Lela Meadow-Conner, longtime executive director of the Tallgrass Film Association, is stepping down at the end of this year to concentrate more on the festival’s artistic direction, according to the association.
The festival is creating a new position for Meadow-Conner to serve in an artistic and creative role while a new executive director will be hired to focus on fundraising and development – a decision suggested by Meadow-Conner, Lynda Carrier-Metz, president of the Tallgrass Film Association, said Monday.
“As the festival has grown, there’s a higher need for financial support, and that becomes a whole other job,” Carrier-Metz said. “So we’re just splitting it off, and the executive director is responsible for financial growth of the organization.”
Meadow-Conner performed executive directorial duties alongside festival founder Timothy Gruver since 2003, but took over as the sole director when Gruver died unexpectedly in 2005.
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Since the first festival in 2003 – and especially in the past five years – the festival has grown exponentially, Carrier-Metz said.
When Meadow-Conner came to Tallgrass – hopping from Los Angeles to Wichita when needed – her job consisted primarily of artistic and creative direction, marketing and branding, Carrier-Metz said.
Then, as the organization grew, the fundraising and development portion of the job began to take more precedence, she said. Meadow-Conner moved to Wichita in 2011.
There’s only so many hats one person can wear.
Lynda Carrier-Metz, president of Tallgrass Film Association
“There’s only so many hats one person can wear,” Carrier-Metz said. “It just grew and … all things we’re involved in are growing. Things change over that period of time.”
The festival has formed a search committee to find a new executive director and applicants will be interviewed as early as next month. The new executive director is expected to begin in 2017.
The details of Meadow-Conner’s transition are not entirely solidified, but she should start in the new position next year, Carrier-Metz said.
“One of Lela’s great attributes is programming the artistic functions of Tallgrass, so we certainly don’t want to lose that,” Carrier-Metz said.
Meadow-Conner said the change is a reflection of the immense success Tallgrass has had in the past few years.
“When Tim Gruver invited me to come here, I didn’t really have an idea that one could have a career in film festivals,” Meadow-Conner said. “We are in a great place and can actually take this organization to the next level by hiring somebody who can focus on the fundraising vision and the long-term plans, and also have somebody who can focus on the creative and artistic aspects of the organization.
“It’s too big a job for one person.”
Tallgrass is preparing for its 15th anniversary year in 2017, Carrier-Metz said, while finalizing details for its 2016 festival, which runs from Oct. 12 to 16.