Elana Thompson is a renaissance woman who has reinvented herself numerous times over the course of her lifetime, all the while learning, growing and smiling. She’s worked in pharmaceutical sales and at universities in recruitment and retention, done a good deal of fundraising, engaged in diversity and equity training, worked as a Gallup strength coach, and been involved with a number of nonprofit organizations. Now she is Arts for Lawrence’s new executive director.
“When I first started working, I would say, ‘I think I’m going to try this,’” Thompson says. “It was always so exciting to be able to create and start something different. I’m a learner.”
Encouraged by her parents and others to be creative, Thompson has had a love and appreciation for art ever since she was a little girl.
“I have a big imagination,” she says. “I see big things. It used to be, you’d go out and build something with sticks using your imagination. It concerns me that in our society today there is so much tech that there is not a lot of downtime to be with your thoughts and get creative.”
Her imagination and drive make her the perfect person to step into the executive director role at Arts for Lawrence, now that Judy Byron has retired as longtime director. When the job description was posted, Thompson’s jaw dropped because it was everything she loved to do. With ample experience as an inspiring communicator, motivational manager and fundraising expert, she was eager to jump into this role feet first.
“I love energizing people, and I’ve been involved in a lot of community-focused partnerships as well as leadership programs throughout the community,” says Thompson, who officially started her role on September 6. For several weeks she overlapped with Byron, who worked alongside her, which Thompson appreciated.
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