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Arts Toolkit

Arts Toolkit: Drama

Kentuckians in Theater

Arts Administrator John S. Benjamin (deceased)
Frankfort, KY

John S. Benjamin

Who John Benjamin is director of arts education programs and theater specialist for the Kentucky Arts Council. He has more than 30 years of experience as a producer and director of more than 100 plays in professional and community theaters in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio and has also been a professional actor. He was executive director of the Chattanooga Performing Arts Center in Tennessee and has extensive experience in fund raising, audience development, budgeting, and arts education. Benjamin has served as a consultant to theaters around the country and has taught theater history and acting to college students.

What “My major focus is placing professional artists in schools around the state as artists-in-residence and helping teachers write grants. I also write the arts education portion of Arts Council grant proposals and administer all the different grants we receive. Anything related to theater that comes to the Kentucky Arts Council for any kind of program comes to me. I also do site visits to see how the artists’ residencies are going in the classroom.”

When “Our regular hours are 8:00 to 4:30, but there’s a great deal of overtime involved—evenings and weekends. There are not enough hours in the day to get everything done. We use ‘comp time’ [an equal amount of time off later on] to make up for that.”

Where “I work primarily in the Kentucky Arts Council office in Frankfort, and I also do site visits to see the artists-in-residence in schools throughout the state.”

How “I work with artists, teachers, and anybody who gets a grant from the Kentucky Arts Council. I have to be diplomatic. I draw on that skill frequently because I deal with a lot of unusual personalities. I have to be a good communicator—to articulate what I need to. And I have a lot of life experience with fund raising, grant writing, and work in theater. I’ve done it for 35 years.”

Why “A great deal of my job is working directly with artists, and I like artists. My favorite thing is to go into a classroom and see the artist-in-residence program working, see this succeeding, and see kids catch fire the way they can learning with the arts. We reach kids who haven’t been reached any other way. It’s happening every day. I would like to be able to serve more kids.”

Getting There “There are really fine arts administration programs out there in the colleges and universities now. And there’s nothing like practical experience. Get to know everything you possibly can about the business. It’s important to have an understanding, a feeling for the people you’re working with, and not just the nuts and bolts of the business. It’s a lifelong learning thing. You don’t get it all in college, and you don’t get it all doing it. You just learn new stuff all the time.”

600 Cooper Drive, Lexington, KY 40502 (859) 258-7000 (800) 432-0951