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home : local news : local news
March 19, 2018

3/9/2018 3:36:00 PM
Markay welcomes new Director of Operations
The area’s artistic community now has one of its own at the helm of the Markay Cultural Arts Center, located at 265 E. Main St., Jackson. Carma Baker officially took over as the new Director of Operations on Monday, Feb. 26.

The area’s artistic community now has one of its own at the helm of the Markay Cultural Arts Center, located at 265 E. Main St., Jackson. Carma Baker officially took over as the new Director of Operations on Monday, Feb. 26.

Associate Editor

Jackson's own gem, the Markay Cultural Arts Center, is now under new leadership as Pike County resident Carma Baker has taken the helm as the new Director of Operations.

Born and raised in Waverly and a graduate of Waverly High School where she studied photography and photojournalism, Baker attended Shawnee State University studying computer-aided drafting and design. After earning her Associate's degree in 1993, Baker then spent the next 10 years working toward obtaining her Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts while also working full-time at the uranium enrichment plant in Piketon.

For nearly 17 years, Baker worked at the atomic plant for Lockheed Martin, USEC and the Centrus Energy Corp. through three layoffs. After the most recent layoff in March 2016, she decided to follow her dream and focus on a career in the arts.

In the past three years, Baker has started her own eCommerce arts collective, worked as an adjunct college professor and a continuing education teacher, a photographer, a marketing associate, and as a branding and retail manager. Additionally, she is currently the President of the Pike Arts Guild, which is a non-profit organization to which Baker has dedicated 15 years of service, and is the former Vice President of the Chillicothe Art League.

Baker officially took the position of Markay Director of Operations on Monday, Feb. 26. She told The Telegram that she discovered the position was available through a friend of hers, who is also a part of the Chillicothe Art League, via a message on Facebook.

"This type of job is few and far between," Baker said. "Something that has to do with the arts in a non-profit way that's as large as what this is, typically they're volunteer positions, not salaried positions."

Thus far, since posting the news of her new job on social media, Baker said the single-most common comment she has received is that this position is "right up her alley."

Though she has just gotten started in her new role, Baker already has a number of ideas she would like to bring to the Markay. First, she stated she would like to implement more programming and different varieties of programming aside from just music, though she is an admitted music-lover. Specifically, Baker said she hopes to host more extended events such as an opry; Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) Talks; murder mysteries; and other types of interactive theater.

With regard to the gallery, Baker also expressed her interest in expanding that area into at least a portion of what is now the office/board room of the facility.

In doing this, she said two different art shows could be held at the same time, which would increase foot traffic.

What she considers to be one of her biggest aspirations involves a focus on industrial arts, which Baker describes as a "very underappreciated part of art."

"With manufacturing dwindling, I feel it's important to spotlight what we do have," she said.

One idea Baker has is to focus on the bas reliefs in the theater, which depict industry pertinent to the area through the years. She also mentioned doing a show with the Speyside Bourbon Cooperage, inviting the workers and management personnel to display the raw materials involved in the bourbon barrel-making process from start to finish. This show, Baker said, would likewise include a bit of history about cooperages and bourbon as well.

"I want the workers to come to see that we appreciate what they do," Baker told The Telegram. "And I want management to come to know that, while we're always asking them to support us, we also want to give that support back to them."

In that same realm, Baker also mentioned partnering with businesses like OSCO Industries to highlight such Jackson staples as pig iron-making, and returning to the roots of the Apple Festival by providing samples and background information of the various types of apples in the area. Projects such as these, Baker said, are more closely in tune with what the Markay is meant to be.

"Instead of just being a fine art gallery, you're a cultural haven; you're spotlighting more than just the visual arts," she explained.

However, being a visual artist herself, projects like these would be in addition to visual art endeavors. One major reason for wanting to expand the site's gallery, according to Baker, is to be able to start hosting industrial art shows while also maintaining the fine arts aspect of the gallery at the same time.

Baker explained she has at least known about the Markay and the Southern Hills Arts Council for some time, having met former longtime Director and renovation project spearhead Barbara Summers about a decade ago. It's Summers' dream come true that is now Baker's blank canvas.

"I can come in and build on what's already here and make it my own to some extent," she said. "I don't know if people in the community recognize how wonderful the facilities are here. They're amazing. I would like to get the word out and get people in here so they can say, 'Wow, this was here all along and I didn't know it'."

In addition to the previously-mentioned ideas, Baker went even further, describing an event dubbed a "sensory serenade" which used to be an undertaking of the Chillicothe Art League. This, she explained, involves music, a person reading poetry and a couple of visual artists that pick out either one of the pieces of poetry and/or music and create on the spot a piece of art that ties into the other art form.

Similarly, Baker stated she would like whatever is going on performance-wise at the Markay at a given time to complement whatever happens to be going on in the gallery. As an example, Baker pointed to an area photographer whose wife is a concert pianist. She said the gallery could feature his works while the theater could host the musical performance.

Despite the fact that there are always more ideas than time in which to see those ideas to fruition, one thing Baker said Jackson is not wanting for is community support.

"The death nail in the coffin for any arts organization is nobody caring," she said. "Luckily, you don't have that here. Having not been involved in Jackson County very much, the City of Jackson, at least so far in my week-and-a-half experience, is incredibly committed to the community. That's so refreshing to find a group of people that really support each other."

Baker still resides in Waverly along with her husband, Darren, who is a professor of Fine Arts at Ohio University-Chillicothe. The couple has three children, Gwen (20), Livia (14) and Wyeth (10). Aside from her new role at the Markay, Baker also enjoys such things as gardening, ceramics, print-making, creative writing, food and documentary photography, just to name a few.

As Baker put it, describing her many passions, "I have many faces and most of them are silly."

Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, March 10, 2018
Article comment by: Barbara Summers

Phillip - outstanding job - thanks for such a great introduction of Carma to the community!!

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