The following Q&A was shared with the Ohio Arts Council's e-newsletter audience as part of the agency's new "Meet the Staff" series.
Originally published on oac.ohio.gov on July 26, 2017. Interview by Kayla Draper
Get to know one of our newest team members, Amanda Etchison. She is the woman behind the stories that bring the message of the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) to the public.
A content creator and betta fish owner who cannot live without her planner, Amanda is using her journalistic writing experiences to detail the stories of artists and arts organizations throughout Ohio.
Q: What is your role at the OAC and how did your journey begin?
My official title is Communications Strategist at the Ohio Arts Council. I just graduated this past May from The Ohio State University (OSU) with two majors, journalism and Chinese. While I was working at The Lantern (OSU’s student newspaper), my first role that I had there was a feature writer for the Arts & Entertainment section. I got to speak to artists and musicians and other creative individuals both at Ohio State and in Columbus, and I loved it. I loved sharing their stories with people and trying to get the word out there about their work and how they create such amazing things. So, when it came time to look for jobs, I saw that this position blended my love of storytelling with my love of art and the passion I feel for sharing the work and accomplishments of others.
Q: At The Lantern, you were an Arts & Entertainment feature writer before becoming Editor-in-Chief. Have you always had a passion for art?
Well, I’ve always liked going to art galleries. I’ve always found (and I think a lot of people probably feel this way too) that it’s nice to know the stories behind what inspired someone to create something, how they created it, or just their training and how they got to this point in their career. I’ve always been interested in the backstories of why something was created. That’s always in the back of my mind when I go to galleries with my parents on vacation or go to the different galleries around town.
Q: Are you an artist?
I’m not an artist myself. I don’t draw or paint anything, and while I studied piano and French horn as a student, I wouldn’t call myself a professional musician. I’m always looking for new ways to express myself, but for most of my life, it’s been through written words. I have an appreciation for art, but I am not blessed with being able to create anything worthy of hanging in a gallery.
Q: Do you have a favorite artist or style?
I like art that draws from news, current topics of conversation, and things that are happening in the world. I think that comes from my journalism background. Whenever I can see that expressed in different ways, it’s fascinating to me.
Q: That leads to my next question: What does art mean to you?
I think art is words or actions. I think it’s a way to express ideas in a way that is intercultural, crossing boundaries and combining the groups in which we put ourselves. Art can speak to people in different ways, no matter what background they’re coming from. It can be either positive or negative in how it speaks to you; nevertheless, it will elicit some emotion and spark conversations. In a way, I think art is its own way of communicating information and ideas, but it also spurs further exploration of those ideas.
Q: Can you tell us about any major project you are currently working on?
I am hoping to write and share more features that profile the artists and organizations with whom we work. I want to narrate their journey, explain how they came into their art, and share their mission. I think hearing directly from the artists through blog posts, stories, or features is a way to positively engage our audience and help them better understand how the OAC impacts various communities throughout the state of Ohio. I hope it will also introduce readers to things they might not have known about, and connect them to people who they haven’t had the chance to meet in person. I hope it will spark that connection, creativity, or inspiration that they, too, can seek out resources and opportunities that will make their communities better.
Q: Working in an arts organization, what is your day-to-day routine like?
I am in charge of sharing the OAC’s message with the public each day. I put together media releases and story pitches for traditional sources of news like TV stations, radio stations, and newspapers in order to share the work of our constituents, grantees, and partners. I also have a hand in crafting the Council’s social media message. Like any other agency, the OAC is trying to embrace new technologies that establish a personal connection and share with people what we do each day. That emphasizes the importance of social media, working with blogs, or incorporating different ways of telling stories through videos or photo essays. But, most importantly, I am here to share the work that grant recipients do each day, as well as educate our audience about the impact of the arts in our communities.
Q: Speaking of embracing new technology, what’s your favorite social media platform?
Instagram. My Facebook is just my way to share photos because I feel like it’s easier. I’ll share photos on that because I’m always “the friend with the camera.” I always have the DSLR, so I’ll just post photos of friends and our adventures on Facebook. And my mom likes to be able to connect with me on Facebook.
But Instagram is my inspiration board. I like accounts from Japan, Toronto, and Columbus, and I use it to discover colorful and creative things. I can just log on throughout the day and it’s like a breath of fresh air, it’s so pretty and visually pleasing. It’s a way to explore, too. When I travel, I like to use it to find little coffee shops or boutiques whose atmospheres and missions speak to me. It’s fun to do that digitally. It’s a great platform for when I want to take a mental break and stumble upon something new.
Q: So, you use Instagram to stay inspired throughout the day?
Yes, many of the accounts that I follow are by artists, and, while I could never take photos like that, it’s just comforting to know that there are people out there who are supported through social media and who are doing what they love and sharing it. I think Instagram is one of the most positive social media platforms. It’s a way to connect to the world through images and shared experiences.
Q: What do you do when you’re not sharing stories and connecting the OAC with the public?
I am a soccer fan, so I’ll go to Columbus Crew SC home games and watch the U.S. national teams play. I was in Nashville a few weekends ago to watch one of the U.S. Men’s National Team games. Other than that, I love reading, dreaming up new nail art designs, and learning new languages. (My current project is self-teaching myself Norwegian.) I’ve been trying to pick up knitting as a stress-relieving hobby, and I’m always seeking to improve my culinary skills in the kitchen.