New space, new director | November 30, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - November 30, 2012

New space, new director

Pacific Art League leases space next door to hold activities during its renovations

by Rebecca Wallace

The Pacific Art League has found a new temporary location — and a new executive director — to help it through major renovations set to begin in January.

Management consultant Seth Schalet plans to take the reins of the downtown Palo Alto arts organization starting next week. In addition, the art league has just leased the space next door, at 227 Forest Ave., as an interim place to host activities while the league is under construction. It's smaller than the league's current 7,606-square-foot area, but "it certainly gives us the ability to hold classes and exhibits," Schalet said.

Speck Products, which designs cases for iPhones and other high-tech gadgets, has been based at 227 Forest but is now expanding into a larger site, Schalet said.

Ground-breaking for the art league's $4 million renovation and seismic retrofit is planned for late January. After previous executive director Richard Ambrose left in August to head the Richmond Art Center, the art league launched a search for his replacement, and found it just a few cities north in San Mateo, where Schalet lives.

Schalet has experience with both major construction projects and the specifics of working in Palo Alto. He spent most of 2011 as chief operating officer for the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in south Palo Alto. The JCC opened its new 135,000-square-foot facility in 2009, so construction was completed by the time Schalet joined, but there were plenty of post-construction and deliverables matters for him to handle, he said. "I've worked with the city of Palo Alto on permitting and other issues."

Before entering the nonprofit world, Schalet ran the sales and marketing departments for several high-tech companies, and then moved into operations. He then started serving on the boards of various nonprofits. Last year, he co-founded Operational IMPACT Partners, a San Mateo firm providing management consulting to nonprofits and foundations.

It's a busy time to join the Pacific Art League, which brings challenges that Schalet says he relishes. "These are the kinds of things that don't happen every day ... to take a great brand and work with the board and determine how to move forward," he said.

The 90-year-old art league's historic building has needed revamping for many years, which led to a controversy in 2007 over plans to sell the structure to a developer and have it redone. Several staff and board members resigned.

The current plan has been much more popular, and was unanimously approved by the City Council. It will include increasing the building's size by two-thirds and leasing out the second floor to help retire the bank debt that is funding most of the project. Construction has been estimated to last 10 to 12 months.

Schalet was not around for the controversy, but said there's a "very positive atmosphere" at the art league now. He said he plans to work with the board to attract new members, in part by adding more programs that marry art with new digital technology. These could be classes held offsite at high-tech companies, or new themed exhibitions. Painting, printing and pastels will still be among the core media at the organization, but there's always room for thinking outside the box, he said.

"I want to be as innovative and creative as possible, to keep PAL in a sustainable position," he said. "Beyond that, I've got a lot to learn. I want to take the time to listen and understand what the membership wants."


There are no comments yet for this post

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


Save $5 when you register by Monday, July 24

Registration is now open for the 33rd annual Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run and Walk. This family-friendly event which benefits local nonprofits serving kids and families will take place on Friday, Oct. 6 at the Palo Alto Baylands.

Register Here