Kansas City Artists Coalition Executive Director Janet Simpson this week announced her retirement after almost 30 years at the helm of the arts organization.
"You know, it's time," said Simpson. "I wanted to leave before my assistant director felt the need to move on to find her next challenge. So I just felt like it was a good time."
During her tenure at the Artists Coalition, Simpson logged 100,000 studio visits and edited and published three books. Simpson also curated nearly 600 exhibitions in the three gallery spaces, where she featured the work of an estimated 5,750 artists.
Simpson earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Kansas and a master's from Ohio University; both degrees are in painting. She has taught at the University of Kansas, Park University and area community colleges.
“We expect artists to be artists,” Simpson told KCUR in 2016 when the organization marked its 40th anniversary.
“We want them to pursue their career. If we give an exhibition to an artist, member or not, our expectation and hope is that they will continue their work, and that our commitment to them and our gift of our resources to them is of value and is something that will help promote their career.”
Over the decades, Simpson also served on a number of local, state and national committees and boards, including the Municipal Art Commission's One Percent for Art program and the National Association of Artists' Organizations board of directors.
Between 2000 and 2012, the Artists Coalition was awarded $150,450 from the Warhol Initiative, a program of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The organization was able to reboot its website and upgrade facilities for the International Artists Residency Program.
"Overall, I'm proud of the fact that, in my time here, not only have I promoted and supported local artists pretty aggressively," said Simpson, "but I've also been able to bring in significant shows of artists from other parts of the world."
Simpson plans to step down in early 2019. Assistant director Marissa Starke will stay on as executive director.
Starke, who has worked with the Artists Coalition since 2010, has launched a new gallery, Snap Space, for 18- to 35-year-old artists, and curated the Underground gallery, among other initiatives. Before starting with the organization, Starke served as program director at ARTichokes in Leawood, Kansas.
Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter at @lauraspencer.