“There are so many people who are compelled to create and those compulsions will help us build our communities again when this is all over.”
Artist Trust Board Member Kurt Kiefer spoke with us about the exciting and multi-layered journey Artist Trust is on, staying engaged, and more. Read his interview below and make your year-end gift to Artist Trust at artisttrust.org/donate/.
What is your role at Artist Trust and what do you enjoy about it?
I’m currently an AT Board member and the chair of our Stewardship Committee. In my mind, stewardship means both ensuring that AT is financially stable and that we’re using the resources our donors give to us carefully. My wife, Mary Williamson, and I have also been modest donors for many years and feel lucky that we can contribute to the ongoing strength of the local arts community. I’ve been on a number of other boards, but I’ve never been on one as thoughtful as the AT Board – and the staff is fantastic. We’re challenging each other and each of us seems to be committed to working through those challenges collaboratively – it’s a great experience.
How are you involved in the arts?
My undergraduate degree was in theater and I briefly considered a career as a scenic designer. That never happened – at the time I was afraid of musical theater and that kind of ended it. After college, I had in mind the challenge of learning a traditional building trade and spend a few years as a stone carver at Washington National Cathedral. Now I call myself a lapsed sculptor. Over the last 30 years or so I’ve been helping other artists make their work, largely for public places. I’m currently a project manager for the Sound Transit Art Program and am developing artwork at the light rail stations we’re developing north from the University of Washington to Lynnwood and east from the International District to downtown Redmond.
What has 2020 taught you both personally and professionally?
This has been a year when I think we’ve all had to have real stamina. For me, this means trying to stay engaged and imagine the world out there, even though I’m largely stuck in my home office. It’s also cemented for me the importance of art as a kind of community glue. I’m worried about that glue, but also know that there are so many people who are compelled to create and those compulsions will help us build our communities again when this is all over. I’ve also learned that we would all be wise to put aside our screens as soon as possible.
How will you carry those lessons into 2021?
Oh, I don’t know. I think I’m going to be so grateful if and when I’m not anxious all the time. I’m counting on our collective pent-up energy and creative ambitions to restart our communities and want to be a part of that.
What excites you about what you’ve learned/the changes Artist Trust has made or will make?
The coming years will be exciting and complicated as we work to reimagine Artist Trust after a bumpy year. We’re having difficult, but deeply engaging conversations about equity and inclusion and have committed ourselves fully to trying to be an anti-racist organization. There are so many layers to this – the arts (and particularly the visual arts) are both cultural and commercial practices, pushed and pulled by all of our tribes and the market. To help maintain and grow the regional cultural community, we have to keep in mind all of those layers and do our best to be supportive and responsive.
What is your vision for a stronger Artist Trust?
I’d like us to think holistically about the health of the regional cultural community. Individual grants and awards are important to that but as important as individual achievements are, the whole artist ecosystem is what makes this a great place to live and work. I’m also very focused on expanding our reach throughout Washington and believe that it’s critical to support cultural activity outside of our biggest cities.