True & Sincere Friends: Meet Andy Fife!
Posted 04.08.2014

Vera is excited to introduce Andy Fife! As directed by the new strategic plan, Vera is making an investment in leadership capacity. The board spent several months early this year looking into options, including input from staff and membership. Vera settled on an Interim Director model to identify and implement the best way forward. The board then reached out to the regional community for recommendations and hired Andy, who will work with all key stakeholders for four months starting this week. Andy was the Executive Director of Shunpike, and currently works as an independent arts and non-profit consultant.


An Interview with Andy Fife
Vera Position: Interim Executive Director

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Vera: Where did you grow up and how was the underage music and arts scene there?

A: Thinking back, it was pretty great.  But I remember at the time feeling like there was so little to do, like all of the really good stuff was off limits.  Now I remember it being “pretty great” because we ended up making a lot of it for ourselves, inspiring a lot of my work and interests since then.

I was in high school in the early 90s in the suburbs outside of Chicago, which gave me access to a couple different music experiences. First, we had our scene out in the suburbs… a lot of local independent stuff that our friends put on, mostly in the basements of churches and community centers. We had our favorite DJs on the college radio stations in the area and a couple of really great shops selling amazing collections of used records (and tapes!). We made our own films on VHS cameras and recorded the soundtracks on 4-track recorders. We created little zines with copy machines at the library and drew the concert fliers with markers. It was a blast.

The other thing we had was Chicago, only a train-ride away. In that city, there is no end to the list of music and art to explore, and quite a lot available to all ages (Not that it stopped me from trying to get into the 21+ shows!). Once we took the train in to the city, we became cultural omnivores… jazz, blues, contemporary art museums, thrift stores, outdoor festivals, fringe theatre and block parties, along with the rock shows and clubs. I loved it so much I moved into Chicago later and lived there for years before the Seattle siren song got me.

Vera: Describe your interests in music and other forms of art growing up, and positions you’ve held and/or projects worked on prior to Vera…

A: Music, theatre and art have been the core of my life and work since high school. I grew up playing music myself, specifically trombone. I trained in jazz and classical from 2nd grade straight through college, playing in every kind of band, from musical theatre productions to symphony orchestras to touring ska and noise and funk bands. I also wrote and directed plays and worked as Assistant Director on major professional theatre productions in New York and Chicago.

Later I owned and managed a recording studio in Chicago and produced events, an example of my habit of starting new businesses and organizations. I founded or helped to found all of the following: an underground paper, a housing cooperative, two theatre companies, a dance company, an event production company and a recording studio. 

Since then, I’ve gotten involved in more advocacy, policy-making, and leadership—always with arts at the core. In general, I am committed to equity and social justice. And I believe that the arts are the best pathway to it. 

Vera: When and how did you first get involved with Vera?

A: Well, really this is it. I’ve been working in the arts in Seattle for almost 10 years, working at the now-gone Consolidated Works, for SIFF, for Shunpike, and now as an independent consultant with the city and other local arts organizations. In that time, I’ve had a lot of interaction with Vera and its staff but this is the first chance I’ve had to roll up my sleeves and get these paws dirty. Finally!

Vera: Describe what your work at Vera will be like…

A: Hard to say exactly just yet. In general, I specialize in helping arts organizations grow and develop. Typically, an Executive Director is hired by the Board of Directors and Membership to lead the staff and support the board as a group of ambassadors and advisers, working to align the daily operations with the long-term strategy and mission of the organization. With Vera, I’m only here for a short time and my first step is to figure out where best to put my energies in the next four months. 

My job is to reshuffle things so that Vera’s overall structure is stronger and more developed so that the job of the directors, the staff, the board, the members and the volunteers are all easier and better understood. Once I get a couple weeks in and have had a chance to talk to everyone and get a handle on the systems, I look forward to tweaking things and generally giving everyone at Vera more of what they need to succeed.

This is one of several projects I’m working on this year and each is different than the other, but across the board there is one value that I try to maintain…any good plan has to come from within. There’s no use in dropping in and scattering a bunch of generic management directions around at Vera. It’ll be much more effective if I figure out what Vera is already good at and build upon those strengths.

Vera: Do you have a favorite show and/or memory at Vera?

A: I saw Shellac in the 90s in Chicago. I saw Shellac in 2011 at Vera.  I love Shellac. I’ll see them again if Steve and the boys ever head back this way. Shellac!

Vera: What are you looking forward to working on in your new position?

A: Here’s a little sample of my geekness. I am really excited to help write Vera develop better policies for Human Resource management and governance.

Vera: What are you most likely doing when not at work?

A: There’s not much in the “not at work” category these days, but my work involves a lot of play. Specifically, a lot of plays, and shows, and exhibits and parties. Working and volunteering in arts, government agencies and nonprofits involves quite a lot of events, shows and fundraisers and I count myself as blessed to be able to seamlessly drift from work to play and back again several times in one evening. 

Oh, and sometimes I really like to ride my bicycle around without any destination in mind. That’s not work. At all.

List of Seattle favorites…

Neighborhood: 
Capitol Hill (there’s no place like home.)

Restaurant/Bar:
Smith

Venue (aside from Vera): 
The Croc or Washington Hall

Park: 
Cal Anderson

Artist (music or otherwise): 
I can’t choose one. That’s not fair. Right now I’m digging on Industrial Revelation and zoe | juniper

Record Store: 
Easy Street (RIP QA Branch)

Spot to dance: 
Anyplace directly over the center of the earth…

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