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Pioneer Stories: Kyle Monhollen

“Being comfortable in a leadership role and working on group projects are direct extensions of my experience at Transylvania. The confidence to start something new and do it the way I think is right was definitely fostered by the freedom and responsibility my mentors at Transy gave me.”

As vice president of the Davis School Arts Foundation, which raises and distributes funds for arts education in Davis, Calif., public schools, Kyle Monhollen is helping ensure a lively local arts scene for years to come. After all, children exposed to quality arts education become artists, musicians, dancers—and perhaps even more importantly—arts enthusiasts and patrons.

But, almost accidentally, Monhollen stumbled into another way he could help energize the local arts scene.

Ben Sollee and Kyle Monhollen

Kyle Monhollen, right, talks with musical artist Ben Sollee.

“I showed up early at a friend's backyard concert with two bags of ice and stayed late to help fold chairs. We started talking about how we could grow a small, personal music scene for the larger community without assuming the financial risk of renting a venue and sound equipment. The concept of a co-op seemed like the perfect way to share the expense and responsibility of staging larger shows, so we gave it a try.”

As a co-founder of the Davis Live Music Collective, Monhollen has since been responsible for tracking and corresponding with co-op members, coordinating volunteers for events, booking artists, managing shows, writing and distributing press releases, and designing and printing promotional graphics.

Ben Sollee posterWhen working on promotions for a music event, Monhollen adopts a consistent graphic design that he hopes will be memorable for the audience. “There is a visual thread connecting every ad and Facebook post to the custom-printed tickets, window flyers, and hand-screened, limited edition posters available at each show.

“Designing and printing fall formal T-shirts and frat party flyers suddenly seems more relevant than I ever expected.”

The music collective has been wildly successful. After starting with a handful of friends, there are now 30 members who host events for 300 guests. Artists have included Jolie Holland, Camper Van Beethoven, and Anais Mitchell.

“Our initial goals were modest: book an artist, put on the show, make it memorable, break even. Now we have to turn down shows with artists we would love to bring to town simply because there is only so much a volunteer group can do.”

Their success led to other partnerships with the city and UC Davis and the eventual designation of downtown Davis as an Arts and Entertainment District.

Recently Monhollen was able to invite Kentucky favorite and rising international star Ben Sollee as well as the hard-to-define bluegrass/rock band the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers—whose musicians include Joel Serdenis and Travis Young, two of Monhollen’s Transylvania classmates—to participate in the third annual Davis Music Fest.

“I left Transy with an art degree, a desire to come back to college as a teacher, and an open mind. Today I have an amazing family, I'm working to support the arts, I'm teaching, and I'm helping make my community one that I’m proud of.”

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