This week we had to say goodbye to a friend. Some of you may know Simone Joyaux, as she was part of the Arts Council before it even was officially recognized as "the Arts Council." Back in 1975, she was living here in Lansing and served as the managing director of the Lansing Center for the Arts. Later, she facilitated the merger between the Center and the Metropolitan Lansing Fine Arts Council. Since that time, she went on to build an international reputation as an expert in fundraising strategy and relationship-building and is well known and respected in the industry.
We were introduced to Simone when she stopped by the Arts Council to share with us her multiple scrapbooks and binders containing all sorts of historic information about the Arts Council’s past and how it became the organization it is today. As fate would have it, shortly after that meeting, we received a grant from the Capital Region Community Foundation that allowed us to hire Simone as a consultant and to guide us in creating a fundraising strategy for our organization.
Since that time, we have all grown very fond of her and have appreciated all the amazing work she has done to help our staff and our board understand the roots of fundraising and as a result, drastically changed our outlook, our policies and the overall trajectory of our behind-the-scenes work.
Simone was one of the most colorful, vibrant and straightforward people we have ever had the pleasure to work with. She was passionate about fundraising, and she formed a wonderful bond with all of us--team and board alike. Each Zoom meeting with Simone was a delight. She was always dressed to the nines, and loved to share stories about the jewelry she was wearing or the current state of her office.
Simone had a vested interest in the Arts Council’s success, and she didn’t mince words with anyone in regard to what needed to be done to ensure we remained a financially-sound organization. She also was one of our biggest cheerleaders, and while she was under contract with us, she also donated numerous hours and resources simply out of the goodness of her heart.
She and her life partner, Tom Ahern, were to be the presenting speakers at our upcoming May Creative Exchange, something they were both looking forward to doing, and we were excited to share the brilliance of this duo with the nonprofit community. But the universe had other plans. Simone had a devastating stroke last week that took her life on May 2, 2021, and we are all so saddened by this loss. She had become an adopted member of our organization over the last year and her presence will be greatly noticed. Simone was an activist, advocate and wholehearted supporter of the arts, and she will be sorely missed by us and the fundraising world that relied on her wit, unique character and sharp expertise to guide their fundraising quests.
We don’t like goodbyes, and this one leaves us struggling to wave and close the door. We will remain forever grateful that we were given the opportunity to spend countless hours in Simone’s presence over the last 12 months, and we will put all her knowledge to use as we move forward without her physical presence. But her spirit will forever be with us, and we wish her well on her next adventure as she transitions from this world. And so we raise our champagne glass (she will love this) and toast this amazing woman and passionate friend of the arts who will not be forgotten.