New executive director selected for Banfill-Locke

Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts has named a new executive director.

Bethany Whitehead has been named executive director of Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts. She replaces Lia Rivamonte, who recently resigned to pursue other work opportunities.  Photo submitted

Bethany Whitehead has been named executive director of Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts. She replaces Lia Rivamonte, who recently resigned to pursue other work opportunities. Photo submitted

Bethany Whitehead, widely connected to arts organizations both locally and nationwide, started her new position April 8. She replaces Lia Rivamonte, who after 13 years of heading the center resigned at the end of March to pursue other work opportunities.

“It’s really right for me, right now,” Whitehead said in an interview with ABC Newspapers. “This is such a good combination of where my interests lie and where my skills can be used.”

Whitehead, a resident of St. Paul, joins the organization coming from an arts management background.

“Bethany was chosen because as our board all felt, she was the next executive director to lead Banfill in the direction that we feel fits our strategic plan,” said Ann Bolkcom, BLCA board president.

Sixteen candidates applied for the position and nine candidates were interviewed, according to Bolkcom.

For now, Whitehead said she foresees no radical changes in the vast offerings of the center – exhibitions, festivals, classes, reading events and more.

“The organization has a great history,” she said. “I will build upon that history and I will now look for new opportunities for the organization.”

Whitehead first became aware of Banfill in 2007 when her volunteer organization, of which she is board president – Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota – exhibited there.

“That was my first contact with the center,” she said. “I loved the art there. I fell in love with the environment.”

Her background

Whitehead was raised in St. Paul and graduated from St. Paul Central. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Michigan’s Kalamazoo College in international studies and women’s studies and a master’s degree in art administration from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota.

She has worked as development assistant at the Como Zoo and Conservatory Society, membership director at Walker Arts Center for six years, where among her duties she planned events, wrote for the website and did brochure development. She worked briefly at the American Craft Council as a development associate.

She comes to Banfill from the Playwright’s Center of Minneapolis, where she last worked as membership manager for two years. While at the Playwright Center, she managed the membership of 1,200 members in 46 states.

When Whitehead first heard about the opening at Banfill, she jumped at the chance, she said.

“I love being around people who are creating,” Whitehead said.

Whitehead plans to continue and grow the artist and writers-in-residence programs.

She describes herself as highly organized with the ability to connect artists with needed resources.

“I like doing the administration side of it to allow the artist to do what they do best,” Whitehead said.

She sees her role as one of helping and encouraging artists to get back to making beautiful art, rather than artists spending their time away from their craft and applying for grants.

Although it’s still early to detail major goals, Whitehead, who says she’s comfortable with such duties as taking out the trash to helping build an installation, does have plans to improve the center’s website and to increase the organization’s social networking to bring more visibility to Banfill.

Whitehead looks forward to meeting and working with the community, learning their needs and desires. She has no qualms about hearing complaints either. Rather, she strives to be a good listener, she said.

For now, Whitehead plans to continue Banfill’s tradition of bringing creative and quality art to the masses.

“I see myself as a vehicle to connect the community to the arts,” she said.

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Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts will hold a farewell reception to honor outgoing executive director Lia Rivamonte April 16, 3 to 6 p.m. Banfill-Locke Center is located at 6666 East River Road, Fridley. The public is invited. For more information, call BLCA at 763-574-1850.

Elyse Kaner is at elyse.kaner@ecm-inc.com

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