#HomeGrownStories – Jordan Knepper
July 18, 2017
Jordan Knepper, a Shelby County resident, grew up surrounded by art. He is still surrounded by art as an adult, which he shares with the Piqua community and beyond. Jordan is the director of the Piqua Arts Council. Jordan brings the arts to Piqua through a variety of events. Some of the most popular include the Rock Piqua concerts, Dancing with the Piqua Stars and the Piqua Art Show. The Piqua Art Show is the largest art show in the Miami Valley!
On his connection to Miami County and how he became the Director of the Piqua Arts Council:
I was born near Cleveland in Amherst, Ohio. When I was two years old my family moved to Bowling Green where my parents were students. Later my dad got a teaching job in Jackson Center. I’ve pretty much stayed in Jackson Center for most of my life, minus college and a stint in Las Vegas.
I was working in the field that I got my degree in and realized I didn’t want to work in that field anymore. The only other fields I knew were education and retail. I started looking for retail jobs but had a hard time finding one. When I moved to Las Vegas I got a job working for a sporting goods company. I worked there for about two years before moving back to Ohio. I got a job in Sidney at the Gateway Arts Council as the Program Coordinator. I worked there for two years and then this position became available. The previous director was a colleague of mine. She encouraged me to apply so I did and I got the job! I’ve been here for four years as the director.
My background is interesting. My degree is in mathematics but I grew up surrounded by art. When I was growing up, my dad was getting his degree in fine arts. I remember the professor for his blown glass class holding me. My dad couldn’t find a babysitter that day so the professor held me while my dad blew glass. I grew up in the hot shop at Bowling Green State University. I’ve been around art my whole life. My dad’s friends in college and the people my parents hung out with are all artists. One of those friends runs the Toledo Museum arts class program. Another friend has his own glass studio in West Unity, Ohio.
I have been around art my entire life, but I’m not an artist. Everybody always asked me if I’m an artist and I always say that my dad is a talented artist. Growing up, he was always the person people went to when they needed something done. When I started college, my brother was in a fine arts program. I decided I didn’t want to do that because it was Dad’s thing. He gives me a hard time for it now because I work in art.
About the Piqua Arts Council:
Our mission is to make the arts accessible to our community through education, support, and presentation. We have a lot of different programs we use to do this. We offer workshops for artists throughout the year. Our goal is to bring in the top artists in the United States — even the world — to teach here in Piqua. The teaching artists we bring in usually sell their paintings for around $50,000. They’ve also won national and international awards. We offer the workshops at $300 to $350.
We have Dancing with the Piqua Stars which is a fundraising event. We have Rock Piqua which is summer concerts series. Our annual art show is in its 25th year this year. It’s the biggest art show in the Miami Valley. From northern Shelby County down to the Ohio River — no art show is as big as ours. We have over 170 pieces of artwork from 60+ artists and we have over $4000 in prize money. We have artists come from all over Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The art show is one of my favorite things. We are having a Piqua Arts Festival this year. We’re hosting a James Bond themed event and we’re going to do a Norman Rockwell themed art exhibit as well. We stay very busy!
On the community response to the Piqua Arts Council:
The easiest way to show what the community response has been is to look at all the programs we’re able to offer. We wouldn’t have been able to put on these programs without community support. Our budget has quadrupled in four years. We have some great sponsors that help us with some of our bigger programs. We’re trying to use the arts as an engine for economic development. If we create a vibrant and engaging community we can attract young professionals. Any business in town will tell you that right now that’s one of the hardest things to do. It’s hard to bring in young millennials with advanced degrees to work for their companies. We want to help with that through the arts.
What do you love most about Miami County?
I love the synergy of our community. I’ve lived in a few places and worked at a few different places. When I attend workshops and trainings, one of the main things they talk about is how organizations are often silos. We all get isolated in our own mission.
Our community, Piqua especially, doesn’t have that same silo structure. We don’t have one organization that’s not willing to work with another organization. When we have an opportunity to partner with any organization in Piqua we say “yes!” The Piqua Arts Council could not have hosted Rock Piqua alone the first time if it wasn’t for Mainstreet Piqua. That partnership has been excellent for both of us. Right now we’re working on Piqua Chautauqua. We’ll have historical presenters come in and perform in the character of a famous person. Piqua Arts Council, the Piqua Public Library, Mainstreet Piqua, the Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau, and the City of Piqua are all working together. The event is coming together so easily because we’re all happy to work together. That synergy is one the great things about being here.
What are your Miami County favorites or recommendations for out-of-town visitors?
You’re not going to find better ice cream than Susie’s Big Dipper. 311 Drafthouse and Mulligan’s are great places to eat — I’m there at least once a week. I enjoy going to Hobart Arena for concerts. You can never go wrong with going to a Rock Piqua concert. Jim and Cheryl Burkhardt started an event a few years ago called Down The River, Down A Beer. It’s a beer festival but also has river activities before the beer festival starts. It’s an awesome and fun event with canoeing and kayaking races. There are beer tastings. We have braziers that sit on the water and are lit on fire at 8:30. There’s a lot happening with that event. It’s a great event even if you’re not a beer drinker. There’s still a lot to do with live music and it’s a fun event.
Follow our storyteller and interviewer, Courtney Denning, at ThisOhioLife.com.