When Joann Vaughan started school at the age of five, her father asked her, “Joann, what did you do for the good of the community today?” That’s a profound question for a five year old! Her parents were very taken with the Kennedy’s call to service, and modeled their beliefs. By asking her that question every day, they provided her with the impetus to take effective action for local nonprofits so she could say, “Here, Dad, this is what I did today.” Because of her family influence, service is deeply rooted within her, and it has guided the life choices she has made her entire life.
This is why Joann Vaughan is a woman of importance in the Annapolis art scene; not as an artist but as one of those people behind the scenes making it all happen, setting the stage for awareness, and creating the connections between artists and community in meaningful ways.
The Executive Director of Maryland Federation of Art (MFA), a non-profit organization, Joann is a dynamo and a visionary. She has been working diligently for a decade to build connections within the community, among artists, and between artists and art lovers, with great success.
Why is she so passionate about MFA and its mission? Her belief is that the more perspectives there are in the community, the better and stronger it becomes. MFA is a perfect platform to accomplish that goal. She loves supporting the arts in particular because it provides an opportunity to give creative people a voice.
I’ve known Joann for about nine years now, and I have watched her grow MFA from a 250 local member organization to what is now a nationwide membership of 700-plus – all on a shoestring budget. She has helped MFA clearly define its position in the art world, reaching out into professional and community organizations, artists, and gallerists to create relationships that support the expansion of community access to all genres of art – both traditional and non-mainstream. She works directly with artists; encouraging them to create new work and get it out in front of the public, and she works to connect art-lovers with art they might not even have been aware of.
MFA, which resides at Circle Gallery (18 State Circle, Annapolis), is one of the most accessible, friendly art organizations you’re bound to come across. Joann has set that tone; everyone is a friend, all questions are valuable and new ideas are always welcome. The staff loves working there; she upgraded the Gallery Manager position to a fellowship program, attracting college graduates to a position that provides them with a project focus while gaining experience before they move on to other notable jobs in their field.
It has been under Joann’s guidance that MFA has turned Paint Annapolis into a premier event for the area within four years. In addition, in the past six years, MFA has developed working relationships with the Annapolis Maritime Museum, Junior League of Annapolis, Lowe House of Delegates, Mitchell Gallery, Hospice of the Chesapeake, Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, and the University of Maryland. Pretty impressive!
Her service to the Annapolis community began earlier. Before coming to MFA, Joann founded the Annapolis Book Festival in 2003 and ran it for seven years. As you may know, it is still going strong, and is the only annually televised Annapolis event (BookTV). It is an enriching experience – if you haven’t been and you are a reader, I recommend it!
This year, Joann is a 2018 Annapolis YWCA TWIN Award Honoree for her contributions and service to the community. An honor she will wear well.
The personal Joann is equally as passionate and energetic as the professional Joann.
During this past hectic decade with MFA, she and her husband Bill have moved from a huge home in the St. Margaret’s area to downtown Annapolis, and had all four of their children marry and provide them with four grandchildren (and another on the way). During this time, she crisscrossed the country numerous times for kids and her parents.
Oh, and by the way – Joann is not an artist. She says she can’t draw a stick figure, but she loves art – contemporary in particular. Her home is filled with an incredible selection of art by regional artists and artist friends, and working daily among constantly rotating exhibits of new and sometimes unexpected art keeps her refreshed.
But I have to say, Joann is indeed a member of the arts community in her own right; she is a belly dancer. Just ask her to dance… she’ll be there! She’s performed at many community outdoor events and fairs. A few years ago, I had a group exhibit with five other artists and we asked Joann to perform during the opening reception, making it a very well rounded and well-attended opening! Watching the joy on her face as she dances reminds me of what being an artist truly is: finding your bliss.
I am one of Joann’s many friends, and I believe the Annapolis arts community – and Annapolis at large – is a better place because Joann is among us. Her beloved father recently passed, but he lives on in the amazing gift he gave to his daughter, and to Annapolis. Joann answers her father’s question every day. Thank you both!
Images courtesy of Patrice Drago and Joann Vaughan