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VOL. 129 | NO. 124 | Thursday, June 26, 2014

Schadt Reflects on ArtsMemphis Time, Looks Ahead

By Andy Meek

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Thirteen years is a long time to do one job and do it well, which explains why Susan Schadt already talks with an air of wistfulness about her imminent departure as president and CEO of ArtsMemphis at the end of this year.


She still has plenty of work left to do there, but the announcement has been made. And Schadt is both excited about what comes next and contemplative already about what she’ll be leaving behind at the arts funding organization, which, since she joined in 2002, has allocated more than $45 million to area arts organizations.

What comes next for her is taking over as CEO and owner of Wild Abundance Publishing, a Memphis-based firm specializing in the publication of books focused on conservation and the arts.

“I like to say I have the best job in Memphis,” Schadt said of her current role. “I’ve been so fortunate to have the opportunity to work at ArtsMemphis. When I first took this job in January of 2002, I really thought I might be here only three or four years. I had no idea I’d end up being here for 13 years and would still be so energized and excited to go into work every day figuring out how to promote and fund the arts.

“I have a very keen sense of energy around building businesses and looking at opportunities as they present themselves. The products we were promoting at ArtsMemphis are unequaled, I think, in the city. There’s so much authenticity here and so much to make you want to go into work every day and feel like you’ve got such a great job, and I would put the team here up against any in the country. We’re small, but mighty.”

Filling her shoes at the start of 2015 will be Elizabeth Rouse, ArtsMemphis’ chief operating officer. Rouse, who the ArtsMemphis board elected president and COO, will take over as president and CEO on Jan. 1.

Meanwhile, the company Schadt is joining is very much a passion project of hers, with the publisher having been launched with the brainstorm that there might be a market for books with high-quality photography that promote and support conservation, the arts and culinary culture.

Indeed, when the entity’s first book, “First Shooting Light,” was self-published, the response generated by the book’s lush photography of the hunting clubs in the Mississippi flyway led Schadt to realize “we might be on to something here.”

The next book, published in 2010, was “Wild Abundance,” which Schadt said has sold around 14,000 copies. That book was a marriage of duck hunting and the culinary arts, she explained, because chefs accompanied them to the different duck clubs. After that book came “A Million Wings” in 2012, and a fourth book is coming this fall.

It will be called “MEMPHIS: Sweet, Spicy and a Little Greasy.” 2015 will see the publication of yet another book centered around fishing.

“It’s gotten to be a business that I think we can be proud of in Memphis,” said Schadt, who right now wears all the major hats of CEO, marketer and publisher. “I think our opportunities here are grand. It takes a village, of course, and none of this would be possible without the willingness of the hunters and conservationists who wanted to share their story and chronicle it and promote and protect the legacy of the land and the great outdoors.”

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