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Putting Passion To Work 

Arts Central board member Brenda Komar rolls up her sleeves

Seven years ago, Brenda Komar moved from the Bay Area to Bend. Within a month, she was volunteering at Arts Central. "Suddenly," says the marketing executive, "I was on the marketing committee." Komar is the co-founder of Tricycle Creative, a local ad and branding agency.

Sitting at Backporch Coffee, Komar speaks frankly and passionately about making sure that arts remain in schools, one of Arts Central's primary concerns. She has a son in kindergarten and emphasizes how important arts—and getting one's hands dirty with paints and creativity—are for helping develop creative and critical thinking skills.

She hastens to add that many schools in Central Oregon have trimmed back or cut art programs—and points out how important Arts Central's program are to fill in those gaps; in particular, Van Go, Arts Central's wryly named mobile art studio that delivers instructors and supplies to rural schools.

But in spite of all the programming Arts Central does for elementary schools, Komar also stresses that the organization should not be pigeonholed, and that it provides plenty of programs—from painting to pottery—for all ages.

"Arts are really, really important for thriving communities," she asserts.

As a member of the board of directors, Komar is responsible for overseeing the general direction and proper fiscal management of the organization. The relationship between the executive director and board of directors is a give-and-take relationship each nonprofit enjoys—or, struggles with. Technically, the board of directors are the executive director's supervisor, as well as the organization's brain trust. Some boards are docile; others are feisty.

"It is a really smart board," Komar says, referring to Arts Central's current 11 member board of directors. She continues, "no one is afraid to ask questions. It is not a rubber stamp board. People ask a lot of questions."

"I've been on other boards where it is more about having your name on the letterhead," she continues. "This is really a working board. Everyone rolls up their sleeves and helps out, which I appreciate because we have such a small staff."

Each board of directors varies in size and composition—and what is expected of them. Arts Central is active, meeting once a month, and, in addition, each board member is expected to serve on two committees and to provide financial contributions to the organization. "We're passionate, engaged," explains Komar. "But," she adds, "we also knows when to get out of the staff's way."

Komar first served on a board of directors while living in the Bay Area. Impressed by their concern for social issues, she volunteered for the Silicon Valley YWCA—and soon was asked to join the board where she served for six years, including three as the board president.

For anyone interested in getting involved with a nonprofit board of directors, Komar recommends a similar path: "The first thing is to find your passion," she explains. "There are so many wonderful nonprofits out there. If health is your passion, find that. If arts, find something that focuses on that. Then try to join a committee. It is a great way to roll up your sleeves and learn more about the organization. It is a great way to get a great education before you make the bigger commitment."

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