Linda Charman first witnessed the power of arts as a mom in the public schools.

The immediate past president of the Board of Directors for Arts Council Santa Cruz County was introduced to the organization when her sons joined the arts education program SPECTRA at Aptos High School. Both boys played in the renowned jazz band led by the late great Don Keller and graduated to the jazz program at UC Berkeley — William playing the guitar, and Christopher playing the bass.

“It really changed their lives,”

said Charman, whose sons later joined her in the real estate industry and still play music. “It was so mind-expanding for them. It kind of kept my kids in high school.”

Few figures since the Arts Council’s founding in 1979 have had such a lasting impact on the organization. Charman, owner and broker at Vanguard Realtors in Santa Cruz, helped to negotiate a 30-year lease with the City of Santa Cruz that led to Arts Council’s move to the Tannery Arts Center complex in 2014. The Arts Council recently dedicated a bench in Charman’s honor in the courtyard outside the organization’s office.

Charman, a Medici Circle donor, also helped to complete a new strategic plan and played a pivotal role in renaming the former Cultural Council to the Arts Council in a move designed to recognize the organization’s broad reach. She also co-hosted a Legacy Brunch that served more than 100 and encouraged donors to consider the Arts Council in their estate planning.

Even though she was exposed to Arts Council when her children were in high school and during subsequent Open Studios events, it was friend and former Santa Cruz Mayor Katherine Beiers who encouraged Charman to get more deeply involved.

Beiers, a former Arts Council Board President, nudged Charman to join the Board, which she did in 2009 and was involved in hiring Executive Director Michelle Williams. Charman was selected vice president then president, a term she served from 2013-2015.

“You get into a position where you can make a difference and then make a difference,” she said, explaining her approach to service on the Board.

Ceil Cirillo, retired executive director for the City of Santa Cruz’s former Redevelopment Agency, spearheaded the city’s purchase and renovation of the Salz Tannery, which included a historic renovation of the Kron House where the Arts Council is now located. Cirillo, who is also a Medici Circle member, credited Charman with guiding the organization through a challenging time of change.

“Linda really believed in a higher vision for the Arts Council and she had the tenacity to see it through,” Cirillo said. “She knew the central role the organization could play in the entire arts community and how critical it was to make Arts Council a landmark presence at the Tannery.”

Patrick Mulhearn, who succeeded Charman as president of the Arts Council’s Board of Directors, said he learned a great deal from serving alongside her.

“It was in fact her leadership that set the foundation for what our organization has become: a stellar example of the right way to run a non-profit,“ Mulhearn said. “I am so very grateful for her example of service, commitment, and leadership and feel privileged to have worked with her and to know her as a friend.”

Although Charman termed off the Board of Directors in June 2015 after six years, she is anything but removed from the art world. Every eight weeks, local curator D. Hooker rotates artwork hanging in Vanguard’s gallery-like office on Soquel Drive.

Other than tastefully decorating her Eastside home with pieces she has purchased during Open Studios over the years, Charman claims no particular artistic skill of her own, though she knows first-hand its power to shape people’s future.

“I am an appreciator of art, not a maker of art,” she said, remembering back to the days of listening to her sons play music at school.

“You have to start with the young kids. What you do with them affects them the rest of their lives.”

Story by J.M. Brown

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