Feeding starving artists may not be part of Crystal Womble’s job description, but she’s proved she’s up to the task if artists at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts need to eat. A community affairs specialist at Krannert Center, Womble is an enthusiastic supporter of the arts whose responsibilities include group ticket sales and coordinating the center’s small army of volunteers. She’s also a talented cook and baker whose culinary specialties include chocolate swirl pound cake and sausage bread.
Tell me about your career at the university.
I’ve been here 15 years now. I started in the ticket office as the assistant manager. Most of my experience is working in customer relations.
Tell me about your job responsibilities.
I work with group sales, follow up with contacts and receive phone calls and e-mails for ticket purchases. I am also part of our Creative Intersections team that plans and coordinates artist engagement and outreach activities.
We partner with organizations in the community and look for ways to encourage collaborations with arts components, whether through the artist-in-residency program or cross-promoting an event. We’ve been successful working with the park districts, the libraries, and the Urban League in reaching out to populations that are not as well represented here. Events such as Krannert Uncorked and the Afterglows are ways of giving access to people.
I also schedule and coordinate schedules for our community volunteers, a core group of about 185 people, retirees mostly, who support our Youth Series program by ushering daytime performances and assisting with bulk mailings.
If there are other needs for assistance, I contact volunteers to find out if they’re available. I coordinate volunteer schedules for larger special events with our patron services director, Courtney Egg. We are also the staff advisers for our student volunteer organization.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy working with people and getting to know them. The volunteers are a great resource and great ambassadors. It’s like having 185 grandparents; they really keep me on my toes. I enjoy seeing people have those ‘A-ha!’ moments about the arts. The engagement activities are a good way to get to know artists, and artists are very appreciative of having chances to connect with audiences in a different way.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Time. Trying to do everything. And making sure that you’re where you need to be or have an artist where they need to be. We have a huge support system here, so you never feel like you’re out there by yourself.
Have you met any artists who left a lasting impression?
Oh yes, many, because they were very genuine in spirit, generous with their time and involved with the community. The Uptown String Quartet was a favorite of mine; they were just so warm and approachable. Nancy Wilson and Dee Dee Bridgewater were great to hear and had really warm personalities. A quartet from Australia wanted to attend a church service and experience gospel music, so my husband and I picked them up and took them to church.
Stefon Harris was here a couple of times. After the concert was over, he and his band wanted to see the town. After that they wanted to eat, but all the nicer restaurants had closed.
I took a bold step, and said, “I made a pot of plain-old, nothing-fancy vegetable soup. If you’re up for it, I’ve got plenty, and we can sit and have some soup.” They came to my house, and we had soup and dessert and hung out. One of them played video games with my nephew and Matthew, my son who’s 19 now. Afterward, I kept hearing from people that Stefon’s agent and manager had said, “I don’t know what you did with them, but they were really impressed by it.” Those are priceless moments.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I’m working on a bachelor of arts degree in general studies through Eastern Illinois University. It will take two to three years to complete my degree. I’d like to go on to graduate school and major in urban planning and community development.
I like reading novels and watching C-SPAN, especially ‘Book Notes,’ and HGTV. I enjoy cooking, baking mostly, and make a really good chocolate swirl pound cake.
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