Jon Austin, the executive director of Springfield Area Arts Council (SAAC), has stepped down in order to accept a position with the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). In his new role, Austin will be working with FEMA to assist with museum restoration after disasters such as the recent hurricanes and wildfires.

Austin joined the Arts Council in 2015 following an interim term by former board president Mark Pence necessitated by the retirement of longtime executive director Penny Wollan-Kriel. Sheila Walk, current program administrator, will assume interim executive director duties beginning Nov. 15 to advance the Arts Council’s mission of enriching the region through the arts.

Board president Courtney Wick said, “We appreciate Jon’s contribution and Sheila’s assuming interim responsibility. This transition is a great time for the board to revisit the strategic plan to ensure the best support for the arts moving forward.”

“In this interim period, we are focusing our efforts on our biggest fundraiser: First Night Springfield, the annual family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration,” said Wick. She also stated that they are currently seeking local sponsors and individual donors for stages and activities.

The Arts Council facilitates funding opportunities for regional artists and arts groups to create and for citizens to enjoy the benefits of the arts. The Arts Council assists non-profit arts in generating direct and indirect funding for communities in Sangamon and Menard Counties including revenue to artists and organizations as well as “collateral spending” on dining, shopping, hotels and parking related to arts attendance.