Community Relations Manager
Meg Matko’s interest in artists and in arts and culture is personal — she’s a visual artist herself. “I know what it is to go to art school and graduate not knowing how to survive as an artist,” she remembers. And trying to figure out how to make a semblance of a living wage while also staying committed to her artwork wasn’t easy: “I’ve worked at a gas station and made art; I’ve worked as a landscaper and made art…,” she recalls with a rueful smile.
But as knotty as this problem was, Meg, who grew up in Chardon, Ohio, was committed to untangling it, because art-making and creativity are a fundamental part her life and have been since early on. “As a kid,” she says, “being able to express myself, to create something, felt really good.” She always had a knack for representing ideas and objects in two dimensions, a talent that deepened and expanded with practice over the years. At Kent State University, her academic concentration was in sculpture, and she honed her process, technique and concept into sculpturally based and performative work.
While in college, Meg worked as the art director for the Centerville Mills YMCA, where she crafted a summer-long art program for more than 200 children. She also used her creative abilities as a care provider for typically developing children and children with disabilities at the Summit County Board of MRDD. After graduating from Kent in 2006 with a bachelor’s in Fine Arts, she accepted the position of studio assistant for established Cleveland-area sculptor Ginna Brand, while continuing to make her own work. She was Brand’s first female studio assistant and helped Brand construct her large-scale, abstract wood pieces.
Meg’s struggle to be a working artist who could support herself, which necessarily included holding non-arts-related jobs, gave her a first-person understanding of our society’s “chronic undervaluing of artists,” she says. That’s part of what prompted her to “search for a job that would allow me to make a living in the arts.” In May 2013, she achieved that goal when she was hired by Arts Cleveland as an administrative assistant. Ironically, it was one of her non-arts jobs, working for several years at a court-reporting firm, that helped her land the Arts Cleveland gig: Her hybrid artistic and admin abilities made her just the person the organization needed.
Like the rest of the arts service organization’s staff members, Meg has multiple roles. Her position evolved from primarily administrative support to working more specifically on programs with a focus on individual artists.
Her current position of community relations manager is malleable, and it’s well suited to her curiosity and empathy toward the people who make up the arts and cultural community. She likes connecting with others, especially artists, who “face a lot of criticism, a lot of competition,” she says. “It’s my job to be a cheerleader for them — to make sure that they know what they’re doing is valuable.” Ultimately, she notes, “If we don’t have artists making art, we don’t have an arts community.”
Meg’s job still involves one-on-one contact with individual artists, as well as various kinds of community outreach. Over the years, she’s facilitated the Creative Workforce Fellowship program, guiding potential applicants and assisting some recipients through their fellowship year. She manages the Artist Spotlights on Creative Compass. (Creative Compass is Arts Cleveland’s off-shoot site dedicated to revenue development for artists and to connecting them with information, services, each other, organizations and support networks to develop lasting professional partnerships.) She’s counseled artists through direct technical assistance conversations and during Arts Cleveland’s Speak Up event, which she implemented. She co-managed the successful Creative Minds in Medicine Conference, and she’s assisted in organizing and executing the Arts and Culture Roundtable discussion series. Meg has also helped develop the new online version of the Artist as an Entrepreneur Institute, which is free to artists globally on ArtsCleveland.org.
Even with all of this output and several years at the organization behind her, Meg still marvels at the fact that she’s working in a job whose objectives are defined by, with and for other artists and arts-supportive people. “Arts are a core part of a healthy human society at the most basic level,” she says. “Art is a primary way humans connect to each other. It’s so much more than just aesthetics or things that are pleasing [to see or hear]. Imagine a city or a country without that creativity — there would be such a void.”
Contact: (216) 575-0331, x123 or Meg@artscleveland.org