Judy Kohin, artist and fearless leader


Judy Kohin, artist and fearless leader

Judy Kohin, artist and fearless leader

She’s back!

Judy Kohin was executive director of the Ah Haa School for the Arts from its inception in 1991 until 2006. And now has returned to the school, assuming the same role she held – and excelled in – for 15 years.

And everyone’s excited.

Judy’s excited:

“It’s a great place to come back to Ah Haa,” says Kohin. “I never thought I’d do this, but I feel very honored the board asked and delighted I accepted the offer.”

The Ah Haa board of directors is excited:

“I think her time away has given Judy additional skills. I think she’s re-energized and has more diverse experience to bring back to the school,” says board member Kathy Green.

Kohin became executive director at age 28.

“I didn’t know much about nonprofit management or art schools, but Daniel Tucker, Ah Haa’s founder, took a chance on me,” she explained. “As it grew and grew and grew, Ah Haa became my community. I developed close relationships with the artists I worked with and the Ah Haa family itself grew very tight. I think back over those 15 years and the many magical times. What evolved was bigger than anything I could have ever imagined.”

Under Kohin, Ah Haa became a respected community institution providing weekly classes and weekend workshops for kids and adults in everything from painting, ceramics and photography to foreign language, writing and bookbinding.

She also established Ah Haa as art venue, where local artists could display and sell their work through regular gallery exhibits.

Kohin also spearheaded the growth of American Academy of Bookbinding, part of Ah Haa. It is now an internationally recognized program in its medium.

She also nurtured an enthusiastic board of trustees, who set the wheels in motion for the school’s eventual purchase of Telluride’s historic Depot building.

A long struggle with Lyme disease caused Kohin’s departure from the leadership of the school. After a year and a half time out, she returned as program director of the the American Academy of Bookbinding, where she remained until Sept. 2011. Since then, Kohin has been working with Suzan Beraza at Reel Thing Productions making documentary films.

“I was having a health crisis when I abruptly left Ah Haa, so I was never able to train the new director. I felt there was unfinished business and sadness leaving the way I did,” she explained. “I don’t know how long I’m going to be here now, but I feel like I’ve been given the opportunity to pass on my ideas and vision for the school. And I’m feeling better, so it’s a good time to return.”

As she approaches her 50th birthday, Kohin realizes she is a different person from the one who helped opened Ah Haa’s doors:

“The thing that hasn’t diminished over the years is my deep affection for this place, she explained. “I’m evaluating where the school is financially and programmatically and looking forward to leading Ah Haa in a solid direction.”

One other thing Kohin wants to make clear as she returns to her old job is her willingness to work with artists and the community on ideas.

“My door is always open,” she said.

You have two opportunities to help Ah Haa celebrate Judy Kohin’s return:

• Have dinner with Judy, the stafJudyf and some Ah Haa board members on Monday, December 10 at La Marmotte. The restaurant has agreed to donate 20 percent of the night’s proceeds to the school.

• Join Judy at Ah Haa’s New Year’s Eve Gala and help ring in the start of a bright, new year.

For more information, call 970.728.3886.

  • ali
    Posted at 08:13h, 05 December

    I am so greatfull that Judy Is back

    • admin
      Posted at 16:20h, 09 December

      Join the club.

  • Lisa Issenberg
    Posted at 08:24h, 05 December

    So wonderful! Judy is a fireball for Ah Haa… she inspires all with passion. I’m thrilled she’s back.

    • admin
      Posted at 16:20h, 09 December

      Agree. She is wonderful. And the wonderfulest thing is the whole community agrees with you. In my 20 years covering Telluride’s cultural economy I have never heard a single negative word about the lady. Au contraire. Just great praise.