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Meet Linda Schust of Columbia

Today we’d like to introduce you to Linda Schust.

Alright, thank you for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us how you got started?
Our founder overheard this exchange in a fifth-grade classroom in Columbia: One student, distracted by a noisy neighbor, directed, “Be quiet. I’m trying to learn to get into a good college.” His classmate retorted, “It don’t make no difference to me. I’m going to jail.” This conversation occurred between two boys who had been seated next to each other in the same class for months, yet they inhabited completely different worlds.

At Jabberwocky, we use art as a catalyst for engaging individuals with different lived experiences in activities that will lead to positive outcomes so that everyone can inhabit a world of opportunity, self-confidence, and realizable dreams.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Building a non-profit from the ground up has required the inspiration and support of many community members, plus lots of hard work and good luck. Reaching and engaging underserved populations is only possible after building relationships and trust within disparate communities, which takes time and continual presence. Because we offer most of our programs for free, finding adequate financial support has also been a challenge. Our participant population does not double as a donor base, and our programming does not produce a revenue stream. We have been fortunate in generating grant support. We have to build a presence in Columbia such that we have begun to find support from local businesses and individuals with the means to support our work. Of course, the Covid 19 pandemic and its lingering effects have been challenging. We continue to work to rebuild our participant base as well as struggling to find adequate staff to guarantee the quality of experience we want for our participants.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am unsure if this question is aimed at the respondent or the organization.

As the Executive Director, this is my bio: Linda Schust, Ph.D., founder of Jabberwocky, moved to Columbia from Boston with her husband and three children in August 2007. Formerly a research scientist and editor for Harvard’s online medical resource site “Veritas Medicine,” in Columbia, she earned her teacher certification and taught science for Columbia Public Schools and fifth grade for Columbia Independent School. In addition to her role at Jabberwocky, Linda is currently a member of the Board of Directors for Columbia’s Business Loop CID. Her experiences at Columbia identified a need for arts programming that supports a diverse population. Through Jabberwocky, she works to ensure that participants are supported in reaching their full potential in school and work and in living a rich and fulfilling life. Linda is happy to call Columbia her adopted hometown.

Jabberwocky specializes in high-quality programming in various arts. Including dance (hiphop, break dance, contemporary African dance), visual art, Steam education, public mural painting, theater, and in-school art for refugee English learners, the Art Bus, and our annual African Cultural Festival. Jabberwocky excels at overcoming barriers to participation by creating comfortable spaces, removing financial barriers, employing a diverse staff, providing transportation when needed, or bringing the arts to children where they live (the Art Bus- a project with the Columbia Art League.)

Jabberwocky’s mission is to teach and perform ethnic and urban arts to build equity and inclusion in our diverse community. While we envision a beautifully diverse world in which equitable, inclusive access to life-enriching arts and educational experiences bridges opportunity gaps. In this world, we will build the drive for equity and inclusion upon an understanding of our shared humanity and our shared destiny.

Contact Info:

  • Website:
  • Instagram: Jabberwockycomo
  • Facebook: Jabberwocky Studios, Inc. and Africa Fest CoMO

Image Credits
Valerie Berta-Torales one photo only

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