Outgoing executive director Amy Kimberly will have three months of overlap with Jamie Abbott for a successful transition. Photo by Raleigh Burleigh

Beginning Oct. 1, longtime Roaring Fork Valley local Jamie Abbott will assume the illustrious role of Carbondale Arts executive director. Since the early ‘70s, Carbondale Arts, which began as the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities, has imbued the town with vibrancy by fostering creativity, collaboration, innovation and artistic exploration. The organization is responsible for many of the town’s signature events, for connecting artists with gallery and studio spaces, providing arts education for youth and more.

Chosen from a pool of “many qualified candidates,” according to the press release, Abbott grew up in Northern California and began visiting Colorado while working at a guest ranch in Southern Wyoming during a summer break from college. Almost every weekend she took trips to Colorado.

“I was obsessed!” she said. “I was like, oh my god, this is the place.”

She knew she would return and thought, “anywhere but Aspen.” But, as fate would have it, she was offered a job at a ski shop in Aspen in 1999, after completing her degree in environmental studies with an emphasis on art and history.

Abbott soon discovered the local nonprofit scene and found work with the Aspen Writers’ Foundation following a brief stint in New York City. While working for the Aspen Writers’ Foundation, which would eventually become Aspen Words, Abbott also sharpened her skills doing freelance work for Aspen Public Radio and the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.

She later became the director of Aspen Words, where her favorite part was “being able to somehow support artists, however possible.” She continued, “I take that really seriously, and I think it’s a really important thing to exist in a town to give it heart.”

Abbott hopes that her experiences in both large and small organizations will help Carbondale Arts in its next chapter. Having worked at the Red Brick Center in Aspen, she’s familiar with working in a gallery space that frequently sees kids and adults of all ages, “getting to connect with people of all socioeconomic levels, all interests, all levels of experience and skill… holding the space for them to do the thing they want to do the most.”

Recently, after 15 years with Aspen Words, Abbott has worked as development director for the Colorado Mountain College Foundation. “CMC does a lot of great work, and took me out of Aspen, finally,” she laughed. Working with the many CMC campuses has provided Abbott with experience and contacts in communities up and down and all around the Valley.

While those connections could spell new partnerships for Carbondale Arts, Abbott said, “I feel super strongly that my job for awhile is just to listen and sort of take in everything from the staff and the board and the community, and really hear what people feel like is working, what they want more of, what they want less of…” She continued, “There’s so much good here and I really want to continue that good and figure out how to build on that.”

Abbott now lives in Basalt and appreciates Carbondale’s unique character. “To me, Carbondale Arts is the heart of all the things I think of as ‘Carbondale,’” she said. “There’s so much joy and connection in everything happening. I’m excited to get to be a part of that.”

For her first few months, Abbott will share her new role with Amy Kimberly.

“It’s the right time and the right transition with the right person,” Kimberly told The Sopris Sun. “I can’t think of a better way to go out, feeling like all the things I’ve helped manifest through the years are in good hands.”

The community will have an opportunity to celebrate Kimberly’s 18 years with Carbondale Arts at the “Wham Blam Thank You Ma’am” gala and fashion pop up at Craft Coffee House on Sept. 10. (Tickets and more info at www.carbondalearts.com)

Even after stepping away from the executive director position at the end of this year, Kimberly will continue to work with Carbondale Arts directing the Green is the New Black Fashion Show, volunteering for Mountain Fair and staying engaged with the Carbondale Creative District. 

“This gal, she’ll have it down in no time,” assured Kimberly. Plus, “She’s got a great staff to help support her.”