Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ten Minutes with Kat Eldred, Part II

This is a continuation of yesterday's conversation with Kat Eldred, whose work in the community with regard to the arts has been well recognized.

Ennyman: Why are the arts important in communities like ours?

Kat Eldred: Someone who works in the arts is every bit as gainfully employed as someone who works in a hospital or at aircraft manufacturing plant. On top of that, arts create vibrancy and an energy that renders a community attractive. That attractiveness helps employers convince prospective employees that Duluth has a lot to offer culturally. It helps the Twin Ports attract new industry as well. The arts are an important part of the area's economy.
We all need to recognize that in today’s global and challenging economy, it’s the “creative mind” (think Steve Jobs) that will enable us to address today’s issues. Steve Jobs’ creativity was encouraged by his parents who championed for him; the schools found him challenging and difficult. How do we encourage (or discourage?) highly creative students in our school systems?

E: What are the strengths and weaknesses of our local arts community?

KE: Unfortunately, the arts in our schools are always first on the chopping block during budget cuts and seem to be so again. That mystifies me when so much research has been done regarding the benefit of the arts in developing young minds. The arts encourage students to be engaged in thinking and learning in an experiential and creative way, making an important cognitive connection. For many students the arts in middle and high school are their lifeline to completing school and moving into adulthood.

Fortunately the area attracts artists, supports ballet, symphony, theater and visual arts organizations and has a very active young artist vibe - a lot of students stay in the Twin Ports after attending college or return because they enjoy the arts scene here and want to be a part of it.

The established artists are also incredibly generous and involved in mentoring and organizing around the arts and should be credited for the foundation they create.

E: You're an artist, too. What is your favorite medium and what are you working on now?

KE: I am really excited to be at this point in my creative life. I have been exhibiting since 1986 and have exhibited in Vermont, Massachusetts, Georgia and Minnesota. Since moving to Minnesota in 2004, my art has taken a back seat to raising my two lovely daughters, my career and community activism (Red Mug, ArtWorks!, Zeitgeist and the Zeppa Foundation). All important things, but at this time, I really feel the need to be a little more selfish and focus on my art.

I am working on pieces for an October 2012 show at Red Mug. The working title for this show is “Inspiration.” I am very visual and have been described as a “colorist” although I eschew being pigeon-holed into categories. Color, shadow and light inspire me; landscape and form serve as a backdrop. I am really excited to see where this all leads and hope to give my “personal creative” voice, once more.

E: Where can people see more of your work?

KE: I don’t currently have gallery representation because I have not been creating at a rate that would support that. I did have a successful show at Red Mug Gallery in 2008 – 13 pieces that I developed during an “art retreat” to Martha’s Vineyard with one of my art mentors, Louise Minks.

Right now you can see some of my work at MNartists.org (search “Kat Eldred”), a fantastic resource for Minnesota artists created by The McKnight Foundation in partnership with the Walker Art Center's New Media Initiatives group.

E: Thanks for your time and insights. We'll look for you this fall at The Red Mug.

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