I still get giddy every time my name gets mentioned in the paper, I secretly record the news when I get interviewed, and my two favorite articles about the digitally nomadic period of my life from different newspapers hang proudly in my office. It’s still humbling to see your name in print, your face on-screen, and your work appreciated publicly. I grew up with big shoes to fill and always imagined my name in lights. While my dad was a successful entrepreneur and CEO of major US corporations, my mother was a successful writer/director for the stage and if you grew up in Chicago or Wichita in the 70’s and 80’s…you probably experienced her work. From these two opposing worlds comes me: A creative entertainer with a flair for the dramatic driven by the love of business prosperity. In 1999 I was working as a children’s television director and comedy variety show producer. By 2004 I was working primarily as an assistant director in film on a number of horror films and helped produce a short that was adapted to an Oscar nominated feature. By 2008 I was the go-to guy in New York and San Francisco for producing online viral videos in association with international TV branding. In 2009 I pulled anchor and became a digital nomad, still using video as a medium, but focusing on social media as the viral aspect of the branding work I was executing. Then, in 2010, I moved to Wichita, KS to become the Director of Marketing for the franchise division of an international retail brand and joined the family business as the managing partner of our local restaurant. My name has gone from being in lights to being in print…but I still make films on the side. I am the mixing bowl of ingredients that are my parents’ talents and example. I love the arts and I love business…odd that we feel inclined to separate them. However, one of the things I wanted to do with my move to Wichita was become more active in my community. This is why I serve on three boards, consult for my creative production company, and am a co-founder of a non-profit arts organization. That drive to volunteer comes from my parents.
Today…I simply want to brag about my mom, Toni. As I selfishly cut out newspaper articles about myself, shake hands at events, speak with community leaders about the future of Wichita, and forge my own name in a town…it is important to remember that my parents paved the way first. I do what I can sometimes to escape their name because I want to know I am achieving my own success on my own name. I am usually trying to escape my dad’s name, because we work in the same office and I don’t want people thinking I have a job because our last name matches…I want people to know I earned this job by being the right man for it and by putting in more time and effort than anyone else. Its hard. It’s a careful balance of separating yourself from some personal aspects of work while embracing others. The same goes for the time I volunteer to my community. This Sunday the Wichita Eagle published a great blurb about my mom titled “Good Deeds: Love of the art drives Wichita volunteer.” I have big shoes to fill, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to contribute to Wichita and other communities as much as my amazing mother has.
I love you Mom. You inspire me, please keep inspiring us all with your dedication to this city and its arts community…and yes, you can correct my spelling and grammar on this post in the comment section publicly.
When Toni Gates retired, she didn’t want to stop having fun.
“I had a full-blown career and spent over 20 years with my own theater troupe, and we performed for the forgotten audience of 2- to 8-year-olds,” Gates said. “I loved every second of it.
“I love the arts. I loved providing a participatory experience for imagination and education.”
Gates, 69, is the events coordinator for the Murdock Society, which is affiliated with the Wichita Art Museum. She provides opportunities for patrons of the museum to attend events and social activities relating to art.
“Our membership is renewed on an annual basis and in order for them to feel like it is worthwhile to renew a membership, we try to provide interesting happenings,” Gates said. “My job is to create those special events.”
One of the last events was a tour of private collections of art called “Small Spaces and Big Art.”
“We visited three different homes,” Gates said. “None of the owners had big houses, but they did have passion for art. We got to see how people utilized art in special ways.
“It was inspirational for our patrons to get creative and not feel like you have to have a ton of floor footage to hang art.”
So why do this?
“This is a great community and welcoming,” Gates said. “I wanted to do something for the community.”
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