Executive Director Sunni Fass looks back at her first five months in the land of Lotus. . . .
It’s been an amazing spring. Most people think of our fall events when they think of Lotus, and I’ve heard a lot of “well, what do you at the office for rest of the year?” questions. . . . and I’m here to tell you, the answer is “a lot!” I’ve only been sitting in the Executive Director’s chair for about 5 months now, but Lotus HQ has been a non-stop hive of activity the entire time.
First up was Lotus Blossoms, our world-class arts education program that sends teaching artists from around the world into local schools. Although I’ve been connected with Lotus in some capacity since 2001, my involvement had always been in the fall – so I was aware of “Blossoms” but had never really been in the thick of it before this year. Did you know that Blossoms started 19 years ago? Neither did I. In that time, Lotus Blossoms has featured artists from 26 different countries, and the program has grown into an expansive outreach network involving K-12 schools in a five-county area, a host of social-service agency partners; public performances and demonstrations; on-campus workshops; and a two-day multicultural extravaganza known as the “World Bazaar”. Wow!
It was a treat to watch all of these moving parts come together this year under the able and tireless leadership of Outreach Director Loraine Martin, as well as an army of incredibly dedicated volunteers. The highlight for me was attending my first-ever Lotus Blossoms World Bazaar. With more than 35 hands-on activity stations and hundreds of 4th-graders bussed in from 17 schools around Monroe County, it was an atmosphere of joyous discovery, a sensory world feast, and, as one staff member put it, “controlled chaos” where children can be self-directed and in charge of their own learning. I loved it – I had a smile on my face all day, and I would heartily encourage everyone to come experience it next year…even if you don’t have kids.
Spring is also grant-writing season, and while Blossoms swirled around us, Development Director Kristin Varella was hard at work submitting applications for the many grants that Lotus depends on for annual support. At the same time, Kristin and our GAs and the rest of the office staff were also laying the preparations for Edible Lotus, our biggest fundraising event of the year. Donated silent-auction items arrived daily, promotional materials were designed and distributed, and our local restaurant partners planned menus for their food donations. When the evening arrived, another army of incredible volunteers set everything up, served food all evening, tallied auction bids, cleaned up, and went home exhausted but energized by helping Lotus raise critical funds to support this year’s Blossoms and Festival programming. I’m STILL dreaming about the Bloomingfoods cheese table (and those chevre-pancetta-pear tarts), and looking forward to more conversations with all of the passionate friends and fans of Lotus I met that night.
Thanks to you all for your support, and I look forward to diving into my first full festival season as Lotus’s executive director!
Photo captions, from top: Sunni and Lotus Artistic Director Lee Williams at this year’s Lotus Blossoms World Bazaar; activity table at the Bazaar; Sunni talks Lotus to guests at Edible Lotus earlier this month, photo by Garrett J. Poortinga, Green Hat Photography.