PIQUA — Piqua Arts Council (PAC) Executive Director Jordan Knepper was named one of Ohio’s Top 500 Most Influential People for his work with the arts council. Knepper has been with PAC for nine years.
His journey to PAC was unusual. When he graduated high school, Knepper was absolutely certain he wanted nothing to do with the arts but other than that, he had no clue what he wanted to do with his life after college. He decided on attending Edison State Community College where he discovered his talent as a mathematician and decided to major in mathematics to become a teacher. Knepper taught for about a year and a half before he realized teaching was not the route he wanted to take in life.
“I absolutely hated it. It wasn’t the teaching that was the problem, it was the apathy,” said Knepper.
After his stint in education, Knepper moved out to Las Vegas, Nevada and worked selling sporting goods to schools. It did not take long for him to realize that his life was still in Ohio, and that is when he accepted a job with Gateway Arts Council in Sidney as their program coordinator. He spent two years as program coordinator with Gateway Arts Council before the PAC opportunity presented itself.
“The arts have always been a big part of who I am and even though I have tried to get away from them, every time I have kind of been listless in life and didn’t know where to go next the arts found a way to draw me in. As soon as I started working in the arts and doing event planning I realized really quickly, that’s where I was meant to be,” said Knepper on what brought him to Gateway Arts Council despite being adamant that he did not want to work in the arts.
When Knepper started as executive director with PAC after only two years working with the arts, he had to “wear a lot of hats.” In the first eight of his nine years with PAC, Knepper was responsible for marketing, accounting and budgeting, planning and executing events and projects on top of donor development and putting himself out into the community to make connections and work with other nonprofits in the area.
Last year PAC was able to hire a marketing specialist, Lilian Stewart, to free up Knepper to focus more on the production of events and projects as well as managing the organization and what its’ future looks like. Just this year PAC hired a program director which leaves Knepper in a management and development position. With these new additions, Knepper can switch his focus to the future of PAC.
“We are at a pivotal point in the future of the organization. We currently have a plan and are getting ready to execute to make a larger impact on the community,” said Knepper.
Ohio’s Top 500 did not specify why Knepper was chosen as one of the most influential people in Ohio. However, Knepper believes it is due his consistency in the Piqua community and throughout Ohio.
“One of my objectives was to make sure that the Ohio Arts Council knew who the Piqua Arts Council was. That was a really big motivator and driver in how we approached everything we did. So we wanted to make sure the quality of everything we did was on a level that people would take notice,” said Knepper.
Knepper was recently appointed to the board of the Ohio Art Professional Network (OAPN) which focuses on uniting agents, artists, presenters (venues and art councils) to promote the touring performing arts in Ohio.
The PAC hosts 12 annual programs each year as a way to focus on impacting artists across Ohio, not just in Piqua. So far, PAC has been able to make an impact on artists in 31 of 88 counties in Ohio and in 15 of the 50 states.
“The work that we’re doing and that constant networking has really helped grow this organization and continues to push it forward,” Knepper said.
Outside of Ohio, PAC has been recognized by Americans for the Arts, the national arts advocacy wing of the National Endowments for the Arts, and this recognition led to Knepper being invited to speak at their 2019 conference. Also in 2019, he was a speaker at the National Consortium of Creative Placemaking conference due to his work on the development of Locke 9 in Piqua, taking an underutilized space in the community and transforming it with the arts.
“This award’s interesting. From my standpoint, it’s always great to be on a list with people that you know are doing great work out there… It’s cool to be included and just to have your name listed with those people that you admire,” said Knepper.
Knepper is the son of Dan Knepper, of Jackson Center, and Brenda Busse, of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He is a graduate of Jackson Center High School. He has an associate’s degree from Edison State Community College and a bachelor’s degree from Muskingum University.