The Twin Rivers Council for the Arts in Mankato announced this week its current executive director, Noelle Lawton, has stepped down and that an interim executive director will take her place.
Blue Earth native Janie Hanson, who has extensive experience working in both the arts and the energy and financial sectors, will fill the role on a temporary basis as the organization works to implement a strategic plan.
Twin Rivers Council for the Arts has a 14-year history of serving members and affiliates across the region. It is the organization responsible for the popular CityArt Walking Sculpture Tour, and contracted with artist Guido van Helten on the Ardent Mills silo project, which is scheduled to be completed this summer.
TRCA Board President Shannon Sinning said that, even though it may seem like a tough time to have a change in leadership, in actuality it is the best time. The job description and mission are both in periods of flux, and Sinning said Hanson’s vast and unique experience positions her perfectly to usher the organization into what it hopes to become.
Just what that is, however, remains a work in progress.
“Check back in a few weeks,” she said.
Sinning said the art world in general, and TRCA in particular, will be going through some changes.
“All of the art world will have to change,” he said. “The way you do business in the art world will have to change. I honestly think Janie is the perfect person to take us through that.”
Her title will carry the “interim” tag, and that’s likely how it will stay. Hanson said she’s not sure how long she’ll stay with TRCA, but for now says she’s not interested in taking the job permanently.
A native of Blue Earth and graduate of Blue Earth Area High School, Hanson has accumulated a wealth of work and education experience.
She attended the University of Kansas as an art major, but later transferred to Gustavus Adolphus College. She actually graduated with a degree in environmental science.
She worked in the energy sectors in Minneapolis and Des Moines before attending graduate school at Columbia University in New York. She returned to her arts roots when, through a series of business connections, she wound up owning a New York City art gallery.
Even while living in New York, though, she made her way back to Minnesota each fall.
“My roots have always been in rural Minnesota,” she said. “It’s not fall unless I’m home for harvest.”
She’s been living and working in Minnesota lately. She said that, after her mother died unexpectedly in 2013, she returned to Minnesota to help with the family farm. And because commuting between New York and Frost wasn’t realistic (she says she lived so close to Iowa that she could, and often did, walk there to visit friends) Minnesota became home again. She’ll continue to live in Blue Earth while at TRCA.
Previous leadership, she said, set things up nicely for her.
“For a transition like this, we’re really in good shape,” she said. “Noelle has left us a really strong foundation to work from.”
In an email to Twin Rivers affiliates, Lawton thanked everyone and wished the organization well.
“After five years at the helm, this was not an easy decision, but I need to do what is best for myself and my family right now,” she wrote. “Starting May 26, I will begin a new position at ISG as a Marketing and Business Writer. My intention is to stay involved with Twin Rivers at a volunteer level and continue to be an advocate for the creative community in Greater Mankato. Twin Rivers has a strong Board of Directors in place and over the past few weeks has been working on a plan to ease the transition and focus on leadership that will take Twin Rivers into its next iteration.”