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Like musical chairs, but for arts organizations

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Two of the community’s artistic heavyweights—the SLO County Arts Council, known as ARTS Obispo, and the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (SLOIFF)—have seen a dramatic shift in leadership lately.

First, Wendy Eidson, SLOIFF executive director since 2006, will move into a new role as the festival’s artistic director, focusing on year-round programming and marketing. Filling Eidson’s shoes as executive director of the festival (effective July 1) is Charlotte Alexander, who until now has served as executive director of ARTS Obispo. Alexander, who lives in Nipomo, has long worked with nonprofits, including United Way of SLO County, where she worked as CEO. Alexander has also worked as a writer, contributing theater reviews to the Tolosa Press newspapers and co-writing a book with her husband, radio talk show host Dave Congalton. She’s also taught journalism and PR at both Cuesta College and Cal Poly, and co-directed the Cuesta College Writers’ Conference with Congalton for 11 years. Alexander and Congalton also worked as associate producer and screenwriter, respectively, on the upcoming independent feature film Authors Anonymous, due for release this summer.

Jenna Hartzell, who’s served as program director of ARTS Obispo since 2010, will replace Alexander as the organization’s executive director. Herself a visual artist, Hartzell has expanded participation in several of ARTS Obispo’s programs, most noticeably the city’s art walk, Art After Dark. She also started First Saturdays: Wine and the Arts, a similar art walk in Paso Robles. Hartzell was also responsible for turning the annual Open Studios Art Tour into a free event, and led a recent collaboration between ARTS Obispo and the County Office of Education to produce the 34th annual County Writing Celebration, a writing contest for grades 1-12.

“We are lucky to have Jenna in our community,” Mary Kay Harrington, ARTS Obispo’s president of the board, said in press materials. “She has shown leadership at AO, and we are pleased to see her take on this next challenge. She is intelligent and extremely creative and will lead us effectively into our next phase.”

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