Monday, January 16, 2012

Five Minutes with Duluth Art Institute Director Kristin Duckart

In 2011 we saw a transition at the Duluth Art Institute (DAI). Samantha Gibb, after eight years at the helm, stepped aside, having accomplished many important objectives including placing the DAI on a stronger financial foundation.

This week the DAI is celebrating four shows opening on Wednesday, January 18. It will be a big night with the much enjoyed DAI Member Show, Emerging Photographers, Kathy McTavish's Birdland, and Stephen Read's (un)natural reactions exhibit in the John Steffl Gallery. In short, it seemed like a good time to meet the new director of the Duluth Art Institute.

Ennyman: What was your background before coming to DAI?

Kristin Duckart: I've had the privilege of working in many different types of environments; from managing an art gallery in Minneapolis, as an educator in a large medical group, running a family business, serving as a District Governor for Rotary International, to leading the development efforts for a Fine Arts college, and volunteering for a multitude of nonprofits. All have been incredible, but most of my professional efforts have centered around nonprofit organizations. Many years back, as a young mother with two small boys at home on the family farm, I found myself craving a connection with community. I was recruited to work as the development director for the boys' school and was eager to roll up my sleeves and give it a try. I had been managing the family business for several years and was seeking something different. After successfully raising 2.5 million dollars in an eight month period, I was well on my way to a whole new profession. That was the beginning of my long career in raising funds and awareness for non-profit groups. From Universities, medical groups, and several posts on nonprofit boards, the jobs and opportunities continued to find me. My favorite position of all, however, was while serving in a key role for the University of Wisconsin - College of Fine Arts and Communication. Helping build a strong relationship between the arts college and community quickly became one of the most exciting opportunities thus far. I remember my eagerness to get to work every day because there were so many creative, imaginative, brilliant, and outright fun people to spend my days with. That was several years back and to this day, the artists and professors remain some of my best friends.

E: From where I sit, we seem to have a really vibrant arts community here in the Twin Ports. What's your take after being here a few months?

KD: I definitely agree! I'm amazed and excited to live in a community that fosters a healthy and unique arts community. I look forward to playing a supportive role in enhancing the opportunities for both artists and community members.

E: What kinds of issues does the Executive Director deal with on a day-to-day basis?

KD: Although I've worked in executive director positions previously, every organization is unique and it's important to me to take the necessary time to learn the "personality" and needs of the organization. I plan to do a lot of listening and learning these first six months. It will be easier to lead us down a successful path if I've taken the time to learn and understand the history of not only this organization, but the wonderful community in which it resides.

E: When did you begin to take an interest in art and did you paint, draw or...?

KD: I've had a deep appreciation for the arts my entire life. Although I cannot claim to be a painter, a sculptor, or a weaver per se, I enjoy creating artistic spaces for friends and family to enjoy. Most of my closest and dearest friends are artists. It's just always been that way. I seem to feel most connected while in the company of the artistic folks! We share a mutual respect for creativeness and caring in ways that I've not experienced with others. For years, I hosted artists, musicians and poets at my home up the shore. The gatherings were weekend retreats for old friends and new friends to come together and enjoy the arts on the beautiful shores of Lake Superior. I miss those days and look forward to them again now that I've returned.

E: Why is it important for a community to support the arts?

KD: The arts are always a part of a vibrant and growing community. Our economic viability and quality of life are directly proportionate to the level of support and participation of the arts. Innovation in all disciplines often begins with creative exploration.

LEARN MORE about this week's upcoming exhibitions at the Duluth Art Institute.

No comments: