Kristina Kaiser Yards Director Spotlight| 540 at The Yards Launch Party

The most exciting part of 540 at The Yards is getting to know and collaborate with Kristina Kaiser; Director and Owner of The Yards Collective.  Check out our interview with Kristina as she shares about the history of The Yards and how she came to be involved in its evolution. 

Join us Sunday February 3 // 4-6 PM at The Yards Collective

About Kristina Kaiser 
Kristina Kaiser is the creative mind behind Hohm Designs, living and creating in Rochester, NY. In 2013 Kristina earned a BFA in Studio Arts: Painting with a dual major in Art History from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Kristina is widely exhibited in the Rochester area and has participated in a group showcase at Oakland Terminal Art Gallery in 2015. She has also worked with WXXI and Rochester Cocktail Revival for event decor consulting. Current positions include Director and Business Owner of The Yards Collective Art Space LLC, management at the Susan B. Anthony Museum and House, and one of the founding members of Politits: Art Coalition.

Acting as an art administrator Kristina has developed programming to help support and encourage emerging artists to reach creative success. The most acknowledged program developed by Kristina is the Yards Collaborative Residency established in 2013. In March of 2018 the vision of collaboration continued, the residency program was featured by the Memorial Art Gallery for a one night event featuring the artists from the January 2018 session.

How did The Yards Collective begin?
KK: The Yards Collective was created in 2011 as a community art space founded by strong female identifying makers looking to offer a supportive artistic and inclusive space. Founded by Lea Rizzo and Sarah C. Rutherford in the spirit of collaboration and out of the need for a productive studio space.

When did you begin your career at The Yards?
KK: I started in 2012 as the first intern at The Yards, I was heading into my senior year of college and looking for a way to become involved in the Rochester art community. The day I walked into the space I knew I loved it!

Where do you get your inspiration for your business/brand?
KK: Rochester has a bustling and diverse art scene and our space is centrally located within The Rochester Public Market. The inspiration for the brand comes from the train yard located close by and represents the the many people that come through the market and our connections with them. Over the last 6 years I have been able to witness peoples’ practice and careers blossom. The Yards is truly an arts incubator and have had hundreds of artists show with us. As a result we have a wide reaching network of creatives and art appreciators. It fills me with joy to see others succeed!

What makes you want to teach/do your business?
KK: When I joined the Yards I found a network of artists that supported me and encouraged me to create. I am passionate about the space because it offers a platform for emerging and professional artists that often do not have access to show locally. There is a considerable gap in our city between art venues and accessibility. You can show at a coffee shop or store (where you are decorating their walls for free), or you’re trying to get into more competitive juried shows at establishments that have an older demographic. I feel that everyone needs somewhere to start, somewhere to learn the basics. That’s where The Yards comes in, we are a space for those first shows, readings, performances. For the ideas you wanted to test out but couldn’t find the right “scene.” I often consider our space to be a stepping stone for people that are ready to take the next step but need a support system in place to do so.

For you how does your business relate to wellness?
KK: Art heals and inspires, I believe creativity is one of the best cures. Also our community offers a supportive safe space with a lot of resources and connections, if one of us falls we lift each other up.

How do you stay healthy?
KK: Yoga, running, biking, gardening, and just being outside! I find winters here to be really hard, the grey starts to drain my creative energy. The space really helps to keep my spirits up!

What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of running/owning The Yards Collective?
KK: I think one of the most challenging parts of owning and directing the space is people respecting my time. I am sure this is a struggle for a lot of small business owners, specifically young entrepreneurs, women, and poc. I wish I could say this is my full time job, but it’s not and I have a full time job to support the work that I do. Many times folks assume that I am always on site or available to discuss Yards related items. I often find that I am talked over or assumptions are made based on the nature of our establishment or it’s past history. That being said I am really focusing a lot of energy to shift perceptions about what it means be a small business owner and what we have to offer the Rochester community. I think 2018 was particularly successful for us in that regard and I would not be able to run the space without the immense amount of support I have from our members and our community.

When you aren’t managing operations at The Yards what do you like to do?  
KK: Between my full time job, The Yards, and keeping up with my health and home what do I do?!? (LOL) I don’t have a ton of free time… but IF I do I am usually painting or trying to catch up with friends and family.

What is it that inspires you to keep going as entrepreneur?
KK: The community we have at the space and the growth I have seen over the last 6 years. Whenever I am feeling burnt out I try to focus on the great moments and friendships. Sometimes when I reflect on where we have come in the last 12 months I am shocked at the many strides we have made to improve our space. Set a goal and go for it! I hope that this year will be the year we start to get some funding for more low cost programming and exhibitions.

What are you working on now?
KK: Right now I am working on finalizing programming for the spring and summer. Thinking big picture about our next steps and always always planning ahead! At home I am working on a couple collaborations and (fingers crossed) finishing up two paintings for our next members showcase on February 15th.

What has been your biggest challenge as Director of The Yards? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
KK: Our biggest challenge is funding and accessibility. We do not have an elevator and that definitely inhibits some of the events we can have at our space. It will also be challenging to get grants because we are not ADA accessible. Now that we have a sustainable business model the next big challenge will to be figure out how to grow and ideally pay a staff member.

What advice do you have for others interested in pursuing their own business?
KK: If you are passionate about it jump! You will never know unless you try it (easier said than done). I dragged my feet in taking on this business for a couple years. I have to give credit to the wonderful women that started this space and as their careers grew they passed it onto the next guard. I’m honored to be able to direct The Yards into its next life cycle.

If you would like to know more about The Yards I would be happy to coordinate a walk through of the space. We have so much to offer!

Photo credit: (cover) Rae Da

Published by Calvin Eaton

(he/his/him) Calvin Eaton is a disabled community educator, content creator, and social entrepreneur, whose area of expertise includes antiracism, equity, justice, instructional design, and program development. In 2016 Mr. Eaton founded 540WMain, Inc. a non-profit online and community-based organization for accessible education and events that promote justice for all.

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