March is Women’s History Month.
Defined as an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society, Women’s History Month is a time to honor women of the past and those of the future. The Kenan Center is tellling the stories of the many remarkable women that make up the Kenan Center. We celebrate HERstory. In these challenging times, we want to capture the spirit of women who made great strides in the core of what Kenan stands for – arts, recreation and education.
Manning has been a volunteer at the Kenan since 1980! She volunteered at the first ever Holiday Gift Show – now on its 40th year! She has been in the Kenan Art Council since that time, serving as President several times. Her love for the arts is transparent while heading the KAC Gallery hostesses, serving on the Kenan Art Committee, overseeing the 100 American Craftsmen show and really anything related to the arts at Kenan. Her leadership skills have led her to co-chairman of the Holiday Gift Show. For those who remember the Education Building offering art classes on the second floor, Manning was a teacher there showcasing her watercolor skills during the 80’s and 90’s.
Manning sees the Kenan Center as a second home and we are so happy to have her! “It is a special place for women to promote the arts. There are opportunities to serve the community in so many ways. We are so fortunate to have the Kenan Center here in Lockport”, Manning stated.
Parrish began working at the Kenan Center in November of 2018. She is now the Public Relations & Development Manager focusing on grant development and community engagement. HERstory centers around the arts! She has helped in the creation of new programming at the Kenan Center including g(ART)en, Letters to Santa Project Mailbox and Daisy’s Adventure Garden.
Parrish shares that the Kenan Center has long benefited from the creativity and innovation of women, including the creation of the Women’s Arts Council (now the Kenan Arts Council) in 1970 which paved the way for fine arts engagement in Lockport, NY. “It is with a conscious and creative mind that I build upon that work and ensure our community has access to art and culture,” said Parrish.
Selena Truax Morello
Selena has had Kenan in her blood since she was young, starting off as a figure skater and going to all of her brother’s hockey games when there was an ice rink at the Kenan Arena. Passing her love down to her two boys, they both currently play soccer and participate in Kenan programming.
Selena has served as President of the Board of Directors 2006-2008, 2017-2019, as well as secretary, Vice President. This past year she took on the Annual Appeal as Chairman and is just 5% away from meeting a goal of $60,000! She also lended her skills to many committees at Kenan including 100 American Craftsmen, Linda Taylor Scholarship Fund, 50th Anniversary Planning Committee, Kenan Center Gala and more!
She says that the Kenan Center has allowed her the opportunity to give back to the Lockport Community through active volunteerism. “I have been fortunate to see the institution grow and actively participate in implementing policies and procedures, programming, and helping to establish the Kenan Center as a critical component in serving the Lockport and regional community,” Selena states. She adds, “the friendships that I have made with many of the women who give of their time and service here has been a part of my life that I will always treasure. This is an organization that excels in serving the mission of our benefactor William Rand Kenan and will continue to do so for many years. It offers multiple avenues to participate and learn about the arts, recreation and education. It also allowed me the opportunity to follow in my mother, Margaret Truax’s, footsteps and her passion for this institution and the Lockport community.”
Avery is our awesome intern at the Kenan Center, although she has been a volunteer for over 9 years (that’s over half of her life!). Avery has had her hands in everything Kenan from helping at Montessori, to playing Kenan soccer, going to day camp, particpating in Missoula Theater, assisting in working weddings and other rentals and volunteering most Kenan events!
“I love being at Kenan and it obviously means so much to me since both of my parents have been on the Board of Governors which inspired me to do my own thing and be so involved,” Avery explains. She continues, “I’m inspired every single day by all of the women who I continue to work with, whether they are staff or volunteers. Throughout my time volunteering I have been able to get my friends involved with me which is always so much fun.” We are beyond luck to have Avery and her friends!
Kathleen founded and is the producer of Jazz at the Taylor and a co-founder of The Carriage House Players. She served on the Board of Governors for many years, worked on the marketing committee and specifically, provided pro-bono strategy and creative work for advertising 100 American Craftsmen. As long as Kenan has been around, she has been involved. As a teenager, she assisted in teaching theater workshops for children and also studied under the NOW Theatre Repertory Company, which was an avant garde troupe in residence at the Taylor Theater. She also has attended a variety of performances and art exhibits and acted on the Taylor stage, all of which helped form her career working in creative fields. Most recently, you may have seen her play Edna in Prisoner on 2nd Avenue at the Taylor last year.
“I’m fortunate to have been influenced by the visual and performing arts programs that were offered in my youth at Kenan. My goal is to assist the Kenan Center in introducing new audiences of all ages and backgrounds to the performing arts,” Kathleen explains. We think she’s doing a great job reaching for her goal and appreciate her guidance and support!
