The Flagstaff Arts Council recently named Jonathan Stone as its new executive director. Stone, who served as head of the Downtown Oregon City Association in Oregon City, Oregon, will begin work with the arts council this week.
The Arizona Daily Sun sat down with Stone to talk about his background, his hobbies and what he hopes to bring to the Flagstaff community.
Arizona Daily Sun: Tell us a little bit about yourself for our readers.
Stone: Well, to start off, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to join Flagstaff Arts Council as executive director starting on Monday, Jan. 14. I most recently served as executive director of Oregon’s largest Main Street organization, Downtown Oregon City Association, where I had the opportunity to work with a great team of volunteers and staff. Our efforts were recognized with the Great American Main Street Award in 2018, which is one of my proudest achievements.
Before moving to Oregon, I went to school and started my professional life in Boston. I still am a bit of an East Coaster, but I definitely enjoy the more laid-back lifestyle of the western states. Before settling in Boston for college, I lived in five different states. Moving frequently and family summer vacations have encouraged me to explore numerous countries and all corners of the U.S.
As you mentioned in the article last week, I began my career in architecture. I have a Bachelor of Architecture from Boston Architectural College and an MS-MBA from Boston University.
Personally, I’ve had various hobbies throughout my life. That being said, I most enjoy experiencing the creativity of others.
How do you feel your background in architecture might influence what you bring to the Flagstaff arts, culture and science community?
My background has two distinct phases that intersect at how people experience their community, homes and workplaces. I initially started my career in architecture. A large part of that was my training at Boston Architectural College as well as work on a diversity of projects in Boston and Baltimore. I left architecture to pursue graduate studies at Boston University. Looking back, what most excited me was solving complex problems to enrich the lives of people impacted by my work.
I was introduced to Main Street America, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in graduate school. I became enthralled by the idea that our main streets are and should be the civic and cultural hearts of our communities. At the time, my studies were focused on small businesses, marketing and nonprofit management. Historic business district revitalization seemed like a natural next step in my career which led me to Downtown Oregon City Association.
Architecture, which teaches design thinking, is at the foundation of everything that I do. The act of creating architecture is both art and science. And, the built environment is a major part of our cultural life.
Dorlee’s quote in last week’s newspaper talked about developing and maintaining a sense of place. I bring this mindset to the Flagstaff Arts Council.
What was it about Flagstaff that made you want to accept the position with the arts council?
I was first introduced to Flagstaff by my sister, who lives here, and fell in love with the community. We’ve been talking for a while about how nice it would be to live near each other. When I saw the arts council posting, I jumped at the opportunity. Flagstaff is a “little-big” town. It takes living life to the fullest seriously.
Do you see any challenges right now with regard to Flagstaff's arts, culture and science community?
Challenges are only opportunities. I have a lot to learn about the many different organizations and people that make up Flagstaff’s arts, culture and science community.
That being said, one of the primary reasons I accepted this position was because there is immense opportunity to further connect residents and visitors to enriching experiences. The Arts Council already has incredible partnerships. I look forward to working alongside the board to find creative ways to strengthen existing partnerships and introduce new ones.
Are you familiar with the arts council’s attempts to fund a new arts center? This is has been an ongoing effort that many in the community are anticipating. What can you tell us about that progress and what you'll bring to the table?
I am familiar with the feasibility study that was completed last year and the recommendations that the final report put forward. I’ve also read the press that effort received. I look forward to being brought up to speed on the initiative after I officially begin on the 14th.
Aside from working on the proposed new arts center, what are some other things you're looking forward to as you begin your position?
I’m looking forward to inserting myself into an organization that is made up of an incredibly genuine group of people. Everyone I have met so far has a passion for the work of the arts council and the community that they call home.
The Viola Awards are coming up fast on March 2, I am looking forward to working with the team to make sure that that event continues to be the party in Flagstaff.
Outside of the Arts Council and the Coconino Center for the Arts, where might people be able to find you? What do you enjoy outside of work?
I enjoy traveling, so sometimes you might have to look in far off places. Coming from Oregon, I definitely appreciate craft beer and look forward to exploring the culinary and craft beverage scene.
Outside of that, I’m looking to pick up a few hobbies again including potentially singing with one of the community vocal groups, if they will have me. My sister is a marathon runner, so I am hoping some of the Flagstaff athletic culture rubs off on me.
Is there anything else you'd like to mention?
The work of the Flagstaff Arts Council relies on the participation and generosity of the community. I encourage everyone that is reading this interview to visit www.flagartscouncil.org to learn more about the work of the organization and how to get involved.