Robins, who lives in the Village of New Paltz with her husband and their youngest of two daughters, has always had a passion for the arts and culture. She received her master’s in arts administration and an undergraduate degree in art history.
“I’ve never seen myself as an artist, but as someone who loves art,” she said. “I also enjoy administrative challenges and when I found a graduate program that merged two of my passions, that was a way to be involved in the arts and help to administer art programs.”
As is often the case, what one goes to college for isn’t always what they wind up doing as soon as they hit the job market armed with their diploma.
When Robins first moved to New Paltz, she took a job at Child Find of America and over the years went on to work for various area not-for-profit organizations as an administrator.
“I always kept one eye open for that position that would fit what I had studied and what I was passionate about,” she said. Last August, she took a leap of faith and left her job as the village clerk, realizing it wasn’t what she was meant to do.
She remembers saying to family and friends: “I’m jumping off a cliff and just have to have faith that someone will catch me. Something will come along.”
And it did. “I had a lot of ideas of what I wanted to pursue, possibly teaching Japanese to children,” she said. Robins is fluent in Japanese, and lived in the Far East for some time with her family.
Robins saw a listing for the executive director job at Unison on Craigslist. She applied and after a round of interviews was hired.
“What was so important to me was that Stuart, who really helped to build this incredible, not-for-profit, independent, arts and cultural institution from the ground up, was going to stay on as the artistic director, which he is so passionate about and so talented at,” she said. “He gets to do what he loves to do and I get to do all of the administrative tasks that are necessary to continue to support such a great art and cultural institution.”
Putting her nose to the grindstone, Robins is meeting with all of the staff, artists, musicians, performers, teachers and loving the enthusiasm of all she meets.
“We have a staff that is so dedicated,” she said. “Our ‘newest’ employee was hired eight years ago. Most have been here for ten to 15 years if not more. That’s unheard of in the not-for-profit world and is a great testimony to the staff’s belief in Unison’s core mission.”
Asked what she has enjoyed most about her new position, Robins said that it has been “meeting the patrons who attend our shows, classes, performances and art exhibitions. They have such incredible stories and are such amazing people. Whether they’ve been members for 25 years, or have just stumbled upon our arts and cultural center, it’s been a joy to be around such great people.”
As for the challenge she faces, Robins hesitates and says that it is connecting with the younger generation, via social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and alerting them about the incredible offerings right here in New Paltz.
For more information about Unison, visit www.unisonarts.org.