Kristi Jilson Sykes has worked as the Executive Director of Westobou since joining the team in 2014. After just under a decade of overseeing all that Westobou does both in front of and behind closed doors, including strategizing, operating, financing, fundraising, curating, and much much more, Kristi and her family made the tough decision to start their next chapter in Charlotte, NC where they will be closer to her family and her husband’s new job.
Before Westobou, Kristi attended SCAD, where she obtained her degree in 2007. Following graduation, while still in Savannah, GA, she worked in various management roles for the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). She also co-founded an artist co-op and served on multiple boards and committees.
In Augusta, Kristi along with Westobou staff, was able to host a number of incredible exhibitions in their gallery space, create The Annex studio space for artists, an artist in residence program with the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art, the creation of the Westobou Micro Gallery, and most recently the implementation of an Authentic Augusta Experience: The Curated Palette. Her numerous achievements as Executive Director are most appreciated by the arts community that she supported through her hard work and dedication.
We asked Kristi what take aways she has after working with Westobou and what some of her favorite experiences were.
I have so many favorite shows and events, but I have an experience from my first year that I think back to often. It just stuck with me as this “woah – this is really cool and I’m going to see and do so many cool things in this role” kind of moment. In 2014 (my first festival), we had to move the Amos Lee and Allen Stone show from the Old Parade Grounds to the James Brown Area and I was coming into the area to check on things and there was Allen Stone on a skateboard talking the SHARON JONES. I hadn’t met Sharon yet, but I knew she was a force. They were friends! It felt like approval in someway – that Allen Stone was a good choice. Look at him now, he’s been here again since that first show and now is on tour with Chris Stapleton.
We move to Charlotte at the beginning of September and we are so excited to be close to family. I plan to hit the ground running making contacts, having coffee, visiting artist studios, attending shows and learning as much as I can about the arts in the Charlotte area. I’ll be doing some consulting initially while we get settled. I’m excited to see where I land as my network and understanding of the Charlotte arts landscape expands.
Executive Director, Brenda Durant, reflects on her experience working with Kristi:
When I heard Kristi was leaving Westobou and Augusta I picked up the phone and called her. Good news for Kristi sad news for Augusta. Kristi’s husband was offered a great job very close to Kristi’s parents. When the Universe makes an offer like that- you really need to accept.
Kristi was a breath of fresh air for Westobou and Augusta. She brought gallery experience and contacts from SCAD that helped shape the Westobou Gallery. Kristi is innovative and organized; I loved working on projects like Leadership Augusta Arts Day as she kept us on track with great ideas for each year.
We loved having the Westobou Ferris Wheel at Arts in the Heart, I loved rocking over Broad Street, (begging Ed not to swing to much) and enjoying a birds Eye View of our Festival.
Kristi is leaving Matt Porter with a strong foundation. Thank you Kristi for what you brought to Augusta.
While we here at the Arts Council are sad to see such an amazing player leave our city, we are excited to see what Kristi does next. Whatever it may be, Kristi Jilson Sykes will use her creativity to grow it in great ways, as she did with Westobou. Charlotte, NC is lucky to have a new bright star.