Pat has participated in many aspects of the Kenan Center for over 30 years! Volunteering for Kenan’s many events has helped connect her to the community while giving her many amazing, long lasting friendships along the way. Pat am so proud to represent the Kenan Center as a volunteer. It is a gem in our community giving opportunities for all ages to continue to grow and learn, engage in the arts, and participate in sports and recreation.
Pat has attributes he Kenan Center to giving her the opportunity to grow as a more confident leader, serving two terms on the Board of Governors and currently serving her third year as Co-President of the Kenan Arts Council. “Being on committees for our Holiday Gift Show, decorating the Kenan grounds for the holidays , volunteering at the Wine and Beer Fest, and working at the KAC famous lemonade and brownie stand have been highlights of my Kenan experience”, Pat states.
Jane has volunteered at the Kenan Center with her husband Don for over 20 years and continue to big supporters. You can find Jane helping back stage at the Taylor Theater for Carriage House Players, beautifying the Kenan House for the Gift Show, and so much more. She’s been a member of the Kenan Center Board of Governers for 6 years and a member of Kenan Arts Council serving as President for 2 years. She and Don are life-time members of Kenan Center and both chaired the 2013 Annual Appeal campaign.
Simply put, Jane says, “It’s an amazing experience to volunteer with such a great group of Kenan women. Sharing knowledge and creativity to further better the community and the Kenan Center is a rewarding experience. It’s a privilege to be associated with The Kenan,” but really Jane, we’re privileged to have you at Kenan!
Alyssa began working at the Kenan Center in 2011, a graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Tourism and Recreational Management from Niagara University. Alyssa holds the title of Events & Programs Manager and is responsible for coordinating all public events, large and small such as 100 American Craftsmen and Niagara Wine & Beer Fest. Aside from coordinating public events and working with volunteers, she oversees all private events that are rented within the house, arena, theater and gardens including weddings. Alyssa has a strong connection in working with artists and helps organize each exhibition in the gallery.
Her favorite part about working at the Kenan Center is the interaction with people from all aspects of the job and the fulfillment of seeing the success of events. “The Kenan Center has allowed me so many opportunities to grow and create on a new level while still continuing to serve our mission,” Alyssa explains.
Bridget is the Marketing & Communications Manager at Kenan Center. She loves all things creativity! Bridget designs most of the Kenan brochures, event marketing, social media posts & website. She loves having a career where she can work so closely with the community she grew up in. She’s no stranger to Kenan. Her daughter attended Montessori Preschool and as a kid, she spent many hours hanging out at the arena while her brother played soccer. “I understand first-hand the impact Kenan has on this community and I’m thrilled to be able to show other people in our community what impact Kenan can have on them.”
Having so many women to look up to at Kenan, Bridget is thankful for the support; “the women of Kenan are one of kind, I learn something new every day. I’m developing as a person here thanks to so many amazing mentors!”
You can find Nancy as a member of the Kenan Quilters’ Guild, working at our Taylor Theater events and so much more. Currently she is serving on the Board of Governors representative for Kenan Quilters’ Guild. She is always there with a helping hand, idea or just some words of encouragement. She always knows how to make us smile!
She likes to help show Kenan Center as inclusive and responsive to the community we serve, “our variety of programming and services offers so many options in arts, education, and sports for community members of all ages. I strive to be welcoming and supportive when responding to questions about Kenan Center”, Nancy explains. We think you’re doing great at that Nancy!
For over 50 years, Peg has been involved at Kenan, essentially from the start of Kenan! She has had the great joy of appearing on what she calls “that treasure box of a stage” with many wonderful actors, including the esteemed Liz Hiller and so many others, in comedies, dramas, and musicals. She’s thankful for so many beautiful memories. Peg has also directed in that “beloved old barn” for both Four Seasons Players shows like The Shadow Box, The Foreigner, and Greater Tuna, and more recently Carriage House Players productions of Love Letters, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and It’s a Wonderful Life.
“There’s no better stage in the world than the Taylor Theatre, I believe, and I have made lifelong friendships here”, Peg said.
But what does it mean to Peg to be a woman who represents Kenan Center today? Peg explains, “It means protecting a legacy and a landmark that are rich parts of Lockport’s past and important parts of its future. WNY has so much to offer and the Kenan Center and the Taylor Theatre are gifts to be cherished.”
