Volunteer Spotlight: Jan Klein

July 9, 2015 by Jess

- by Rebecca Tsai

The Umbrella does more than merely showcase visual and performing arts; it also aims to build a community, a place for artists and art lovers to gather and learn from and inspire each other. It’s this sense of community that brought volunteer Jan Klein to the Umbrella. Back in 2012 while in between jobs, Klein found herself feeling “adrift.” She began volunteering at the Umbrella’s office at the suggestion of friend and volunteer coordinator Kathy Warren.  Jan immediately felt a sense of belonging that she had needed: “People were so welcoming and appreciative.”

Klein’s initial work with The Umbrella involved helping out in the office by answering phones and clipping mentions of the organization in local newspapers. But she soon found that her favorite volunteer stints were those that enabled her to make others feel at home at The Umbrella. At the Umbrella’s special events like Artrageous, Klein enjoyed greeting guests – she notes that positions like these have allowed her to meet everyone from board members and donors to artists and guests. She’s also ushered for a number of theater productions which gives her an opportunity not only to meet the theater-goers but also to take in performances. Among her favorite productions are Singing in the Rain, notably for the incredibly lifelike set, and Tartuffe.

Klein has also volunteered at the Umbrella’s open houses, such as the Winter Market. Favoring tasks that let her interact with both the artists and guests, Klein enjoys watching over artists’ studios and helping them answer guests’ questions.

Klein’s role in The Umbrella isn’t just as a volunteer, but also a student and art lover. She’s working on a children’s book that she started in Ilse Plume’s “Making a Children’s Book” course, and she considers Plume as one of her mentors. She has also found inspiration in the illustrations of Wayne Geehan and the oil paintings of Jean Lightman.

When not busy at The Umbrella, Klein provides elder care, bringing individuals to their various appointments as well as social events and cultural outings (including excursions to The Umbrella). It’s a career that came naturally to her, as she had always loved spending time with elders. “They’re wonderful company,” she notes. “They have such great stories to tell.” Like her clients, Jan also has amassed many stories in her life – in fact she is currently on her third career. She initially spent around 30 years as a psychiatric nurse, a challenging career. She then spent another decade practicing massage and energy balancing.

If there’s one thing Klein would like everyone to know about the Umbrella, it would be that the Umbrella’s doors are open to all. Many people aren’t aware that they can simply walk into the Umbrella and wander about the gallery even when there is no special event going on. She hopes this trend will reverse and that more people will explore the many offerings of The Umbrella, get to know its artists, and become part of the local arts community. “There are so many people here who are so talented. It’s pretty astounding. This is such a fun, vibrant place, and I love feeling a part of it!”

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