ArtStart Hires Development Director
Three years ago, the City of Rhinelander granted a perpetual lease to the fledgling arts organization ArtStart to develop a downtown arts center in the old Federal Building at 68 South Steven Street. Since then, a cadre of volunteers has performed the arduous task of raising funds for programing and the remodeling of the century-old building.
This summer ArtStart crossed a new threshold by hiring its first full-time staff member. As of Aug. 1, Melinda Childs of Minneapolis is ArtStart’s director of development.
“I have my work cut out for me,” Melinda says. “I know that for ArtStart to move to the next level, it’s basically up to me to find the money and help develop innovative programming and expand the services begun by the original volunteers.”
Childs brings to her new job a decade of arts organization experience. Previously, she was the artist service director for Forecast Public Art, a non-profit based in St. Paul devoted to connecting artists with the needs of area communities. She demonstrated her ability to raise money by growing the program four-fold in her eight years there. She also served as executive director of the Art Shanty Projects, overseeing the ice projects of 150 artists and hosting 10,000 visitors in 2014.
Melinda admits she has been asked a number of times how she will adjust to the slower place of Rhinelander, after living and working in the vibrant arts community of the Twin Cities. Her response is straightforward. “My husband and I did a lot of soul-searching. We always said that we wanted to retire in the Northwoods, because we have family here and love the area. When this opportunity came up, I still wasn’t sure we were ready yet, but during the interview process I realized that ArtStart would offer me the chance to make a difference and get intimately involved in the community.”
Family connections mean a lot to the Childs.The couple has two children – Roan, 4, and Singer, 1. “When my grandmother died in May, it hit me hard,” she says. “I had grown up living near her, and we were very close. It made me realize that I wanted my kids to know their grandparents the way I knew mine – as well as the extended family we have here, their cousins and aunts and uncles.”
For Jaran, too, Melinda’s husband, the move marks a transition. He is a landscape painter who recently exhibited his work in the Minneapolis Institute of Art. He also works as a art restoration professional, with clients around the country. Jaran will be ArtStart’s first artist in residence.
“I realized this move is a way to realize our core values,” Melinda says. “We wanted to be near our family, we wanted to enjoy nature, and we wanted to simplify our lives and slow down from the hectic pace of the city.”
“We were extremely lucky to get Melinda,” says Ken Juon, president of ArtStart. “She has an impressive range of experience in fundraising for arts organizations and in developing programming.” Juon explains that the ArtStart board believed it was important to hire a development director before bringing on a paid executive director. “In order to grow into the arts organization we dream of becoming, we need to lay a solid groundwork of programming, grant writing and fundraising. Melinda will help us accomplish this.”
For more information about ArtStart, visit online at artstartrhinelander.org.