Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Spotlight on Gene McKeever, Twin Ports Arts Fan and Advocate

The local art scene is a community of people whose paths keep intersecting at various openings, drawn together by a common passion. Every one has a story.

Gene McKeever is one of those local arts fans whose path I kept crossing at miscellaneous events pertaining to the arts. How she came to have art as a part of her life is spelled out here in this interview.

EN: How did you come to take up an interest in the local arts scene? What role has the arts played in your life?

Gene McKeever: I grew up in a small town with no art classes in high school. Whenever I went to a city I went to the museums and found art! I have been going to art openings since the 70's, often taking my kids (they grew up going to openings and live music). I have six children.

I've always had an interest in art. I started out in a one room school house and remember bringing home a book and making things. Everyone said, "She is so creative." I drew and wanted to be an artist from a young age. Of course, my step-dad said, "No, I won't finance a school for you." I think that I was fifty before he finally acknowledged me as an artist! I started college when my third child was graduating from high school.

EN: You always seem so upbeat and with such an uplifting spirit. To what do you attribute this?

GM: Up beat? My grandma and Mother were always positive in life. "Every day was a good day." They helped others and were in the community volunteering. I am attracted to people with good energy and like meeting people of all ages. I go alone often to events, starting that in my twenties to make my self go to coffee alone and making myself a little uncomfortable in situations to gain confidence.

EN: You have been to so many art openings over the years. What do you look for at these events?

GM: Art events support the growth of new work and artists, thus building community. It is part of my life and I hope to bring it back to my neighborhood and to encourage artists to create in Duluth and more! I also get energy from artists to inspire the creative part of myself. I live an art life style.

EN: If you have time, briefly share your life story, where were you born, what you did for a career, etc.

GM: I grew up on a farm in North Dakota. My dad moved to Detroit and my sister and I would travel by bus to see him at a young age. He would drop us off at museums for the day. Thus began my love of glass blowing! I married young and had six children. I started to raise them as a single Mother when my oldest was 14. I was active in their schools meeting some of the friends that I still have today. A group of us had potlucks to share our lives and to know what our kids were doing. We did this until they graduated, giving them grad parties together. I started college and began working with youth in the neighborhood. I mentored young mothers who are still in my life today! I worked for Parks and Rec and retired from Neighborhood Youth Services about eight years ago. I made $10.00 an hour at retirement but it wasn't about the money. It was about them! I have helped raise my grandkids and had several live with me and my nephew. Children have been a part of my life since I was 11 years old. When I retired Mayor Bergson declared it Gene Johnson McKeever day in Duluth! That was June 18th. I organized the mural project for Cascade Park and to this day have a love for installations and community art.

EN: Can you name two or three favorite local art events or shows you have been to?

GM: Three art openings? The movement in Superior to make use of the empty store fronts was exciting and refreshing. I met many new people. I like the openings at The Red Herring and Lydia's gallery (Studio 15) and walking down the alley to Prove. Art is happening in our city now. The AICHO community is expanding and becoming a community gathering spot for many as well. It is a good time in Duluth!


genie said...

Thank you Ed! See you next time!

Anonymous said...

I am happy to call Gene a good friend. She has taught me much about living life artfully - literally and figuratively.

teresacoxkolar said...


teresacoxkolar said...

Beautiful interview, Ed and Gene. You're both wonderful!❤️