time in the scope of other staff members’ histo
ries here. But I’m pretty proud of the work I’ve done with ARTIE. I learned a lot, and it was a big learning curve, but it’s not something I really expected to be doing in this job. It’s been a very collaborative experience with other staff members. 

For the most part, feedback about ARTIE is generally really positive, and when you receive feedback that says, “Oh I wish you could do this” and then you can make that happen, that’s really nice. It’s nice to be able to take that in and make a change that makes it easier for people, even just for a dozen or two dozen. We do whatever we can to make the application process as smooth as possible.

Q. What does art mean to you?
I think it’s a form of self-expression. I think it’s a great way to convey emotion for a lot of people. I really encourage my kids, especially my older son, to express himself through art and talk about art. It’s just a great way to communicate. Whether you’re sharing an arts experience with somebody or creating your own art, it can convey a lot of information in a lot of different ways. My fondest memories are sharing arts experiences with somebody. I still try to do that with my friends and family. It’s a great way to bring people together and gives a sense of community or a sense of closeness.

Photos courtesy of Janelle Hallett, first photo credit to Angela Wayner Photography


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