She is helping to organize a month devoted to photography
By Jessica Laskey
When you read Roberta McClellan’s résumé, the first question that might come to mind is “What doesn’t this woman do?”
The answer is, “Not much,” and McClellan wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I like to be able to work on a couple things at a time and learn new skills,” says McClellan, who has run marketing firm McClellan Marketing Group for more than 30 years. “The big key for having an interesting career is to keep evolving.”
McClellan has done just that. When she first came to Sacramento as a student at Sacramento State University, she studied broadcast journalism and went to work for KFBK as a talk-show producer.
After leaving radio, she figured her producing skills would translate well to marketing and approached legendary local PR guru Jean Runyon about how to break into the business. With Runyon’s mentorship, McClellan founded MMG. But McClellan also wanted to help the arts.
“Art has always kept me sane,” she says. “It meant so much to me growing up. I came from a family of four girls, and our mother let us do anything we wanted: sing, dance, draw, paint, play the harp.”
Because so many nonprofit arts groups have very limited budgets, McClellan offers her services as an independent contractor. The organization pays her on a project-by-project basis instead of a salary, which most arts groups can’t afford.
McClellan ended up working as a consultant for Camellia Symphony Orchestra and for the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission. She then moved on to Stages-Folsom Dance Arts—a small nonprofit specializing in semiprofessional training for young dancers—and Music in the Mountains, a summertime concert series in Grass Valley.
In 2014, McClellan was recommended for the executive directorship at Viewpoint Photographic Art Center, a gallery that’s been around since the early 1980s. “The first time I went in, the entire board interviewed me,” McClellan says. “I thought, ‘Bring it on!’”
She clearly impressed them; she’s the first executive director the group has had in seven years and one of only two in its history.
“I love the whole vibe down here,” says McClellan, who regularly takes in the sights and sounds of Midtown after the gallery has closed before returning home to Auburn. “We have an amazing group of volunteers. We rotate exhibits monthly in two gallery spaces. We provide free field trips, lectures and workshops and we bring a lot of artists to the community.”
In order to attract more visitors to Viewpoint, McClellan worked for more than a year organizing the launch of Photography Month Sacramento.
“Cities like Denver, LA, Portland and even Belfast are doing photo month events,” McClellan says. “It’s really gaining momentum, which has been exciting to see. We’re coming up with new ways to engage people in the art of photography with various facets so everyone can enjoy it, whether you take selfies or professional prints in a studio.”
The plan is to make the event biannual and partner with local colleges and other arts groups, including Verge Center for the Arts, the California Museum, Crocker Art Museum, Beatnik Studios and SMAC, for workshops, a Second Saturday reception, lectures, public-art displays and art walks.
“Sacramento likes visual art and loves to take photos, so I think this is really going to work here,” McClellan says.
Here’s a sampling of events for Photography Month Sacramento: Sacramento After Dark, an exhibit starting on Tuesday, April 10, at Viewpoint Photographic Art Center and featuring more than 90 Instagram images; mammoth wet-plate photo lecture by Luther Gerlach on Thursday, April 12, at American River College; a darkroom bus and camera demo by Gerlach on Saturday, April 14, also at American River College; and Photo Fête, a celebratory evening event on Thursday, April 26, at Crocker Art Museum. For more information, go to photomonthsac.org.
Jessica Laskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org