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Spotlight: Abby Ballain spreads her love for the arts in the Corridor

BY MAGGIE CUNNINGHAM | FEBRUARY 01, 2011 7:10 AM

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Abby Ballain is the star of the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance’s one-woman show.

As the Corridor Alliance’s only employee, Ballain, 27, has gone above and beyond the requirements of her position as executive director and connected the arts and culture of the Corridor area with the community.

The alliance is a nonprofit organization that promotes varied cultural activities of its partners to ensure that the community has access to many opportunities. The 152 organizations include large institutions such as the UI School of Art and Art History and the Bijou, as well as individual artists.

“Abby took the reins of the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance on Aug. 1 and immediately affected the 150-plus member organization by her positive energy and prowess,” said Marcia Hughes, the president of the Cultural Corridor Board. “She has set our organization and, by extension, each of our partner organizations on an exciting path for future growth.”

With 152 partners, Ballain never has a typical day. From morning until late afternoon she ensures each partner is making use of the 10 specifically laid out opportunities that come with being a partner — which includes visibility on www.culturalcorridor.org and exposure in her monthly column in the Corridor Business Journal, the Gazette’s Hoopla publication, and City Revealed.

In addition to ensuring each group benefits from its partnership with the Corridor Alliance, Ballain’s responsibilities include fiscal management, marketing, member development, and advocacy.

“Part of my position is to promote the activities of our partner organizations,” she said “And I don’t feel I can effectively promote them without meeting one-to-one and letting them know who I am and what I stand for and learning more about what they do.”

Her interest in arts and culture is not something she took on as part of the job description; it is something she has always enjoyed.

Despite having completed 10 years of dance, 11 years of piano, and eight years of the flute, Ballain modestly refers to herself as a vocalist. She has been singing since she was in sixth grade.

“When I was growing up, trying to determine what I wanted to do, people would always ask me are you going to be a music teacher or are you going to be a performing vocalist?” she said. “Neither of those really interested me.”

She took an interest in business to Luther College, in Decorah, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in arts management and minors in economics and music.

After working in Madison, Wis., for a few years, Ballain went to graduate school and finished her education with an M.B.A. in arts administration from Wisconsin’s Bolz Center for Arts Administration.

“When I learned of the [Corridor Alliance] position, I thought that the description fit my professional background, education, and personality very well,” she said.

Out of 50 other applicants, her educational background, commitment, and creativity qualified her for the position. And her organizational, communication, and human-relation skills made her an obvious choice.

“Based on her first months of work, it is quite clear that she possesses a work ethic that inspires her not only to meet but to exceed the requirements of the job description,” Hughes said. “As board president, I could not be prouder of this hiring or this individual.”


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