Around Town | Jeffery Kin

You may know the dashing, innovative, and talented Jeffery Kin for his stage acting, or perhaps for his award-winning writing and direction of local theater productions, especially during his time as Managing Artistic Director at The Players Theatre for Performing Arts. These days Kin is spearheading Sarasota Rising—an exciting new arts and cultural organization whose mission is to enhance our area as a year-long arts destination through exciting events that build community pride, elevate artistic expression, and boost economic prosperity. Jeffery tells us all about this and more as we connect with him “Around Town”!

As a long-time Sarasotan involved in our local arts and culture scene, you have a deep love and respect for this community.  Tell us about your early days and what brought you to Sarasota. I was mysteriously born a theater lover in the middle of nowhere Ohio.  However, unlike most dreamers, no one ever said to me, “NO!  YOU CAN’T DO THAT!”. I received loving family support, and most importantly, teachers who saw my early passion and nurtured those early thoughts of the stage.  A great college experience was followed by an amazing New York City experience, but I never felt like I was home there. Arriving in Sarasota to retire from the arts was the best thing I ever failed at doing! Slowly, Sarasota allowed me the space and freedom to not only just act, but also direct, design, write and teach.  Our region is devoted to the arts, so I’m devoted to our region.

As the former Producing Artistic Director of The Players Performing Arts Centre, how did your tenure there shape you into who you are today? My time with The Players is marked with both tremendous highs and tremendous lows. Understanding how to navigate both of those feelings was a lesson we all must learn. However, just being an arts lover doesn’t make you a great arts employee.  So, I am very proud of the life-long relationships that came out of that time, the challenges that we overcame, and the love that still comes to me from that role I played.  You can’t lead without vision, common sense, and a passion for what you’re doing.  I did that then and I believe I’m able to do that now!

You are involved in Sarasota Rising—an organization founded to “unify the region’s arts and cultural assets into a powerful beacon.” How did this organization come to be? Often people have great ideas and may not know how to make the idea become a reality.  The initial idea for an arts festival in our region is decades old.  But it takes a true lover of the idea to verbalize and put the wheels in motion.  That came from Dr. Mark Kauffman, who understands the value of our region and knows we have more to give than meets the eye.  He gracefully introduced me to the basic concept and then stepped aside for me to make it happen.  Early support from our Downtown Improvement District and a special angel donor was enough to get the wheels in motion.  Now, the idea has a life, and we are growing daily to create this annual celebration of who we are on this Cultural Coast!

Where do things stand now with Sarasota Rising? We are toddlers right now, just about two years old!  And we are doing what every young organization does and that it to strategically plan and surround ourselves with amazing energies that can help get us to our first main even in November of 2024.  There is nothing that has the potential to elevate our region like this one singular annual event.  We are digging deep, putting in the hours, and doing the hard work needed to create something for our entire region to be proud of for generations.  I am reminded daily that we are all stronger together, and I am buoyed by the mantra: “Together we are stronger!”.

How will Sarasota Rising assist and enhance local arts and cultural organizations? We are built to support and elevate who and what we are as an arts community.  I have spent a great deal of time meeting, talking, and having tea with as many of the area organizations that will have me.  I feel that by working together, we can help in branding our region as the Culture Coast.  That is a part of our mission.  If our effort is heralded for its desire to elevate both the large and the small, the professional and non-professional, that is literally music to our ears.  We want ALL area businesses to have more customers, more patrons, more donors, and more support for the important work that is being done every single day. Our region deserves a celebration of who we are!

There are plans for a Sarasota Rising 2024 festival to be called Living Arts Festival.  Tell us more about it.Imagine our very own Selby 5 Points Park that is set up with a stage and tents all celebrating our incredible area artists.  That for one week each year, our arts groups seem a bit more accessible to area students and families, and tourists!  We are simply placing the theater, visual arts, and fine arts in a prominent place that a child could have their first arts experience. This one event could change their life forever.  We are taking the time to help take down some walls, and helping area residents and tourists alike see that the arts are all around us.  The arts help build a strong community, so we are engaging, educating, and enlightening our city and our neighbors to become friends through Living Arts Festival.    

If our readers would like to get involved with Sarasota Rising as a donor or volunteer, please tell them how to do that. To say that this one initiative will take a village is an understatement.  We need all kinds of help and support. To get engaged is as easy as an email or phone call, which is completely accessible on our website, Our organization is worthy of your time, treasure, and talent. It’s the only way to put in the amount of energy that helps all boats rise!

What other interests or hobbies do you have?What is this word hobby?  Truthfully, I am constantly amazed at how much my farm upbringing still plays such a role in my life.  I need my fresh air; I need to prune; and I need to water and fertilize the plants in my yard.  I need that connection to the soil to this day.  I’m not so sure people would even recognize me when I’m knee deep in mulch, sweating and toiling on my many projects.  I guess in many ways, I’m still a farm kid. I still like to get dirty.

What are some of your favorite restaurants or places to go in Sarasota?If I know a business is supporting a cause or has a strong focus on helping our community, I’m there!  This is money well spent. So, places like Rise & Nye’s, or Drunken Poet Café are personal favorites. Knowing a business has ties with and gives back to their community makes a big difference to me.

What was your favorite vacation and why? From an early age, whenever I saw pictures of Machu Picchu, I just knew I had to be standing there some day. For some reason, I’ve always felt I needed to be there. My trip there last year with my partner, and my sister and her friend, was the journey of a lifetime.  I will go back, yes, for some of the sites, but it was really the culture of hospitality and respect that helped me fall in love with more than the sites and the people keeping those sites alive.