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Meet the Staff: Dan Katona, Deputy Director

Meet the Staff: Dan Katona, Deputy Director

A parody songwriter on the weekends, Ohio native, and traveler, the Ohio Arts Council’s (OAC) Deputy Director Dan Katona can only be described as one color: teal. “Because it’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” he says. You can find Dan in his office, where he proudly displays his three daughters’ artwork and writes some pretty interesting emails.

Q: Where did you go to school?
I grew up in Macedonia, Ohio. I got my undergrad in Music Education at the University of Dayton, and I was going to be a band director. I played trombone, and I was in the jazz band and marching band and the wind ensemble. I enjoyed that, but as I was about to graduate, it wasn’t the route I wanted to take. After watching my mom retire after teaching for 30 years, my impression was that if you liked teaching but didn’t love it, you’d burn out. So instead, I decided to go to Florida State for a Master of Arts in Arts Administration and hoped I’d figure it out from there.

Q: How did you get started at the OAC?
The quick answer is that while I was living in Tallahassee, I worked part time at the OAC’s equivalent organization in Florida, the Division of Cultural Affairs. While there, I made it known that I was going to go back to Ohio after I graduated, and my boss suggested I look up the Ohio Arts Council—I had never heard of them. But, in 2001 when I came back, I did just that. There was a job opening and I applied, and I got very lucky and was hired. The job was Community Arts Coordinator, when we used to have a community development department. Later, I became the director of organizational services, then the research and program development director, and now I am the deputy director.  

Q: What does your role as deputy director entail?
It’s an interesting position that has changed over time as the size of the staff has slowly shrunk. I work with Donna Collins, the OAC’s executive director, on overall policy, and there’s a lot of work with crafting funding guidelines and overseeing grantmaking. I lead a great deal of the agency’s strategic planning work and oversee our internal work plan. The deputy director also plays a role in the agency’s human resources work and compliance with the state, so I do things like oversee our ePerformance reviews and manage a staff handbook we created a few years ago. I play a large role every other year with the agency’s state budget preparation process and every three years with the National Endowment for the Arts.  And I still help out a bit when I can with panel meetings and the online ARTIE grantmaking system that I spearheaded with Dia Foley, our investment office director, because I’m a bit of a techie. It’s a little bit of everything.

Q: When you’re not doing a little bit of everything at the OAC, what do you like to do?
Well, I spend a lot of time with my wife, Angela, and our three young daughters in Granville, Ohio. Granville is a really amazing and fun place to be. There’s lots to do, and the girls are at a rewarding and silly age. We have identical twins who are in third grade this year and a younger daughter in kindergarten. I try to get out to events when I can and volunteer some. Right now, I’m serving on a committee working on a community cultural plan, I’m volunteering on a parent group rebuilding a treasured 25-year-old community playground, and I’m leading my twins’ class project for an upcoming PTO auction.

Here and there I play guitar. I bike around town on my amazing Madsen bike with all three kids in back. And I try to figure out how to start that great American novel that’s kicking around in my head. My wife is equally busy. So, time is tight and it’s a long commute, but we laugh a lot and really love Granville.

Q: What are you most known for?
Boy, I don’t know. I think I’m known for my amusing emails about things in the office kitchen when they're in need of cleaning or TLC … that may have sort of become a thing? The sponge, the coffee maker … Sometimes I issue long, overly written emails from their perspective. (“Please help, I am but a humble kitchen sponge,” etc.)

I am probably known for being wordy overall and overanalyzing things. I definitely get “analysis-paralysis,” which is part of the reason, by the way, that Donna and I are a good team. She is decisive and action-oriented, where I’m more inclined to say, “hang on, we need to think about the plan to plan our decision-making process, let me make a spreadsheet, etc.” It’s a yin and yang thing.

Around town I was definitely known— extremely famous but only briefly— for winning a local morning radio show’s “funniest parody songwriting” contest a few years ago with a truly hilarious song about the hosts’ laser hair removal. I won a trip for two to Las Vegas and tickets to iHeartRadio’s music festival, which was awesome. But that’s another story.

Q: What does being a part of the OAC mean to you?
Well, it’s a really great place to be. I have lots of friends who work in the private sector and I’m sure they have rewarding jobs with fun perks, but the great thing about a place like the Ohio Arts Council is that it benefits things you care about. When we do a great job—are efficient and smart, work hard, think strategically—the benefits go to kids, teachers, artists, or folks from underserved areas hoping to experience the power of the arts as opposed to stockholders getting a few more cents in their stock shares next month. It’s a great place where the dividends pay off on a personal level and at the end of the day you feel that you were a part of something beneficial and positive.

I’ve been here long enough, I think I can say that now, to know that there have also been truly inspiring people who came before me who did great things— long-time director Wayne Lawson in particular. It’s also a privilege to be a part of that history and continue that line of leaders.

Q: What does art mean to you and how has your relationship with it evolved?
My background is in music, which will always be close to my heart. But I also write occasionally, paint once in a while, stuff like that. I think I’ll always be in the middle of a learning process to understand and appreciate all the shapes and sizes that creative expression can take.

It’s exciting to realize that there’s an ongoing national conversation about the words that we use to talk about the arts and creative expression. I think that’s great. Because I do think it’s easier to talk about the ways you’re creative or the ways that you express yourself than to talk about the way that you “make art” or the way that you do your “art thing.”

I guess what it means to me is it’s just a part of life, a part of who you are. I think when I was growing up I probably subdivided things into categories without really realizing that they’re all just ways that help us talk about who we are and what we’re about and where we’re going. The arts are just part of who we all are.

Photos courtesy of Dan Katona
Article by Kayla Draper, 2017-18  Social Media and Events Fellow



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