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Meet Our New Board Member – Krishna Kutty

We are thrilled to welcome Krishna Kutty to our Executive Board. As a corporate strategy specialist, Krishna will be a huge asset to our board and Governance committee with her experience in strategy and management. Krishna is already having an impact, developing systems to monitor and assess our strategic plan progress over the upcoming years.

In a new conversation series, studio artists will interview new board members to introduce them to our community. Krishna and studio artist Ted Gram-Boarini met on zoom this month for the first installment.

Photo of a Zoom Meeting with Ted Gram Boarini and Krishna Kutty

TED: How did you find Arts of Life and why are you interested?

KRISHNA: Great opening question there Ted. I actually found Arts of Life through a LinkedIn posting looking for board members. Shortly after, I was poking around your website, which is spectacular by the way. I love seeing artists’ works. What really resonated with me was your foundational stance on equality and creating sort of that collaborative workspace for artists with intellectual or developmental disabilities. I thought that was a fantastic mission that you folks have and what you’ve created in terms of community. Those are the things that really drew me to actually put in an application.

TED: Great answer. Why do you want to be a board member? 

KRISHNA: I want to be a board member because I had an initial conversation with Jeff, our past president of the executive board and your dad!, and then in February I got a chance to attend the Governance Committee meeting and got to meet a whole host of the other board members that were there and had a great chat with them. It seemed like my skill set was something that was a need at the moment. My background is as a management consultant and I’ve worked a lot on strategy, leadership, and transformations with organizations all across North America. And strategic planning is an area that we really need to put an emphasis on in the near term at Arts of Life. So I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to come on board and help the organization to think through your sustainability and your growth for the future.

TED: Have you worked with people with disabilities before?

KRISHNA: Great question. Yes, I have worked with individuals with disabilities across the full spectrum for a very long time, both in my consulting practice and as a board member with other organizations. So primarily my experience has been wonderful. We recently helped facilitate a strategic planning session for a statewide agency that essentially offers support services to individuals with disabilities, and a lot of their council members were individuals with disabilities, a full range of the spectrum. I really appreciate the diversity of thought. Diversity with respect to the individual needs as well as them looking outside and saying hey listen here’s what is best for me and it might not be working for the entirety of the community, so how can we actually meet in the middle ground. It’s been a fabulous experience for me and I’m a big proponent of having conversations from diverse perspectives in the community, as well as in the workplace. So I do I feel I’m going to be able to work here [at Arts of Life]. I haven’t had an opportunity actually to come into any of the studios yet, but I’m looking forward to meeting all the artists in person, and being able to converse with you folks around your goals and to see some of the artwork in person. I’m looking forward to it.

TED: What new ideas do you bring to the table to help us grow?

KRISHNA: I think from a strategy perspective, one of the things that a lot of folks don’t pay a ton of attention to is operational capability, making sure that the internal team has the effectiveness and processes in place so that you can grow sustainably. A lot of folks tend to focus on the fundraising and the grant process which is super critical in order to be able to sustain the organization. But if you don’t also have sort of internal processes and controls and you don’t know how to collaborate with each other and have everybody working on a shared understanding that’s a mess. Coming from my background and perspective, I think that’s an area that you have to shore up in order to be able to grow and I think that’s an area, I’d like to support the organization with more closely.

TED: What are you passionate about? 

KRISHNA: I’m very selfishly growing my business. I moved to Chicago in July of 2019 to start my consulting practice so continuing to grow that. But number two, because that’s just business and that’s not interesting, I’m really passionate about workforce equity and equality on all fronts, whether it’s gender related, whether it’s with respect to you – supporting individuals with disabilities, whether it’s supporting folks from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. That’s really what I’m really passionate about and making sure that leaders have more conversations around those types of topics, not just during the recruitment and hiring process for individuals but throughout the course of their tenure with each organization. You want to make sure the entirety of their journey within each organization actually upholds the value of the principles, not just when you’re recruiting.

TED: I agree with what you said. My mom has been an advocate for me and I try to advocate for myself and everyone. What kind of art do you like?

KRISHNA: Yes, I’m pretty broad spectrum with respect to what I like. I like bright colors that pop – a lot of the abstract art and especially, acrylic based abstract paintings really resonate with me. I’ve also recently gotten into cartoon illustration. Especially during covid, there were a lot of illustrations pertaining to things that are relevant to us right now. Those are a couple of areas that I’m really into.

TED: Actually, that ties into what I’m doing because I am working on a comic about disability. I really like Big Hero Six, so I’m working on a comic. 

KRISHNA: Well I’m looking forward to looking at what you’ve already done and what’s upcoming as well. 

TED: Are you good at being a team player?

KRISHNA: Yeah, I think so. Yesterday I had a chance to work with a number of the folks from the executive board looking through some of our future reporting around the strategic plan. We had a really good conversation and collaboration. 

TED: My dad helped to set up the committee structures. He worked for a company called McDonalds and I was able to get free food. My friend Hillary Marshall always asks this question – what things do you find easy and what do you find hard?

KRISHNA: I’m very good at procrastinating. By the way, Arts of Life has a fantastic Instagram page. I always like to procrastinate by going on there and looking at what the artists are up to that day. Like on July 4, we had an awesome picture of fireworks I believe from Susie. So that’s a good procrastination method for that.

TED: That is actually my birthday. I just turned 47.

KRISHNA: Congrats. Happy belated birthday. That’s awesome. 

TED: So back to the question.

KRISHNA: Yes, you had a two parter. Yeah, so procrastination is the easy one. I find running hard. I signed up for a half marathon and I am not a runner at all. So I have to be patient with myself and know that my body can only take me so far. Some days, runs are really good. Other days the runs are not so good. Just waking up and showing up is half the battle so that’s why I tell myself to be patient. 

TED: Yeah, good, good motto to remember. Covid definitely disrupted a lot of activities – band practice, my art practice. We even made a music video which was based on song I wrote called Head to Head. It actually got released last year. So I’ve tried. 

KRISHNA: Hopefully we’re at the tail end of covid and  activities can pick up back to whatever the new normal looks like.

TED: Yeah, for all of us. Do you have any questions for me?

KRISHNA: I wanted to know what your favorite thing about working in the studio with the other artists is.

TED: My favorite thing about working in the studio is just being able to help wherever I can. I’ve done painting work, I’ve done video work, acting work. Whatever is required of me, I’ve actually done. 

KRISHNA: That’s awesome Ted. I know who to call if I need video skills or music skills. I’m calling you. I’m glad you’re able to participate in and kind of go where you’re required in the studio, that sounds like an awesome community there.

TED: Yes, it is.