Craft Studio undergoes changes in leadership and structure

Former coordinator Kelsey Hammond: “I got to work with some of the funniest, most caring and passionate students at MU, and I consider myself incredibly lucky to still call so many of them my friends.”

Spools of thread are stacked on one of the desks in the Craft Studio on April 5. Craft Studio supervisor Laura Hacquard said Hammond helped to turn the studio into “something that felt vibrant and alive.”

In 2006, Kelsey Hammond moved to Columbia from Palo Alto, California, with a Master of Fine Arts degree, a background in small business and a passion for art. She was looking for a job and soon found the perfect one: Craft Studio coordinator at MU.

“I felt like the job description was written for me,” Hammond said in an email.

Laura Hacquard, Craft Studio supervisor and assistant director of the Women’s Center, agreed that Hammond was everything the studio needed.

“The Craft Studio coordinator is a unique position,” she said. “We were looking for someone who was a combination of an artist and a businessperson, and Kelsey was the perfect blend of both.”

Hammond’s first job after graduating from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco was in an independent bookstore, and she currently owns Yellow Dog Bookshop on Ninth Street with her husband, Joe Chevalier. They have two young children, and balancing her home life with two jobs was the most challenging part of being Craft Studio coordinator.

Deciding she wanted a change, Hammond stepped down from her position on Dec. 31, 2015. Special events and promotions adviser Amy Hay, who ran the studio alongside Hammond for nearly a decade, took over as interim coordinator in January. Hacquard said the studio is not currently searching for a new coordinator. Hammond still teaches at the studio, but she no longer works there full-time.

Hay first joined the studio in 2006 as well, when she was an undergraduate studying in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. When the previous Craft Studio coordinator left, some students, including Hay, ran the studio over the summer before Hammond was hired.

“I fell in love with the Craft Studio at that point and decided to stick around,” Hay said.

At the time, the studio was in bad financial shape and struggled to gain and keep student interest. Hammond and Hay said they revitalized the studio by running it like a small business.

“Two professional staff making the critical decisions about programming, budgeting and marketing got (the Craft Studio) back on its feet,” Hay said.

Hacquard said the studio grew into a welcoming, creative and inclusive environment under Hammond and Hay’s leadership.

“They turned the Craft Studio into something that felt vibrant and alive, and a place where a really diverse population of folks wanted to go,” Hacquard said. “It was a fluid environment, changing and meeting the needs of the students and the campus community.”

Hammond said she misses working with Hay, who misses her as well.

“The biggest struggle for me right now is not having Kelsey there after almost 10 years together, working many, many hours a day,” Hay said. “We were an amazing team.”

Hacquard agreed that Hay and Hammond worked well together. She said their strengths and skills complemented each other and that their partnership made the transition of leadership seamless when Hammond left.

Hammond’s departure is not the only leadership change the Craft Studio is undergoing. Until recently, two full-time staff members and one graduate assistant ran the studio. After Hay became the only full-time staffer, the studio hired a second graduate assistant, which cut costs by about $24,000. Additionally, Hay wants to shift the studio’s management paradigm by giving students more leadership opportunities. Training college students to run a small business is a challenge, she said, because of their youth and lack of experience, but she hopes to use what the students are learning in class, regardless of major, to teach them business skills.

“Marketing is all about telling a story,” Hay said. “You create a story out of the Craft Studio and then you tell that story to your friends, peers and classmates and get them excited about (it).”

Hammond said her passion for art comes from its ability to expose students to a wide variety of thought and experiences. She hopes that the studio has taught students the importance of perseverance and self-care. One of the purposes of college, she said, is to be curious and try new things.

Hay said that while trying new things might or might not lead to success, this is a necessary part of the learning process. The studio is a place where students can learn, grow and play without fear of judgment, she said.

“Playing, in my opinion, is one of the most important tools for human development,” Hay said. “(It’s important to) sit down and play without any stress of having to perform, do everything right every time and follow a set of rules.”

Hay said many students are involved with the Craft Studio from their freshman year until graduation. These student workers comprise Hammond’s favorite memories of the Craft Studio.

“I got to work with some of the funniest, most caring and passionate students at MU, and I consider myself incredibly lucky to still call so many of them my friends,” she said.

Edited by Waverly Colville | wcolville@themaneater.com

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