Kathy has been involved at the Kenan Center since 1987, shortly after her family relocated to Lockport. Since then Kathy has served terms on the Board of Goveners multiple times and has helped support many of Kenan’s activities. Kathy said, “It’s been absolutely amazing to think of all the wonderful people that I met through Kenan activities.” The gardening classes offered by Herb Club members introduced her to a whole new world of growing and drying herbs for cooking and for medicinal purposes. There were the wonderful sessions that were offered in the basement of the Kenan house for reupholstery that she remembers fondly. She has enjoyed the talent presented by the Four Seasons Players until they retired and is often at a show put on by the Cartiage House Players and the Jazz at the Taylor series. Kathy is also a member of the Kenan Arts Council along with membership in the Kenan Center itself for all of those 34 years. These days, you’ll see her serving as a hostess at the Kenan House Gallery or Opening Receptions for numerous art shows too!
Kathy is a true supporter of Kenan and we are lucky to have her always promoting us in the community. She is proud of Kenan stating, “It always gives me such pride to introduce others, who are unfamiliar with Kenan to the jewel within this community.”
Shortly after William R. Kenan, Jr. moved to Lockport, he met his future wife, Alice Pomroy. At the time, he was living at 80 Genesee St and she was living at 78 Genesee St. However, the two only met when they both visited Kenan’s future brother-in-law in New York City. According to a 1985 Kenan brochure, Kenan’s bride was serveral years his senior. Together they purchased what is now known as the Kenan House for the sum of $18,700. Find out more at http://kenancenter.org/about/.
As a young child Cynthia used to climb the trees in the orchard and fly kites in the fields where the arena is now built. Her parents were active in many aspects of Kenan, and it was just a part of their lives while growing up. Cynthia now serves on the Board of Govenors and is a member of the Kenan Arts Council. However, Cynthia has given something special to the Kenan; she wrote the picture book, The Place, for the Kenan Center’s 50th anniversary. She also is an enthusiastic participant in the improv events offered by Defiant Monkey.
Cyndy said it best, “Kenan Center has so much to offer the community–arts, education, sports, live performances of theater and music–something for everyone, really. You can participate in something you already are familiar with, or discover something new. And being involved with one (or more) of these things can have a wonderful ripple effect: for me, by sharing what I love with other people via the Kenan I’ve met people I might never have known and have forged some wonderful friendships. I hope that my enthusiasm for the Kenan and its programs might nudge others to come get involved and experience it for themselves.”
For Mary Brennan-Taylor, it’s hard to remember a time when Kenan Center was not a part of her life. From the time she was a young child in the late 1960’s taking pottery class and French lessons to her wedding reception in the magnificent Kenan mansion to the wholesome and enriching experiences all of her kids enjoyed in Kenan soccer…Kenan Center has been the amazing backdrop of life’s cherished moments. Mary remembers “volunteering with my daughter during the 100 American Craftsmen weekend that was an annual tradition” and co-chairing multiple Big Band concerts by the Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey orchestras in the Kenan Arena.
Most recently, Mary, along with her friend and Art of Suffrage co-chair, Ellen Martin became fully involved at Kenan Center for nearly seven incredible months of tours, teas and special events as the community embraced the Centennial of the 19th Amendment. “Being a child, a mom and a woman of Kenan has been a joy,” Mary explained.
We like to call Candy the face of Kenan! She’s the first smiling face you see when you enter the Kenan House. She is the Kenan Center Office Manager and we are so thankful for this woman! When she isn’t answering phones or keeping everything (and everyone) in shape, she bakes the staff cookies or biscuits from time to time at the house.
Candy is so excited to be a part of this organization and says she has learned so much in her 2 ½ short years here. “The campus is always buzzing with new events be it sports, arts, jazz, children’s programs, yoga, music….the diversity is amazing and exciting. We have the most amazing, committed and talented staff which have really shown their talented gifts and creative spirit during our most recent trying times in this crazy world. I have met the most wonderful people be it staff, guests or volunteers and I am enjoying each day as a new adventure.”
As a child Ellen learned to ice skate at the Kenan Arena then eventually became a former board member and most recently co-curator (along with fellow woman of Kenan, Mary Brennan-Taylor) of The Art of Suffrage Exhibit held at the Kenan House Gallery in 2019. Ellen grew up in Lockport not very far from the Kenan and spent many hours on the campus whether at the ice rink, the Taylor Theatre or at the main house for exhibits.
Ellen can’t help but note that most of the staff and volunteers are women, stating, “they all have the same goal of bringing art and culture to our community. To be a part of that? Count me in.”
