Kari Chance, shown Friday in Port Angeles, has been selected to be the executive director for the Juan de Fuca Foundation. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula News)

Kari Chance, shown Friday in Port Angeles, has been selected to be the executive director for the Juan de Fuca Foundation. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula News)

Juan de Fuca Foundation chooses new executive director

Kari Chance rises from volunteer to top post for arts organization

PORT ANGELES — Earlier this spring, Kari Chance and her 11-year-old son sat down for an important conversation.

She was thinking about applying for the top post at the Juan de Fuca Foundation for the Arts — an organization she knows and loves, Chance told Luke.

“This is going to take some time away from you and me,” Chance said.

Becoming executive director of JFFA, with its numerous programs, concerts and festival, would affect the whole family, but especially her youngest child.

“Mom, you have to do it,” Luke declared.

So Chance, who has been a staff member at JFFA for four Juan de Fuca Festivals now, jumped into the pool of candidates hoping to succeed Kyle LeMaire, who announced in March he would depart the post this month.

On May 25, the first day of this year’s festival, the announcement came from the outdoor stage. After 10 years as a volunteer and then a staffer, Chance was chosen to lead JFFA. Her salary is $68,000 plus annual performance bonuses.

The hiring committee, which included board members and founder Karen Hanan, selected Chance from three finalists for her relationship-building skills and her sheer passion, board vice president Kayla Oakes said.

“One of her many strengths is collaboration. It’s one of the things she thrives on, and that inspires her,” said Oakes, herself a former JFFA executive director.

Chance has proven her ability to bring in new sponsors, patrons and partner organizations across the wider community, Oakes said.

“One of my very favorite things is working on community partnerships,” said Chance, adding that, for example, JFFA is going to run the music stage at the Dungeness Crab Festival from Oct. 11-13.

The foundation also works with the city of Port Angeles and with some two dozen sponsors to present the Memorial Day weekend festival, two concert series, a summer arts camp, free art projects at the Port Angeles Farmers Market, and live performances in Port Angeles schools.

“JFFA has the resources to book and produce really great music,” Chance said, “and sharing our resources helps us create a better product for everyone.”

JFFA’s mission is to make the arts accessible to the whole community, thus stoking the economy and enriching our quality of life, Chance said.

“If we do what we say we’re going to do in our mission,” she believes, “then people are going to trust us with their money” in sponsorships and partnerships.

Chance, 45, grew up in Port Angeles, then moved away for college and a career in management at Nordstrom. She worked in Seattle, Anchorage and Tigard, Ore. Then, 15 years ago, she and her husband Matt started their family and decided to move back home to Port Angeles.

While raising her daughter, 14, and her son, Chance became a Juan de Fuca Festival volunteer, then the volunteer coordinator, then a staff member. She said she’s always understood the value of the arts, ever since she was a girl learning from her father, Rich Boyd, how to make things.

Boyd was an art teacher at Port Angeles High School and the namesake of the Rich Boyd Memorial Fund, which Chance and her sister Jessica established after his passing. They set up the fund to make grants for music and art programs in local schools.

This year’s Juan de Fuca Festival — the 31st — “was magical,” Chance said.

There was a brand-new outdoor stage, standing-room-only crowds at the indoor venues and about 1,500 passholders, she noted.

Next up: the Concerts on the Pier series on Wednesday evenings at City Pier from June 26 through Aug. 28. This spring, Chance worked on engaging Strait View Credit Union as a sponsor, wrote grants and booked the shows, which include national touring acts alongside popular local bands. The free concerts start at 6 p.m. Wednesdays; the lineup can be found at jffa.org.

When will Chance begin booking for the 2025 Juan de Fuca Festival?

“Actually right now,” she said.

Her official first day was Saturday, but Chance wasn’t in the office. Instead, she was volunteering at the North Olympic Discovery Marathon, in her beloved hometown.


Diane Urbani de la Paz is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in Port Townsend.

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