Sheila Jans is a cultural entrepreneur and consultant with over 25 years of experience in cultural development in both the public and private sectors. She is motivated by the possibilities that emerge from the intersection of arts and culture with economics. In her native Canada, Sheila worked in the contemporary arts field in Ottawa, Halifax, Toronto, and Montréal, where she held curatorial and management positions with artist-run centers, professional galleries, and national arts organizations. Her work included an international gallery that showcased Canadian artists in New York City. She has studied at Carleton University, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Banff School of Arts and Management, and L’université de Lyon, in France.
In 1997, Sheila moved to the St. John Valley of northern Maine and founded CultureWorth, a consultancy rooted in the idea of culture as a powerful force to build better places to live. She considers herself an on-the-ground practitioner that integrates theory and sound research with insightful and practical application. She consults on numerous initiatives, including Maine’s first cultural byway, communications and marketing projects for nonprofit cultural groups and private enterprise, the tourism strategy for northern Maine and state and national humanities programs. As part of the Vital Economy team, she advised on cross-border economic development efforts for Maine, New Brunswick, and Québec and participated in the statewide and nationally-recognized Mobilize Maine initiative that was designed and facilitated by the VE Alliance.
In 2011, Sheila designed Project Cultivate, a creative economy initiative that grew out of her research with the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine. The project was featured in a briefing paper at the White House for community and economic leaders. As Senior Fellow of the Québec-Labrador Foundation, Sheila wrote an international assessment that formed the basis of an international cultural route and an award-winning audio documentary, Voici the Valley. Her interest in international development led her to Eastern Europe to learn more about strategic planning and challenges faced by communities in other countries.
Sheila served on the New England Task Force for Culture and the Economy, and was Governor-appointed to the Maine Creative Economy Council, Maine Arts Commission, and Maine Humanities Council. She has been published in numerous journals, most recently in the Maine Policy Review, and has presented at conferences that include the Atlantic Canada Georgetown Conference: Rural Redefined and the International Heritage Development Conference in Pittsburgh, which focused on stewardship, sustainability and the role of culture in development.