Managing director Jubeck reflects on 22 years as VACI’s backbone


Lois Jubeck. Photo by Demetrius Freeman.

Elora Tocci | Staff Writer

When Lois Jubeck first came to Chautauqua to start her job as managing director of the visual arts programs, she spent the 13-hour car ride lying in the back of a station wagon.

She had given birth to her first child 10 days earlier, and she wasn’t feeling well. But her husband, artistic director Don Kimes, had to be at Chautauqua to start his job, so she loaded the baby into a car seat, the family’s belongings into a U-Haul and got in for the ride.

That was in 1989. Jubeck and her family still make the trek to Chautauqua from their Rockville, Md., home every summer, though Jubeck now sits up front. But her dedication to the Institution’s visual arts program has not wavered a bit over the past 22 years.

Jubeck had no arts background when she first took the job as managing director of the arts programs. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1976 with degrees in psychology and political science and went on to get an MBA from Fordham University in 1983. Her job immediately before managing director was at Citibank Headquarters in New York City, where she spent five years working as a project-product manager. She said her first few years at Chautauqua were difficult — she had to adjust to working at a nonprofit rather than a corporation and learn artists’ thought processes and how to work with artists, a departure from the lawyers and bankers with whom she was accustomed to working.

“I didn’t understand how artists thought, even though I’m married to one,” she said of Kimes, who is an artist and professor of art at American University.

But after the first few years, she found her groove and learned how to work within the art world. She said her assistants often do not come from an art background, and she recognizes when their ideas need to be tweaked.

“They’ll say something would work everywhere else, and I say, ‘Yes, but it won’t work here,’” Jubeck said. “A lot of times, we have to work out a different way to do or say or present something.”

And Jubeck has a lot to do, say and present. As managing director, she oversees the School of Art, the Strohl Art Center, Fowler-Kellogg Art Center and Melvin Johnson Sculpture Garden, the VACI lecture program that brings in two artist lecturers a week for seven weeks, the various Special Studies art classes, the budget and billing for the art programs and the comfort of art students and faculty. Over her 22 summers at Chautauqua, she’s helped 11,000 School of Art and Special Studies students through art programs here, as well as countless faculty members.

She said she develops close relationships with art students throughout the summer, and Kimes added that they truly respect her.

“One student this season called her ‘Mama Bear,’” he said.

That affection comes from the work Jubeck puts into making sure students have optimal experiences at Chautauqua. She said the nature of Chautauqua is difficult to explain to students, and many of them experience a bit of culture shock when they arrive at the beginning of the summer.

She stays tuned to students who need help adjusting and helps them figure out how to get acclimated to the grounds. She also troubleshoots the problems that inevitably arise at the beginning of the season, whether students have a problem getting to the grounds, a faculty member’s car breaks down or a piece of art for a show doesn’t come in on time.

“We go from zero to 60 at the beginning of the season, so things always come up,” she said.

The work Jubeck does makes the lives of everyone else involved with the arts here much easier, a fact that does not go unnoticed. Glenn Goldberg, a Queens College studio faculty member who also teaches at the School of Art, said she is responsible for many of the art program’s successes.

“She has done a huge amount behind the scenes for faculty and students alike,” he said. “Don is terrific in directing the School of Art, but without Lois, I am certain that the school would be a shadow of what it is today.”

When Jubeck first arrived at Chautauqua in 1989, the School of Art consisted mostly of high school students and Chautauquans who wanted to try out a Special Studies class. Now, the school attracts undergraduate and graduate students serious about art. Kimes said that Carole Robb, a New York Studio School painting professor and member of the School of Art faculty, called the program the strongest summer art program in America.

Jubeck also has been instrumental in improving the art galleries on the grounds. The move of the former Logan Galleries into the Fowler-Kellogg Art Center, as well as the construction of the Strohl Art Center, strengthened the overall visual arts programming at Chautauqua.

Jubeck has trained six different gallery directors in her tenure and works closely with each one to help them organize shows. She, Kimes and current galleries director Judy Barie keep in close contact throughout the off-season to plan and prepare for the next summer at Chautauqua. Jubeck stays on top of all the details involved in planning and preparing — when Kimes wonders aloud, “We’re meeting with Judy tomorrow, right?” Jubeck automatically replies, “That’s Monday.”

Jubeck is known throughout the art community on the grounds for these quick responses and her deep knowledge of everything arts-related.  But she also is known for always helping people who need it; she’s the go-to person when there’s a question.

When Lise Lemeland, an art professor at Alfred University and a former School of Art teacher, needed medical attention for her middle son, she was unsure where to go and called Jubeck on her cell phone.

“Of course she knew where to go and hooked me up right away,” Lemeland said.  “I always felt if there was anything I needed to know, Lois would be able to answer that question.”