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Ohio Arts Council Executive Director Donna S. Collins and Artist Programs and Percent for Art Director Ken Emerick

It’s More Than a Red Line This Time!

I have some bittersweet news to share this month. There’s a new date circled in red on the calendar —and it’s already almost here. The Ohio Arts Council’s most tenured employee, our Artist Programs and Percent for Art Director Ken Emerick, will retire in December and leave public service after a very successful 35-year career. Ken has given a lifetime of labor to artists, cultural and educational organizations, and his colleagues throughout Ohio and we salute his outstanding contributions! Ken embraces the agency’s principals of leadership, engagement, investment, and innovation. He is a mentor and cheerleader encouraging all of us to do our best.

During my tenure here at the Ohio Arts Council, just about five years now, I learned quickly that Ken is our historian. He has a strong memory and solid recall of what works, what doesn’t, and what it means to give space to new people and ideas. His institutional knowledge of our agency has added immeasurable value to our recent modernization efforts. He’s the type of person who can save you from yourself and rework your ideas into something greater.

For all his talents, Ken would be the first to tell you that he’s not known for having savvy tech skills. First and foremost, he has an aversion to an electronic calendar. Ken has a large spiral bound paper calendar where he records meetings, conference calls, events, and his friends’ and colleagues’ birthdays and anniversaries. Just two years ago we talked him into using a laptop, and he’s done a great job adapting. To encourage him, we applaud when he brings his laptop to a meeting—instead of his legal pad, calendar, and blue pen (but as you might guess, he likes his paper-and-pen backups!)

When Ken visited me to talk about his retirement and final days at the agency it felt a bit like “breaking up” with someone you really like—even though you know it’s time for something/someone new. Ken’s priorities at the OAC, for more than three decades, have been artists, the arts, public service, and leadership, encouraging everyone he meets to have the best life, the best art, and the best arts experience. And now, with the big red circle on the calendar, Ken is prioritizing with his own future in mind.

Ken is fortunately young enough to have a whole new life after retirement. If you know him like I do—and some of you have known Ken for more than 30 years—you know that he is an avid learner, an explorer, a giver, and a lover of the arts. Ken tells me he’s considering a few university classes, maybe even exploring the opportunity to earn an additional degree. (Otterbein colleagues—now’s your chance to reel in a new alumnus!) Ken said that he intends to read more and visit galleries and museums anytime he wants—as if he doesn’t already visit a dozen different galleries every few weeks! Ken has a plan, and we’re excited for him and his new adventures.

During our “break up” meeting, I’m proud to report that I didn’t cry (but I wanted to). I didn’t ask Ken to reconsider (well, yes, I did, and I give him credit for thinking about it before he gracefully declined).

Some of you are in shock— thinking about what you will do without Ken. You aren’t alone, I’m thinking the same thing! Ken will be missed, and you can be assured that he’ll never be forgotten.

Ken’s last day in the office is Dec. 14—if you’d like to drop him an email ( or a note of congratulations (Ohio Arts Council, 30 East Broad Street, 33rd floor, Columbus, OH 43215) please feel free to do so. And, if you want to see him before his time at the OAC concludes, you are welcome to call and schedule a time to visit (614-728-4421).

Congratulations, Ken Emerick— we wish you well and know that the arts will always be part of your DNA—regardless of your title— soon-to-be OAC Artist Programs and Percent for Art Director Retiree!

Until next time,

Donna Collins' signature

Donna S. Collins
Executive Director

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