This month, we sit down with Sid Ellis, Executive Director of the Black Arts & Cultural Center (BACC), and talk about his career path, his passion for theatre arts, and his love for Kalamazoo.
Tell us how you got to where you are today
I have been doing Community Theater for over 20 years: directing, acting and writing; and was a professional actor with a group called “The Mad Hatters.” I have performed professional storytelling and puppetry for 15 years. I also served as Video Director for Christian Life Center for 12 years and have been a producer at the Public Media Network for over 20 years. I received my BA in Business Management from Spring Arbor University in 2007. The BA degree and my experience in the community enabled me to get the position at BACC.
What do you most love about the Kalamazoo community?
First, it’s the opportunity in the arts and the showcasing of the variety of fine and performance arts in the community. I also love downtown Kalamazoo, especially in the spring & summer when it’s so alive with activity. Top it off with the events that happen at WMU and K College.
What guides or principles do you rely most upon?
I am a servant leader and I love working with people in the community who are making a difference whether it’s in the arts or for social reasons. I love helping people accomplish their goals, especially in the arts.
Who was one of your mentors and what do you carry with you from that relationship?
Pastor Joel Brooks, Jr. has been a great mentor for me and he strongly encouraged me to write my ideas and goals down. He said, it will not start happening in you if you don’t write it down, and he was right.
What are the types of challenges/opportunities that keep you up at night?
Developing youth programs for middle and high school age youth has been a challenge. Sometimes we are able to collaborate with other organizations, yet the students usually come on a drop-in basis and are not consistent enough to generate a solid program.
How do you stay up-to-date on latest trends in your field?
Since our events and programs are so diverse, it is hard to stay up-to-date. Plus, as the only paid staff member, I’m involved in all aspects of the organization including: grant writing, fund development, program development and implementation, and handling the day to day office responsibilities. So, I utilize ONEplace and its opportunities and information. I also try to review other organizations’ information on the internet. Facebook has been a big help in getting information.
What advice do you have for those wishing to have a long lasting career in the nonprofit sector?
Build relationships and collaborations. Make sure the collaborations are a win-win situation and not just you helping someone else; make sure your organization is going to gain something from it. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel but do improve on it. A lot of times there are organizations already doing what you are doing; find out how you can work together.
What do you geek?
Acting, directing, storytelling and puppetry.