Jake Seniuk

Jake Seniuk

Port Angeles Fine Arts Center seeking new director

PORT ANGELES — The job of executive director of the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center is rare, exhilarating, difficult — and open.

Jake Seniuk took it on Jan. 1, 1989; since then, he has been administrator, fundraiser, curator of shows and Art Ranger, the one who leads tours of Webster’s Woods, the 5-acre art park surrounding the center.

Seniuk, 62, is retiring from the post June 30 — two weeks after ushering a new set of “Art Outside” works into those woods — so the search for a successor has begun.

“The position requires continuous multi-tasking,” reads the job announcement at PAFAC.org.

“Above all, the director needs a passion for fostering the role of art in the community and growing a unique facility . . . a jewel of the Olympic Peninsula.”

The full-time position, officially a city of Port Angeles Recreation Division job, pays $54,257 to $64,850 per year “with excellent medical, vacation and retirement benefits.”

The annual budget of the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center, meanwhile, is $178,000; the city contributed $38,750 of that this year.

The rest has to be raised — by Seniuk and his board of trustees — through events, dividends from the center’s trust, memberships and donations.

That has never been easy, but recent years have been especially rough amid the recession.

So “the biggest job,” Seniuk said last week, “is to maintain the quality we have with the limited means we have.”

The center is an indoor art museum, an outdoor art space and a place for world-renowned artists and Clallam County art students to show their creations.

Seniuk and education coordinator Barbara Slavik, both artists in their own right, have been curating exhibitions for a couple of decades.

Slavik is working with Forks, Port Angeles and Sequim teenagers now on “ArtPaths: Portfolio,” the student art show to open May 20.

Slavik, who came to work at the center a year after Seniuk’s arrival, said she will not apply for the executive director position because she, too, wants to retire within the year.

Slavik and Seniuk will put up one more show together, just before July 1: an art exhibition marking Port Angeles’ 150th anniversary.

“The theme is wide open to all media by both living artists and works from the past,” Seniuk writes in the On Center newsletter.

“We hope to bring to light some hidden treasures and new understandings of what’s transpired on this magic spot.”

The entry deadline is May 14, and information is available by phoning the arts center at 360-457-3532 or emailing PAFAC@olypen.com.

“I am very sad to see Jake leave, but I completely understand his desire to take back his life from endless 60- or 70-hour work weeks,” said Max Mania, a Port Angeles City Council member.

But Seniuk’s successor may well bring “new energy, new visions and new possibilities to the PAFAC. So, I have no concrete vision of what the PAFAC of the next quarter century will look like, or do — but I am anxious to find out.”

A selection committee has not been chosen yet, Seniuk said; the one thing that’s certain is the City Council will vote to approve the final choice.

On the question of future funding, Mania added: “In my personal opinion, the city needs to step up and do right by the PAFAC.

“It’s a city facility, one that serves many needs/roles in our community . . . and, in light of the search for a new director, it seems logical to assume that it will be hard to recruit anyone, especially anyone of quality, if part of the job description is raising funds to pay for your own job.”

Seniuk, however, said he’s already heard from a prospective applicant from Vashon Island.

He’s also looking forward to getting the word out about the job when he takes part in a panel discussion titled “Curators in Transition” this Tuesday night at the Vermilion Art Gallery in Seattle.

The joy of this job, for Seniuk, has been in bringing art to the center’s indoor and outdoor spaces, and seeing the effect it has had on people.

“What a wonderful world. Holy cow,” a St. Cloud, Minn., resident wrote in the guest book last year.

“Webster’s Woods was a magical walk,” added a visitor from Missoula, Mont.

“The greatest open air museum I have ever seen,” wrote another from Freudenthal, Germany.

Seniuk said his work in the gallery and woods — and at fundraisers at various venues around Port Angeles — make this a one-of-a-kind position.

“I’m not sitting in a cubicle,” he said, laughing.

“At the same time, there’s no end to the responsibility.”

________

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

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