Banfill-Locke’s executive director Rivamonte resigns

The executive director of Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts has tendered her resignation.

Lia Rivamonte, who rose through the administrative ranks with a nontraditional visual artist’s background, is leaving to work as a freelance grant writer. The move will also give her time to paint at her in-home studio in St. Paul.

Lia Rivamonte, executive director at Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts for 13 years, has resigned to pursue other job opportunities. Photo by Elyse Kaner
Lia Rivamonte, executive director at Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts for 13 years, has resigned to pursue other job opportunities. Photo by Elyse Kaner

Rivamonte has been with the center for 13 years.

“I have enjoyed learning every aspect,” she said of her varied duties as director.

Some of her responsibilities include organizing exhibits, communications, painting walls after each art show, creating and implementing programs and duties ranging from buying food for a reception to cleaning up afterwards, she said. That’s not to mention fund-raising, writing procedural guidelines and recruiting volunteers and board members.

“It’s paying attention to the detail and a big picture at the same time,” Rivamonte said. “So that’s kind of a juggling act.”

Banfill boardmember Mary Jo Truchon said the board appreciates Rivamonte’s fine work.

“She’s brought a level of art to the north metro area that we would have had to go downtown to see,” she said. “She brings a diverse art community to Fridley.”

Her accomplishments

Among her accomplishments, Rivamonte notes offering a writer-in-residence program and exposing exhibit attendees to a different kind of art “that isn’t just a painting on the wall,” she said.

She started the monthly Banfill Reading Series featuring writers and poets in an evening of fun and inspiration. She brought change to the annual arts festival, now called Art at Rice Creek, making it more diverse by adding music, performers, poets and other writers, a mix of community artists.

Before Rivamonte’s tenure, the center charged an artist-in-residence to rent a studio. Rivamonte turned the tables, offering the artists, both writer and visual artists-in-residence, free studio space and a stipend.

She also started a volunteer recognition dinner in which she did the catering.

Rivamonte says she’ll miss the people, the artists and volunteers. She’ll miss the center’s lovely gardens – the peonies and magnolia buds – seeing the mechanics of how a parks department is run and the physical beauty of the center, located in a historic former tavern and farm house near the Mississippi River in Fridley. The center had become a second home to Rivamonte, she said.

Her list of things she won’t miss is short. She won’t miss the 40-mile commute both ways to and from her home, nor will she miss the constant planning for the next event, always trying to catch up, she said.

Despite her hard work in a position she describes as “the ultimate multi-tasking job,” Rivamonte leaves with unfinished business.

She would have liked to attract a larger and more diverse audience to the center, to redo the website, to increase audience attendance at the readings and to write a book on Banfill, she said.

“I would love to get more cultural, ethnic, racial diversity in all of our programs and on our board,” she said.

Boardmember and former president of the board Catherine Vesley said Rivamonte was an effective director, one she enjoyed working with.

“I thought she did a wonderful job and made many contributions to the center,” she said.

A native of California, Rivamonte moved to the Twin Cities in the early 1980s. Before coming to Banfill-Locke, she worked as an actor at such theaters as Mixed Blood Theatre, Cricket and the Guthrie and as a program assistant at the Asian American Renaissance in St. Paul, where she learned to produce events. She has written plays and has had them produced. One of her favorite jobs, was a three-month stint as an arts editor for the no longer published newspaper The Siren, a Twin Cities weekly alternative paper.

Passionate about art

Rivamonte found her passion at a young age. She started drawing in kindergarten. As a child, she had drawing competitions with her sister, Loudi Rivamonte. Her parents were supportive of her foray into the arts.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in art from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master of fine arts degree in studio arts from the University of Minnesota.

Away from work, in addition to oil painting, she enjoys rowing, bicycling and cross-country skiing.

Rivamonte’s last day at BLCA was March 31. Bethany Whitehead of St. Paul will take Rivamonte’s place as executive director.

BLCA is owned and maintained by Anoka County as part of Manomin County Park through its parks and recreation department.

The nonprofit community arts center supports and encourages developing and established artists. The center, located at 6666 East River Road in Fridley, provides resources and opportunities in the arts for individuals of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels.

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]