The Jansen Art Center has long been a creative focal point and haven for Whatcom County artists. Much of its success is possible through the tireless work of talented folks who keep it running smoothly. Newly appointed Executive Director Cluny Madison is yet another feather in the cap of an impressive roster, bringing an interesting background and a wealth of experience to the role.

Before the J

“I’m originally from England — Sheffield in Yorkshire,” says Madison. “My family emigrated to the Bahamas, and then we moved to Florida.” Madison spent a number of years in the southern state and graduated from the University of Central Florida. From there, Madison started her work at The Nature Conservancy of Florida for the next 17 years. When she started a family, Madison began thinking about a different environment to raise her son.

“I hadn’t been to Washington before, but an opportunity with The Nature Conservancy brought me out to Seattle, and I loved it,” she says. “It felt like ‘coming home.’

Madison worked for The Nature Conservancy in Seattle for seven years before moving on to a smaller nonprofit called Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center. “They provide equine-assisted therapies for people with disabilities,” says Madison. “I loved the mission, the people, and the horses; I’ve owned horses, so that was really a special time in my career. But after three years, I felt the pull back to environmental nonprofits.”

When Madison left Little Bit, she became the executive director of ECOSS — the Environmental Coalition of South Seattle. “I was there for almost six years. It’s a community-based environmental nonprofit that provides environmental resources, education, and access to services by a largely multicultural community.”

Madison describes having at least 10 different languages spoken throughout the staff at any given time. “After leading the organization through the ‘Covid years’ it was time to make room for emerging leaders.  For the last two years, I have worked in the Executive Office for the National Audubon Society.” The National Audubon Society protects birds and focuses on how climate change affects their habitat loss across the Americas.

Once again, Madison was pulled back to the small nonprofit sector, so she started looking for opportunities in Whatcom County to be closer to her son, who attends UBC in Vancouver, B.C.

Cluny poses in front of ‘The Happy Pig’ by Lorna Libert, which can be seen at the Jansen Art Center. Photo courtesy Jansen Art Center

Whatcom County and the Jansen Art Center

 “My partner Brad and I started visiting Bellingham and exploring Whatcom County,” Madison says. “It was the spark that got us thinking about relocating here.”

Madison began casually scanning job postings in the area and one day saw the job description for the J. She was impressed with the organization from the start.  “The rest is history, you might say. I’m very excited to be here,” she says. “Lynden is a lovely town in a beautiful part of the world, and the Jansen Art Center is a true gem in this rural part of the county.

Not only does Madison bring a strong background in nonprofit work to the J, but also has a deep appreciation for creativity and artists. “I’m experienced in running a nonprofit business, but I have not worked in the arts before,” she says. “It’s a real opportunity for me to look, learn, stretch, create, and grow.

The Jansen Art Center, at 321 Front Street in Lynden, offers performances, classes, exhibits and more. Photo courtesy Jansen Art Center

Settling in at the J

Madison has already felt the irresistible inspiration the Jansen Art Center instills in anyone who walks through the door.

“Walking through the building, I’m struck by the sensory richness — fragrance coming from the gift shop, the soothing colors, warm woods, and stunning artwork create a visually charged atmosphere. And piano music often drifts from our performance rooms. It’s a complete sensory experience. I’m honored and excited to be part of the Jansen Art community. It is a tremendous opportunity to lead the organization forward and to explore and develop my own creativity and hidden talents.”

As for the future? Madison is dedicated to strengthening the organization’s sustainability and creating more opportunities for growth. “I want someone from WhatcomTalk to be interviewing a new executive director 100 years from now,” she says. “I want to be part of building the organization’s future, knowing that it is always growing, always has something innovative and new so it remains the creative heart of the community.”


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