PLAYA at Summer Lake executive director steps down

Rebecca Lawton stepped down from the role of executive director for PLAYA at Summer Lake to pursue her passion for writing.

PLAYA at Summer Lake (PLAYA) is searching for a new executive director as Rebecca Lawton has stepped done to pursue her passion of writing fiction.

Lawton was appointed executive director for PLAYA in June 2018, she had been a resident of PLAYA in the past and felt that if she had the chance to be the executive director she would want to make some changes.

That opportunity came up when the position became available. Even though she applied, and was hopefully, she did not feel 100% confident that she would get the position. She came in wanting to change “the vibe” in her words. She wanted to make PLAYA more about the residents and their residency, provide a support structure for the residents so that they did not really have to fend for themselves, things that she worked on during her tenure at PLAYA.

Lawton knew that if she was offered the position she would only stay for a couple of years and then retire to write. She had experience in the non-profit field working at the Sonoma Ecology Center as director of Research and director of Programs, she was also a Board member on the Friends of the River in the San Francisco Bay area. She felt that her experience leading non-profits, and her role as a bridge of the science and the arts would make her a perfect fit to run PLAYA.

She came in with a vision and knew she had to hit it out of the park since she would only be at PLAYA for a couple of years.

One of her new ideas was to change how residents were chosen for PLAYA residencies. Which she implemented immediately upon her arrival. She instituted best practice review process for applications. PLAYA has traditionally used alumni as jurors to review and select incoming applicants for the residency program. Lawton made it a blind process, with blind submittals. While still using alumni, they do not know the names of the applicants that they are judging. Also if they recognize someone’s work then they recues themselves from deciding on their application. This process helped to bring in a wider and more diverse cohort to PLAYA.

Lawton also started the Masterclass program. These are taught by residents to people participating in a semi-retreat at PLAYA. Whether it is a long weekend or a week. It has often brought back alumni and helped to keep alumni engaged with PLAYA.

To further the connection with alumni Lawton also bolstered the communication with alumni, by improving the blog on the PLAYA website, sending out regular newsletters, and getting word out on how PLAYA helped them further their career.

Right when Lawton was leaving she received word that PLAYA had received a grant from the Murdock Charitable Trust for $157,000 to finish construction on a art gallery/studio hall on the south end of the facility. Even though Lawton will not see it finished, she was instrumental in securing the grant.

Even though she accomplished many of her goals there were a few things that she was not able to finish before her tenure was up.

She wanted to install more solar energy systems on the property. Another thing was making science and scientists more represented at PLAYA than they had been in the past. While she had been working on bringing in more scientists for residencies the build up was slow, and mostly word of mouth.

She is now in the Bend area working on a book she started, and won a Fulbright scholarship in 2014 to study the tar sands and its effects on the environment in Alberta, Canada. She is working on editing the novel and expects to shop it out to agents and publishers toward the end of this year.

For more information contact PLAYA at Summer Lake at 541-943-3983.

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