After 23-year run, Van Go’s leader stepping down in December

photo by: Nick Krug

Van Go director Lynne Green is pictured in this file photo from Sept. 6, 2013 at the studio, 715 New Jersey St.

Lynne Green dreamed Van Go Inc. into reality 23 years ago, and then marveled as it thrived and grew into a nationally recognized public arts program for at-risk kids.

Now Green is ready to let Van Go soar without her. She plans to step down as its leader on Dec. 28.

“I birthed it, it’s my baby and now it’s grown up,” Green said. “You let your children go, there is a point in time when that has to happen — for me, this is it.”

Over the years, what began as a mobile arts outreach unit for teens has evolved into an arts-based social service and job-training agency for 14- to 24-year-olds. Van Go got started with a donated vehicle and a $2,000 grant from the Kansas Arts Commission, Green said, but it now has an operating budget of $800,000.

At Van Go’s facility at 715 New Jersey St., the youth are paid minimum wage as they work with professional artists creating vibrant murals and brightly colored benches and decorating news racks and even trash cans.

“The underpinning of the organization is the healing power of art,” Green said. “Art making is a very therapeutic and healing venue, particularly for children with nothing else in their lives. For them, art was the tool, the connector we used to reach out.”

While part of the goal has been to create public art so the kids would receive recognition, the staff also created a welcoming environment where kids from diverse backgrounds felt safe, Green said.

For alumna Sarah Humbert, her time at Van Go was a turning point in her life.

“When I came to Van Go, I was a college dropout struggling through deep depression, unsure of my next steps,” she said. “Working at Van Go gave me consistency and responsibility and helped me to believe I could create something beautiful with my life and give back to the world.”

Today, Humbert is the development administrator at KU Endowment.

Green said Van Go was ready for a new leader.

“I’m beyond proud to leave Van Go while we’re both in exceptionally good health — thriving and looking forward to the next chapter in our lives,” Green said.

Meanwhile, the search is on for a new leader. Van Go will be accepting applications until Sept. 17. They hope to have the position filled in October. The successor will be announced in November, said Mandy Enfield, the nonprofit’s operations director. The new executive director will begin work on Jan. 2

Green said Van Go will be looking for someone “who gets it and shares the passion for young people and understands how art can be a healing force in helping young people traverse all the complicated lives they lead.”


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