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Know Your Neighbor: Rita O'Connell

Nonprofit world provides full life for actress, writer, radio station co-owner

By Kathy Córdova
For The Taos News
Posted 3/13/19

"I believe that through the use of nonprofits, it's possible to improve the lives of individuals and the community. I'm happy to be a part in that movement," she said.

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Column

Know Your Neighbor: Rita O'Connell

Nonprofit world provides full life for actress, writer, radio station co-owner

Posted

Correction appended.

Rita O'Connell loves community radio and nonprofits. Both came together for her in the the radio station KNCE, which focuses on community-oriented news and free-form music programs. O'Connell co-founded the station and is one of six co-owners. O'Connell describes the mission of the radio station as, "Here, there's no pay for play."

During a recent interview, O'Connell referred to herself as a self-employed nonprofit consultant in addition to her work regarding the radio station. Some of her various activities include consulting, writing, editing and strategic planning. "I've participated in nonprofit work for over a decade," she said.

Work

O'Connell sums up her goal with nonprofits: "Help people do what they do better." She counts artists, small businesses and individuals as participants and beneficiaries of her efforts.

With KNCE, six owners and 95 DJs join in a collaborative effort at the  93.5 FM radio, according to O'Connell. Thanks to community outreach, activities such as Radio-Thon fundraisers for nonprofit organizations are a common occurrence at the station, which is housed in a travel trailer next to Taos Mesa Brewing. Along with Kevyn Gilbert and Max Moulton (also co-owners of KNCE), O'Connell co-founded livetaos.com, an entertainment and cultural website, seven years ago.

O'Connell also enjoys community engagement as the Paseo Arts Festival manager. "I grew up in theater. In fact, I ran a big theater in college," she said. The Paseo Festival includes 501 (c) 3 status, and as such, offers the ability to help others through various segments of programming.

For a time, O'Connell pondered studying politics or law. She discovered that she hated to study the subjects, even though she hoped to affect change. "I try to find a balance," O'Connell explained. The nonprofit facilitator feels that small communities oftentimes contain close ties. Her activism includes making people's lives better day to day - how we live together.

Acting and singing success

When she isn't working with nonprofits, O'Connell enjoys acting.

"Since I was eight years old, I grew up in musical theater. I began studying classical voice at age 12. As an actor, I am able to bring a number of skills to my presentations. Recently, I performed a one-woman comedy ["Every Brilliant Thing"], which sold out and paved the way for a second performance at Ennui Gallery on Bent Street," said O'Connell. She plans another one-woman show in Roswell March 31. She calls the Roswell occurrence Taos Down South. Along with Ryan Beckwith, O'Connell sings at The Alley Cantina [Tuesday nights, "The Rita and Ryan Show"]. In addition, O'Connell spends some time writing.

Educational background

In 2007, O'Connell completed her undergraduate degree in undergraduate degree in writing, literature and publishing from Emerson College. In later years, she went to County Galway in Ireland where her grandfather was born and raised. There, she received a master's in public advocacy and activism. As part of the degree, she studied social change along with activism. O'Connell maintains dual citizenship in the United States and Ireland. "For months, I thought I'd write poetry in the mountains. I had visited Taos with my parents when I was 14. I was homesick for this place and wanted to return," said O'Connell. "I must see and feel change."

Family

O'Connell was raised in a close-knit family in Maryland. Parents Patrick and Marty O'Connell live in Santa Monica, California. They raised their three children to value family. O'Connell is the youngest of the three siblings. Jesse, the eldest, and his wife Emily raise their two children outside of Washington, D.C. He works as a higher education lobbyist. Sister Johanna Kracke and her husband, Ben, raise two children in Santa Monica, California. A large extended family provides Rita O'Connell with much joy. "I come from a big Irish Catholic family with many cousins," O'Connell said. "Some of the cousins from Denver gave me a wonderful gift recently - they came to see my play. I come from great relatives: smart, funny, kind and generous."

A rich, full life

O'Connell's life includes a lot of local social activity. Her social schedule includes Trivia Night on Tuesdays, dancing on Wednesday and swimming at Northside Spa whenever possible. She practices yoga at Shree and enrolled in tango class. O'Connell, who tap danced as a child, likes partner work, including two-stepping and swing.

She reads science fiction, fantasy and histories. O'Connell finds knitting quite relaxing, although she's worked on the same blanket for two years. When she's not dancing, reading or trying to finish that blanket, she enjoys eating dark chocolate, green chile and soups and drinking coffee.

The future

"I'd like to pursue more art and music in my down time. Part of my future is being clear about what I want. I like to travel, and I've visited Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Berlin and Italy. I plan to go to New York in April and Europe in May," said O'Connell.

Wrapping up

O'Connell thinks nonprofits really do make a difference in people's lives. "I believe that through the use of nonprofits, it's possible to improve the lives of individuals and the community. I'm happy to be a part in that movement," she said.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that KNCE is a nonprofit radio station. The article also incorrectly stated the college from which O'Connell graduated. 

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