Girls of Kenan Youth Soccer
Although there are many girls who play Kenan Youth Soccer (we salute you all), we wanted to highlight this team that has 5 girls on it! It looks like these girls don’t need the glass slipper, they have soccer cleats! Mollie, Sarah, Katie, Maddie & Olivia are all powerhouses on and off the field. Way to go girls!
Mary is a volunteer at Kenan in a very unique way. She spends her time in the warm months sharing her talents while tending to the Kenan Gardens. She’s a calm presence while the sun is shining and her hands are in the dirt. She also attends numerous events here at the Kenan including 100 American Craftsmen, shows at the Taylor Theater and art exhibits in the Kenan House Gallery.
“I enjoy the mystery of the garden, the beauty unveiled throughout the seasons”, Mary joyfully explained why she spends countless hours keeping our gardens beautiful.
Jennifer, a life-long resident of Lockport, has been directing the Kenan Center Montessori program
for eight years. She brings 25 years of unique teaching experience to our campus. Jennifer creates an environment where every student enjoys a dynamic, exploratory and hands-on approach to learning each day. Her hope is that each Montessori child feels safe, empowered and finds a true joy for learning .
“I treasure the connections I have made with children and their families during my time teaching at the Kenan Center,” Jennifer explained.
Kenan Youth Soccer Coaches
At Kenan, we rely on volunteers to coach youth soccer. They dedicate hours of their time to teaching children teamwork, perseverance, and decision making, that children be able to apply to all aspects of their life. It also helps the kids learn to weather the ups and downs of life, anticipate opportunities and work with their peers to solve problems. The benefits are plentiful to the children and we salute our Kenan Coaches – MEN & WOMEN – PAST & PRESENT! They are one of kind and we’re very thankful for their time, efforts and skills.
As an Inspirational Vocalist, Musician and Music Teacher, Jackie has performed at the Kenan Center for many years – at the 100 American Craftsmen Show, in garden weddings at the Kenan House, as a soloist at the Holiday Craft Show, and in the Taylor Theater for the 50th Anniversary Celebration. She has also played piano for the Kenan Arts Council gallery receptions, for the Montessori School Graduation, and has held her Annual Spring Music Recital for her own Voice & Piano Students in the Kenan House since 2012.
Jackie and her family became members of the Kenan Center in 1995, when her sons became involved in the Kenan Soccer program. She remembers, “I had been attracted to the majestic beauty of the Kenan House from the time we moved to Lockport in 1988, because it reminded me of the Andrew Dickson White House, on the campus of Cornell University, my alma mater. I had spent many hours in the Andrew Dickson White House, during my university years, taking music classes, and singing at receptions with the Cornell Chorus and Glee Club. The first time I saw the Kenan House, I was filled with nostalgia and longed to know the significance of the entire Kenan campus.”
Jackie states, “as an African American woman, wife and mother, I believe that joining the Kenan Center when my family was very young opened us up to many wonderful opportunities. Together, we had years of art receptions, music recitals, “Kidventures” ballroom dance classes, music appreciation classes, craft classes, theater performances, jazz concerts, lacrosse, soccer, the Quilters Show, the Holiday Craft Show, the Wine and Beerfest, and of course, the 100 American Craftsmen Show. My husband and I wanted our four sons to be ‘gentlemen’ with manners, culture, class and a broad appreciation of art, education and athletics. The Kenan Center was the perfect place for them to thrive in each of these endeavors. Our twin sons were playing the piano for Kenan art gallery receptions from the time they were teenagers, and our eldest son was the DJ for the first few Wine & Beerfests, sometimes assisted by our middle son. I served on the Board of Governors from 2000 to 2005, passing the balance of my term to my husband Vince, who went on to serve as both Treasurer and the first two-term Chairman of the Board of Governors. I’m happy to share that our eldest son Vincent also served on the Board of Governors as a young adult before moving to Dallas, Texas.”
Jackie states that she thinks the Kenan Center is a treasure. Jackie, we think you’re the treasure here!
Karen is one half of Defiant Monkey Improv, a two-person, all-improvised comedy show. The other half is her other half: her husband Andy. The two have been performing shows and holding improv jams at the Kenan Center’s Taylor Theatre since 2009, and they’ve been in several scripted plays there as well. They were even married in the Taylor Theatre in 2016!
Karen states, “Women are a minority in the world of improvisational comedy, and it is wonderful to be able to perform regularly scheduled shows in such a beautiful theater. I love introducing new people to the Taylor Theatre and watching the wonder on their faces as they see the hidden gem of a stage in the carriage house. I am proud that we have been able to be a part of the historic Kenan Center’s programming.”