Where are you from originally?
I was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh (Go Steelers!). I moved to Racine while I was in high school, which was a hard transition at the time but definitely worked to my advantage.
How did your life’s journey bring you back to Racine?
I made a decision to move back to Racine to raise my daughter, to be around family and friends. And have not regretted it! I have been with the museums for close to 25 years, first as a part-time art educator and then on board as full-time museum staff. I am so lucky to have had this opportunity to work for an institution that I truly love and respect—and to live in this wonderful community.
What do you like best about Racine?
I really admire how local organizations partner and collaborate, and the people that care about the community – who work hard to keep Racine a good, healthy, creative place to live. What else do I love? The lake, the beach, the local shops, our local foodie culture, the downtown, the fun events, summer in Wisco….and of course, the museums!
Please give some examples of how your work has made a positive impact on the community.
I am lucky to work with an extraordinarily talented team of educators, museum staff and leadership. We strive to bring free or inexpensive (and fabulous!) arts experiences to all, regardless of age, ability, gender, background. Some of our programs started years before my tenure and some have taken shape under me. Since 1941, Wustum has offered an incredible array of studio classes for adults and children, taught by gifted artists, and I am pleased to carry on and oversee this tradition of excellence that has been a staple in this community for over 75 years.
One of our longest standing school programs is Outreach 4—inviting fourth graders to participate in an activity at the museum, now in its 35th year and still going strong. When this program was instituted, the goal was to ensure every fourth grader in RUSD (along with private and parochial schools) had at least one museum experience during their formative years. Several years ago, we created an extension of that experience for 2nd graders, and we now offer an in-school art experience for all second grade students through RAM on the Road, Wustum on Wheels (ROTR). ROTR also brings free programs to daycares, senior centers, any school classroom, and public events throughout our community. Since ROTR’s inception in 2011, we have provided over 21,000 people with the gift of free art- funded by people who love Racine.
A program that is very close to my heart is SPARK!. SPARK! is a cultural program for people with memory loss and their caregivers. The activities combine gallery visits/art talks, sensory stimulations, poetry, music and movement and art making. Often we have a guest artists come and share stories about their work and we create something that is inspired by that artist, or by a piece we have engaged with in the galleries. The intent is to help keep the at-home care couple – who are dealing day in and out with Alzheimer’s/Dementia – stay actively engaged in their community by providing a safe and stimulating activity that they can do together. SPARK! is about the process of creating together and creating a shared experience. We also take SPARK! on the Road activities to day/respite programs and assisted living facilities to share in a group setting. As an active member of the SPARK! Alliance – a group of cultural institutions—we have nurtured and grown SPARK! into a nationally recognized program, with over 24+ institutions in Wisconsin and Minnesota offering SPARK!, plus an additional 20+ in the Denver region that follow our model. SPARK! has changed my life in many ways, and I think has helped many lives along the way.
What’s the least understood aspect about what you do?
My work targets how important creativity is and how it can truly affect all lives. I started with the museum teaching an afterschool art program for children coming from pretty rough home situations – dealing with gangs, drugs, abuse. Although the program was only a couple times a week, at times it was the only moment these children had to process their feelings, to express themselves creatively, and to feel secure. I learned significantly during this period in my life, and the core of these lessons have always stuck with me. There is such power in the arts. Regardless of age, background or ability– finding a creative outlet will increase anyone’s ability to learn, think, socialize, and grow.
What would you like to accomplish during the next 6 months? 12 months?
We have lots on the agenda for the next year, and in the next several months in particular. There is never a dull moment! Wustum is hosting a first time ever SPARK! & Partners Care Couple Sampler on Wednesday, April 17 in partnership with the Racine/Kenosha ADRC’s, the Alzheimer’s Association, and the Civil War Museum SPARK!.
For the ninth year, Wustum is involved in the Get Behind the Arts Studio Tour on Saturday, April 27 – an exciting weekend in Racine and Kenosha for regional artists. We will be showcasing the talents of our teaching crew and giving a behind the scenes look at what happens in the Wustum classrooms. And you might even catch me here, making art!
I would love to give a shout out to our third annual Full Steam Ahead event on Saturday, May 4.This event invites artists to create large scale woodblock or linoleum relief cuts that are printed using a steamroller as a massive makeshift printing press. This year, the event is bigger and better! There will be art vans, food trucks and art for sale.
Personally, I am also involved with Visioning a Greater Racine as Co-Chair of the Culture and Recreation Team. We have been working towards developing an even more vibrant culture and rec scene in Racine, based on community feedback, including putting into plan a cohesive one-stop-shop community wide calendar through partnerships with Real Racine and Art Root. Stay tuned!
What’s the best way to contact you?
Best to reach me via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.