An Off the Grid Duet

Wed, Jun 22, 2011

Cat Sheridan and Kareem Jackson

GenWex's Off the Grid party on April 30 raised more than $60,000 to support education programs for young people at the Wexner Center and also saw major increases in corporate sponsorship and overall ticket sales. We greatly appreciate the contributions and involvement of all our host committee members, other volunteers, and guests in realizing this success.

As a wrap-up for now and appetizer for next year, we would like to introduce you to two of the most important members of the team: Cat Sheridan and Kareem Jackson, co-chairs of the GenWex Advisory Committee, which planned the event. Here are some questions we put to Cat and Kareem to get them talking about their involvement with the Wexner Center. If you want to find out more about upcoming GenWex events and how to join Cat and Kareem as Gen Wex volunteers, email genwex@wexarts.org.

Nico Franano, Membership Manager
Chris Koenig, Corporate Giving Manager
Tim Fulton, Media Relations Producer

How did you find yourself in Columbus?

CS: I was born and raised on the east side of Columbus and went to college at Columbus College of Art & Design. Having firm roots in this city and seeing the exponential growth we've managed in the past 10 years, I have a vested interest in and determination to see that growth continue.

KJ: I found myself in Columbus in pursuit of higher education. I attended The Ohio State University. During my early years as a student I found myself exploring the city, trying my best to find a culture beyond campus. Underneath my nose from the part of Columbus I was trying to escape was Bernie's. I found myself connecting with the underground music scene that also seemed to flock to that venue. Meeting talented musicians and artists from the city forever shaped my thoughts about Columbus. After graduating I stayed to pursue my dream and opened up a clothing boutique called {milk bar} in the Short North.

When you're not volunteering at the Wex, what keeps you busy?

CS: I'm the Director of Continuing Education at Columbus College of Art & Design, so that gets my 9 to 5 hours (and then some). I'm a practicing artist and an enthusiastic Columbus arts and culture consumer and a member of and participant in several arts-minded groups: Columbus Arts Marketing Association, Ohio Art League, Creative Arts of Women, and ARTillery Ohio.

KJ: Work keeps me busy of course. Besides owning my own boutique I host a series of night-life events throughout the city. The two of the biggest events are Get Right & O-Gee. I am also a board member of the Ohio Art League, where I do most of my volunteering on the programming board.

What were some of your first impressions of the Wex?

CS: When I was a little girl I remember driving by the Wex with my father and wondering, “Are they going to finish that building or use it as a jungle-gym?” (Clearly I didn't comprehend the meaning of the exposed grid.) As a young adult, the Wex seemed intimidating in its stature as a “world-class” contemporary arts center, but with each visit I gained a sense of ownership—this is a part of “my” city—and an understanding of the magnitude of our good fortune in having it here. In the past five years I've developed a strong relationship with the center in a volunteer capacity and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to help out, and the relationships I've gained in the process.

KJ: I was awestruck by the architecture alone. I didn't know too much about the city I was moving to, and seeing the Wexner Center made me feel that Columbus had more to offer than I initially realized.

What are your favorite or most memorable experiences at the Wex?

CS: I am always impressed by the diversity in the Wex's programming from the exhibitions and films to the music and dance performances. Batsheva, the XX, and, more recently, Rude Mechs' The Method Gun and all of the current exhibitions, really caught me off guard and challenged me in a great way. I came to see Human Behavior, Double Sexus and The Tender Room, and I gave myself 45 minutes on the parking meter. Part way into the first gallery I put another hour on the meter.... I was absolutely spellbound! Tack onto that dancing my feet numb at Off the Grid, and you get just the tip of a massive jumble of favorite experiences with the Wex.

KJ: My first experience at the Wex will always be part of me. I was walking on campus and saw a few of my friends. They all were skate boarding and were extra excited. When I asked where the were going, they replied, “skating in the Wex”—which confused me, because I knew it was an art gallery. (That was during the Mood River exhibition in 2002, when an artist-designed skate bowl was set up in one of the galleries.) So, I went along. I explored the building, checking out the architecture, the art, and the store. The store really blew my mind because of the selection of books and high fashion jewelry from companies like Surface to Air. I finally made it to the skate bowl to skate with my friends for awhile. That experience was enough to make me come back and keep myself in the know for other exhibitions and events.

What's the GenWex Advisory Committee?

CS: The Wexner Center invited a group of young patrons to help shape and advise the Wex on how to tap into generation x y, z and help further develop a community of invested, arts-engaged young people. We have to cultivate the culture we're seeking, and the GenWex Advisory Committee is poised to help do precisely that in Columbus. We cut our teeth on the OTG party this year and knocked it out of the park with exponential growth and undeniable success! We managed to more than doubled the gross income, more than quadrupled the net profit, and added 346 people in attendance this year, and to put icing on the cake, we did it all for the kids! OTG is a fundraiser for the Wex's youth and family and outreach programs. I'm so glad to be a part of it!

KJ: The GenWex Advisory Committee is a group that consists of young and talented Columbusites, who will help shape the community within the Wex and beyond, whether in art, business, social causes, or other areas. The GenWex committee helps support the GenWex group by assisting or taking the lead in events and outreach and in spreading knowledge about the Wexner Center's programming. The committee is important because it will help shape the future of the Wex and quite possibly Columbus.

Can you talk about your experience in planning Off the Grid 2011?

CS: It was great fun! We had a huge team of people ready to do amazing things, so we organized and set ourselves to the task of making this year bigger and better, and we really delivered. I think a key component for the success was the team of volunteers (and of course the staff!). These are all people that understand the importance of the Wexner Center and the cultural vitality it supports in Columbus. I was surprised and delighted at how much freedom, support, and trust was placed in me as a co-chair. That was a fabulous motivator.

KJ: Planning for the party and working with the GenWex group was a great experience. The talents that the Wexner Center and the Advisory Committee combined helped make planning and realizing the event seem almost flawless. There were hiccups but nothing we could not handle. I would like to thank the Wexner Center for allowing me to take a leadership role with my co-chair Cat Sheridan. I could not have gained this experience with any other organization.

How can others get involved in the work you're doing?

CS: My first recommendation is grab a friend and go to the Wex! Whether it's an outdoor movie or the exhibitions, the Wex is a perfect conversation starter. Once you get the conversation started, don't stop, ask questions and find opportunities to be involved in ways that are most meaningful to you. We've stepped into an era where volunteerism has fallen out of the sight of the up-and-coming professionals as a gateway to building new networks and getting involved in their community. I've found volunteering in an organization you care about offers deeper connections, richer experiences, and can often open doors you never imagined.

KJ: Be involved. Be in the know. Never be afraid to ask questions. There is more than meets the eye at the Wex.

Have your perceptions of the Wex changed since becoming involved with GenWex and the Advisory Committee?

CS: I think my perception of the Wex is pretty solid and has been for a longtime: the Wex is awesome. What has changed is my approach to advocacy for not only the Wexner Center but arts and culture in Columbus in general: I am far more vocal and do my best to inform and motivate people about the great things we have happening right here, right now.

KJ: Tremendously. The amount of hard work, knowledge, and talent behind the Wex is unbelievable. My level of respect for this organization has grown exponentially.

What's up next for GenWex?

CS: Bigger, better, more.

KJ: The sky's the limit.

Pictured: Cat Sheridan and Kareem Jackson at Off the Grid, photo: Lisa Ragland. See more Off the Grid pictures.

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10 AM - 6 PM