AerospaceHuman ResourcesArchitectureInnovationBanking & FinanceNonprofitsConstructionReal EstateEconomy RetailEducationSales & MarketingEnergyTechnologyGovernmentTransportationHealth Care
When Kim Baker first started her job as grant coordinator at the Oklahoma Arts Council, she felt like she was chained to the copy machine.
“It would take us three to four months just to copy the grant books,” she says with a laugh.
Now, nearly two decades later, the Arts Council uses a streamlined eGrant system, and she is calling the shots at the state agency responsible for funding and promoting arts and culture in the state.
Baker says she had little hesitation when asked to take over for the retiring Suzanne Tate.
“I’m really, really looking forward to the opportunity,” she says. “I’ve been part of this team for 18 years now. I feel like we’re ready to go, and this is a great staff and a great agency. I’m extremely saddened to see Suzanne leave. While it will be a change, a lot of it won’t be a change.”
Baker served as the deputy director at the council for the past four years, and moved into the top spot Nov. 1.
Council Chairwoman Kym Koch Thompson says hiring Baker ensures continuity for the council.
“In the past few years, under the leadership of Suzanne Tate, the Arts Council has done an excellent job of creating new programs and outreach efforts for artists and art agencies around the state,” Thompson says. “Kim Baker has been intricately involved in the creation and execution of these programs, and she has plans for a few new ones. So, I think her experience, combined with her penchant for creating new and much-needed programs, will give arts organizations some reassurance about the transition, as well as something to get excited about.”
Baker enters hew new role with few surprises. Her agency will continue to face funding shortfalls such as the most recent 21% overall cut from state and federal dollars.
“I think it’s tough for any state agency right now,” she says. “We’re all facing shortfalls in our budget. The Legislature is working very hard to try to find creative ways to help us get through that. It’s always tough when you look at what priorities you’re going to set, how you’re going to spread your services and programs.
“I think any time there is a situation like this that comes up, there’s always plenty of room for opportunities,” she says. “I think it helps us to dig deeper, to find those opportunities that are going to be either more efficient or more useful, or find partnerships out there that will help us expand our programs.”
Currently, the Oklahoma Arts Council is working with the Oklahoma City Police Department on a gang-prevention project.
“We are bringing the arts to these kids to help them have positive things to do rather than not-so-positive things,” Baker says. “We’re really looking at trying to expand those types of programs, not just in the metropolitan areas, but in the rural areas, too.”
During her tenure as deputy director, Baker helped the council develop the statewide Oklahoma Arts Conference, the Leadership Arts program, and create the agency’s eGrant system. She also helped manage policy development and human resources.
“I think because I have been here so long, what I anticipate doing is lead this agency in the direction it’s going,” she says. “We have worked very, very hard to develop our services, along with our grant programs, to develop a good cultural infrastructure in Oklahoma. I think that’s what makes Oklahoma such a great state and such a great place to live.”
Baker says a 2010 study showed the arts contribute more than $315 million to the state’s economy, as well as 10,000 fulltime positions.
“I think the arts and cultural industry here is probably bigger than a lot of people realize,” she says. “Not only is it economic dollars, but it’s quality of life.”
Photo by Shannon Cornman