John Killacky

Commentator

John Killacky is the executive director of Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington.

John Killacky

I unhitch my Shetland and put her outside in a corral to cool down. As she grazes, I see in her the ancestral Mongolian ponies: compact muscularity, shaggy pelt, round belly, strong jaw, and deep set eyes - plus her scrappy resiliency.

Visiting a retrospective exhibition of the art and film of Robin Lloyd and Doreen Kraft reminded me of how many arts administrators are also artists in our community. I found this collaborative installation especially interesting because it affords a glimpse of the artistic side of Doreen Kraft, who most of us know as the director of Burlington City Arts.

I attended my first gay pride festival in 1973, a mere four years after disenfranchised drag queens rioted against police harassment at New York’s Stonewall Inn.

Vermont has many national treasures living quietly among us, and one of them is Addison County resident Eli Clare. His latest book, Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure, is revelatory, a clarion call for changing the medicalized disability narrative of defective brokenness. A transgendered man living with cerebral palsy, his insights challenge existing notions of what is “normal and natural” as he affirms, “There’s nothing wrong with our disabled body-minds.”

National funding for the arts, humanities, and public broadcast media are once again on the chopping block in Washington. And Vermont has much to lose.

My father was a difficult man – hard working all his life and hard drinking for much of my youth. We were estranged for many years, until his cancer diagnosis.

With the urging of my sister, I went home. He was in his seventies, me in my forties. Greeting me at the door, he asked, “Why have you come?” I answered, “Because you’re dying.” He let me in, and we began to navigate through a lifetime of hurt.

One-third of the children in Burlington and Winooski public schools are students of color, including new Americans who are English language learners. With the demographics in our region shifting so dramatically, government agencies, educational institutions, businesses, and nonprofits are grappling with inadequate cultural competency in trying to serve these myriad populations.

John Killacky

As the last vestiges of winter linger, the pony gets distracted in the indoor arena as the old wooden barn creaks in the freezing wind. She startles at the unfamiliar noises. Other days when the temperature warms, she spooks from the crashing of icicles melting or snow sliding off the roof. Crow-stepping and anxious, she wants to flee the scary sounds.

Recently I had the pleasure of representing Vermont’s Department of Tourism and Marketing on its @ThisisVT Twitter handle. A different person each week takes over the feed, and we are given free rein.

John Killacky

I just had a tune-up lesson with my driving coach at the barn. His take-away mantra was to keep my pony “calm, forward, straight.” Good principles for me to work on over the next few weeks. Here, at the stable, as throughout my life, I am grateful for teachers.

Associated Press

Fifty years ago this week, Sonny and Cher’s I Got You Babe topped the Billboard charts. I was thirteen. The moment I saw that doe-eyed waif in bell-bottoms sing to her shaggy-haired partner in a bobcat vest, I knew I was leaving my crew cut behind.

As executive director of a nonprofit agency, I’m involved in recruiting and hiring new staff. This past year, I also served on the search committees for the CEO of Vermont PBS and superintendent for Burlington’s school district. While all searches are different, here are a few lessons learned that might be helpful to anyone applying for a job.

Zoe Williams (Oscar's mom)

I have been a fan of Vermont cartoonist Alison Bechdel for almost 30 years, first loving her comic strip, “Dykes To Watch Out For,” a groundbreaking celebration of lesbian life.

Brad Pettengill

My Shetland pony has been pulling me in a cart for four years. There are occasional off days when nothing goes right. Harnessing up is annoying. She refuses the bit. Once hitched up, the pony’s skittish. She rushes through corners, bucks when I ask for speed, and rears up when I try to come to a halt.

Our federal tax system was created in 1913. Allowances for charitable contributions quickly followed in 1917. At the time, one Congressman said, “If a man wants to make a gift to charity, he ought to be encouraged to do so and not discouraged.”

Brad Pettengill

In yoga I’ve learned the term kula, a Sanskrit word for an intentional community. And as I journey through my day, I realize I have many kulas, all with different shared values and norms. Family, workplace, friends, and neighbors – these are some of the communities I inhabit.

I work in the nonprofit sector, so I depend on the largess of many friends and supporters to underwrite programs my organization presents. This generosity comes in many forms, and I’m grateful for all of it, but not long ago, I benefited from a novel approach taken by Main Street Landing, a wonderful multi-purpose building on the Lake Champlain waterfront in downtown Burlington.

Two years ago, I was nervously waiting for Joan Rivers to arrive for rehearsal with local musicians the Flynn had hired as her musical back up. I expected a feral tigress; instead I welcomed a kindly grandmother type, chicly dressed in black.
 

She got right down to work. Going through musical cues, the comedian told the band, “I really like you, but when the show starts I might not be so nice. Don’t take it personally.” At one point, she explained, “I will fall down and beg you to help me up, but don’t make a move. It’s funnier that way, and I like funny.”

Killacky: Legs

May 31, 2014
Jean Cross

Eighteen years ago, I lost the full use of my legs.  I have no sensation on my right side. My left side has no awareness of location.  It’s complicated to walk. My legs are heavy with neuropathic pain.  I navigate the world slowly, assisted by a cane. 

I continually work at strengthening my lower limbs. In warmer months, I circle our cul-de-sac after dinner - husband, Border collie, and me with two walking sticks – intently micro-calibrating and adjusting my bifurcated stride.

Preservation Trust of Vermont

Earlier this month I traveled to the Northeast Kingdom to attend the annual conference of the Vermont Downtown Program and The Preservation Trust of Vermont. The Flynn Center in Burlington was one of 10 awardees recognized by the Preservation Trust for recent renovations. The winners were a disparate, determined group, most taking decades to rehab, renovate and rebuild historically significant buildings.
 

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