January 14, 2011

Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center Names Executive Director

From The Post-Journal, Jamestown, NY by Jason Rodriguez

A very special year at the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center has begun with the entrance of a new executive director.

On Monday, the board of directors announced the position has been entrusted to Journey Gunderson, who has been working with the center as a marketing consultant since 2009. The director position was vacant after Corie Curtis stepped down in July, after a tenure of 12 months.

"I have a background in Internet marketing, and web strategy and production, which led me to work with Lucy-Desi on their website," said Gunderson, who is a Bemus Point native. Previously, she served the national nonprofit Women's Sports Foundation as the executive director of its marketing communications department.

And before that, she produced educational media for the organization, saying she produced a curriculum that was "award-winning and helped girls around the country become more physically active and make the right choices with health risk behaviors."

But after years in New York City, and a brief residence in Spain, Ms. Gunderson said she decided to return to Western New York to start up her own web consultant and strategy business.

"I think the blend of being in the nonprofit world at the national level combined with the programming in education, and then more recently, the Internet marketing side of things, provides me with a lot of things that Lucy-Desi really needs," she said. "I think everyone can see it is a really great organization, and there is a lot of interest. But from what I have seen, there is untold amounts of interest that we haven't even tapped into yet."

Board member Bill Stevenson said the center is looking forward to having a full-time office person in charge of operations, especially since the museum is gearing up for a busy year. That begins this weekend with Doors Open Jamestown, when the center offers free admission, with a collaboration of other downtown attractions.

"It looks like it is going to be a great summer," Stevenson said.


There has been a growing buzz about the Lucille Ball Hometown Wedding Giveaway, said Ms. Gunderson, and people can still vote for their favorite couple at www.lucilleballhometownwedding.com. The lucky couple will be announced Feb. 14. She added the contestants from around the country have been sought by media outlets.

"It shows the interest in Lucy and Desi is really substantial and even surprising," she said. "It's not an aging population by any means."

Plans are being drawn up for a memorable birthday celebration for the Queen of comedy, since she would be 100 years old this August. Ms. Gunderson said the year is also the 60th anniversary of the I Love Lucy show premiere.

"We're focused right now on giving the celebration more definition," she said. "One thing I want people to understand is that this is going to be a festival for comedy lovers and Lucy fans alike."

She said there will still be plenty of activities for summer's loyal festival crowd, and there will be an effort to recruit a headline act and set up a competition for emerging comedic acts. This showcase is a nod to the center's vision - "to promote and develop comedy as an artform," in addition to preserving the legacy of Ball and Arnaz.

The milestones in the world of Lucy entertainment fit neatly with the county bicentennial celebration and other events planned for 2011, Ms. Gunderson added.

"This is a huge, special year for this county," she said. "I think that as the new direction of the center takes shape, we are really going to depend on Jamestown and the surrounding area to get behind us in this brand of comedy. We are depending on the community to all work together with us."

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