After 26 years with the Workshop, Cathy Worner is to retire as Finance Director next month. We’ll miss her dearly. In this blog post, Cathy reflects on nonprofit career.

Diane Downing and Cathy Worner (L - R)

Train of thought from 1986 to 2012: 26 years of learning to appreciate arts education…. without realizing it.

Disclaimer and apologies:   Early dates and titles may not be “exact” –  time tends to blur the memory.

It began with…Diane David (my former post-college roommate) moving to Wales, and my taking over her bookkeeping duties for Performing Arts Workshop….in the spring of 1986.  I had three children (my first job) Rich-11, Betsy-9, Harrison-1.

Gloria Unti was the Founder/Artistic Director/Driving Force. My first Board Meeting was at Bea Krivetsky’s house.  Michael Cattuzzo was the Administrative Director.  Mary Weingarten was the Program Coordinator/Grantwriter.  Carla Sarvis was managing the Workplace Wellbeing Program.  Gary Draper, Nancy Wang Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo were the major part of the Artistic staff…. The office was at Fort Mason Bldg C, Rm 265.   The budget was $142,000….creeping up to $ 250,000 (which would make us eligible for a California Arts Council Grant).  We regularly got an Arts Education Fund Loan to cover expenses until School funding was received at years end.

In 1989 we lost Michael Cattuzzo to AIDS and Gloria went into emergency mode garnering a grant from the Haas Foundation for the executive transition.  The 90’s brought us Carla Sarvis as the Administrative Director.  Jeanne Milligan stepped up as Board President.  Gina Mackintosh was the Grant Writer.  Donald Ohlen (who taught my son at the Presidio Ave studio) was on the board.  We had to borrow from my husband to cover payroll taxes.  The first 10K run and Garage sales became part of the  fundraising plan.

The General Ledger was a Ledger – entries made in pen.  Gary became the Artistic Director.  Gloria was still the driving force.  Lemons from her lemon tree were one of our perks.  We got a computer.  Dave Sarvis, a true Renaissance Man, published On Stage in the Classroom ensuring that Gloria’s methodology would continue to enlighten artists as teachers.  “Critical Thinking” was the buzz word.  Peter Rothblatt, our future Board President, was an artist-in-residence.

Mid to late 90’s Gary Draper becomes Executive/Artistic Director…the decision maker behind the Youth Guidance Center Collaboration, which eventually led to hiring Tom DeCaigny as the Director of the Robeson Rivera Academy.  Nina Kwan is president of the board.

A whole new set of faces…Anne-E Wood, Emile Barbee, Katie  Heindel and (future board member) Garth Applegate join the Staff.  Francine Prophet becomes my mentor as the Board Treasurer.  Elena White is our Grant Writer.  Linda Belden brings her inimitable expertise to board development as well as fundraising.

Tom DeCaigny, former Executive Director and Gloria Unti, Founder

Y2K (remember that scare?)  brings change as Tom DeCaigny steps up as Executive Director, and brings the Workshop into the 21st Century with the successful bid for a U.S. Dept of Education Grant that set us on the path toward assessment and national recognition in the field of Arts Education.

Diane Downing is Board President.  Beyond my bookkeeping duties, I also am becoming aware of the value of Art as an important component of education simply by observing the passion, intelligence and commitment of my colleagues.  Jessica Mele, Anne Trickey and Nick Hutchinson add a whole new element of professionalism to the workshop.  We have our first Staff Retreat in Mill Valley with Olive Grove Consulting facilitating – the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship.

We’re bursting out of our office at Fort Mason, and because we have been so fiscally responsible, find ourselves with enough of a surplus to move to a new space at 1661 Tennessee St near the Bayview District.   With so much space to fill, and so much work to be done,  Karena Salmond, Mariel dela Paz and Devon Nandagiri join our staff.  Former Artist Peter Rothblatt becomes President of the Board and Ron Reitz is my new mentor.

Temporarily Restricted Net Assets becomes the new “buzz word” in Finance Committee Meetings with Jason McMillan, Karen Harris, Sajjad Masud and Ron.  Under Tom’s capable leadership we weather the downturn in the economy, and come into two more USDE Grants.

(L - R) Tom DeCaigny, former Executive Director, Gary Draper, Artistic Director, Gloria Unti, Founder, Jessica Mele, Executive Director

Staff changes – Nick, Devon and Mariel move on, and we are lucky enough to replace the irreplaceable with the amazing Brian Wiedenmeier, Aurora King, Beverly Mislang and Larry Jones.  Jessica Mele becomes Deputy Director and when Tom decides to explore new career possibilities (we all knew he would make us proud).  Jessica Mele is wisely chosen by the board to take over as Executive Director….an excellent choice.

Which brings us to the present – and my personal epiphany regarding Arts Education.  If you have remained with me through this time line – Thank You.  It has helped me realize that although I joined the workshop because it was a “a job” , it has serendipitously given me a whole new appreciation for Arts Education.

It has been a pure delight working with the smartest of the smart, and gives me great hope that my grandchildren (new first  job -grandmother) will be reaping the benefits of the advocacy efforts of my amazing colleagues on behalf of education – the arts in particular.  I can’t think of a better cause than that…. an essential element to our future.

Thank you to Gloria for beginning the process…and to everyone I have worked with over the past 26 years for carrying on – and making me a believer.

-Cathy Worner

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:

  1. Final Reflections and Thank You by Tom DeCaigny
  2. Honoring Dr. King’s Legacy: 5 Reasons Why I Volunteer by Cyrus Wadia, Board Vice President