Skinner recognized for work in arts

Published 2:02 am Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Tuscaloosa News recently included Andalusia native Exa Johnston Skinner in its list of “40 under 40” people who make a difference in the community. Skinner was recognized  for her work with the Kentuck Art Center.

Skinner said she found the arts when she began studying ballet as a 3-year-old.

“I started taking ballet in Andalusia when I was three and did that until about seventh grade,” Skinner said. “I eventually starting taking ballet again when I was in college, but I really only did it in Andalusia. I also took art classes with Connie Nall in Andalusia and my grandmother was also an artist so I was always just around the arts as a young child.”

Skinner was recently promoted to director of operations at the Kentuck Art Center in Tuscaloosa and she said that the best part of her job is engaging with the community.

“Kentuck’s mission is to perpetuate the arts, engage the community and empower the artist,” Skinner said. “It is really the engaging the community part that I love the most. We are the bridge between artists and the community. So, while we are also making sure that our community members are aware of the arts and feeling like they are apart of that world, we are also bringing people to the artists to buy their art so they can continue making a living.

“Another thing that I do is work one-on-one with the different artists by helping them apply to festivals and things like that,” she said. “I really enjoy that as well.”

The most challenging part of her job, but also fun part, is dealing with the diversity of people that come through the gallery, Skinner said.

“You deal with people from so many different backgrounds,” Skinner said. “I mean, you have artists, who sometimes are a little out there, then you have collectors, who are willing to spend some money on artwork but they are coming from a very different background than some of your artists, then we also deal with legislators, politicians and cooperate sponsors, so it is just the full realm of people. Something that I’ve learned from working with our executive director here is that everything you do is about your relationships that you make with people and no matter where people are coming from, people are people.”

Since she was recently promoted to director of operations, Skinner said that she is looking forward to diving into things in the art center that she has not dealt with before.

“Right now, I am learning more about the financial side of things,” Skinner said. “Like about writing grants and securing funds for the art center. It’s a realm that I am not as comfortable with, so it is going to be interesting for me to try and learn things like how to run QuickBooks just because it is something that I have not done in my past.”

For young professionals that are looking to get into the arts, Skinner’s advice is do not hesitate.

“Don’t hesitate,” Skinner said. “Artists are out there and most of the time love to tell about what they want to do and to interact with people. You need to buy hand made art and ask the artists what made them create it. Make art whenever you have the chance, and I mean art in the broad term, whether it is singing, visual art, painting, just do it. By creating art even if you don’t think it is good, it makes your brain work better. Do it anyway.”

Skinner earned her bachelor of arts with honors from the University of Alabama in theater and creative writing.

At AHS, she earned a scholarship from the Class of ’48 Foundation, now known as the Andalusia High School Scholarship Foundation. Through the foundation, she participated in the International Summer School at the University of Cambridge in England, where she studied William Shakespeare’s life, works and performance methods.

She and her husband, Christopher Skinner, have three children.