Hamilton, Ohio – A love of travel led the new development manager at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts to plant roots and stay home.
Paradox? Maybe. But Arnita Gunn brings more to her role at the Fitton Center than a strong resume.
“Arnita offers us both an amazing authenticity and an incredible energy at the Fitton Center,” said Executive Director Ian MacKenzie-Thurley. “She is already so connected to the community through her existing non-profit work. She brings with her strong relationships within Hamilton and throughout Butler County and she has a passion for service that is inspiring!”
As is much of the Chicago-born Gunn’s story.
“We were living in southern Illinois and we were poor,” she said. “I had my first child at 16 and a lot of people told me I should just quit school and get a GED. I decided I was not going to be that statistic. If you want me to do something, just tell me I can’t and get out of the way, because I’m going to prove you wrong.”
She finished high school on time and became the first person in her family to attend – and graduate – college at Miami University. She went on to get a master’s degree in public administration with certification in non-profit management from Wright State University.
Gunn stayed in the area because she wanted stability for her growing family, but also because she easily could get a to a variety of international airports – Cincinnati, Dayton, Louisville, Lexington, Columbus, Indianapolis and Chicago – to feed a passion for seeing different cultures around the world.
A spring break trip to Jamaica her senior year at Miami led to a return service trip that summer. By 2012, she founded JamReads International Inc., a non-profit corporation distributing books to school-age children.
“Grad school was the first time I went to school not because I had to - or not to prove somebody wrong - but for myself,” Gunn said. “I did a study abroad program in post-apartheid South Africa bringing young learners from very different backgrounds together and teaching them about leadership and entrepreneurship. I was still going to Jamaica as much as I could. “I was building relationships around the world and building bridges for people to be part of something bigger than themselves.”
In 2020, Gunn built more bridges through Beautiful Colors. The community initiative in Hamilton uses chalk art to foster difficult conversations in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police.
While a development manager is responsible for fundraising, conversation will be one of Gunn’s primary tasks at the Fitton Center.
“I get to marry my love of community and art and my degree,” Gunn said. “This is a great opportunity. I love this community and I’m already shaking all the hands and kissing all the babies.
“It’s more than fundraising. I love the relationships. If (people) have buy-in and they’re treated well, the money will come. It’s the relationships that have to come first, though. That’s what I look forward to building – relationships - and sharing the passion the Fitton Center team has for the great work we’re doing in this community.”
The Fitton Center for Creative Arts is located at 101 S. Monument Avenue on the Riverfront in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.
Building Community Excellence through the Arts and Culture