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Kia Liszak

"My dream is to expand the type of art we can do." - Kia Liszak

Kia Liszak returned to her childhood stomping grounds on the Northside of Missoula when she accepted a part-time job at the Zootown Arts Community Center in 2011.

A lifelong artist who had recently closed her business, Blackbird Kid Shop, Liszak said she followed her heart out of the private sector and into the world of nonprofits.

It was an ideal situation at the time. The job allowed her more time with son Silas, now 6, and gave her creative and youth-minded sides a perfect outlet.

Two years later, Liszak is the executive director of a growing community arts center and says she’s addicted to the rewards of running a nonprofit.

Liszak was promoted to ZACC executive director in 2012. She works every day to fulfill ZACC’s mission to use art to inspire, connect and create.

Liszak learned a lot about making a entity like ZACC work as a small business owner. Those lessons translated into helping grow ZACC.

“I think having a background in business and understanding the power of marketing and getting the word out was important,” she said.

One of the first things she did for ZACC was throw a neighborhood block party.

More than 1,000 people showed up and enjoyed art together. She worked to form partnerships with many of the other vibrant nonprofits here, always working toward sharing more of ZACC’s art programs with the community.

When there was talk about moving ZACC out of the Northside neighborhood, Liszak said no, and worked harder to invite people to come to the center.

Awareness about ZACC’s programs and facilities have grown since. Among other offerings, the organization offers adult art workshops, after-school programs five days a week, nine weeks of summer camps, and it houses the only public print shop in Montana.

Liszak recently decided to expand ZACC into the 5,000-square-foot basement of the building the organization leases.

ZACC’s first gala fundraiser – the {mini} Benefit Show – was held there. The gala got even more people into ZACC and helped raise money to keep it moving forward.

“My dream is to expand the type of art we can do,” she said.

In the future, Liszak wants to include things like media arts, production, dance and theater programs.

“I don’t think there’s anything more transformative than art,” she said. “I feel really lucky I get to witness it every day.”

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Reporter Jenna Cederberg can be reached at 523-5241 or at jenna.cederberg@missoulian.com.

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