Roxanne Heaton strives to take art center’s programs “to the widest possible audience.”
A beloved community organization since 1952, Minnetonka Center for the Arts has inspired community artists of all ages and abilities. Roxanne Heaton became its executive director in 1999 with an enthusiastic approach to connecting more people to the arts.
Heaton started her career in the for-profit sector, working for Honeywell when she and her husband left Minnesota and relocated with their young family to the East Coast. She then transferred her corporate experience to the nonprofit sector, working for eight years (later becoming the assistant program director) for a local arboretum.
When it was time to relocate back to Minnesota, Heaton started looking for jobs in the nonprofit sector. “I was particularly interested in the arts,” says Heaton, mentioning the potter wheel she once had in her basement. “I’ve studied a lot of art and taken a lot of art history classes.”
When she saw the job advertised for the Minnetonka Center for the Arts, Heaton knew it was a good fit. With extensive experience in fundraising, she was ready for the challenge of a significant capital campaign in 1999. The center’s current location is the result. Heaton loves going to work in the architecturally designed center that has supported community art for over two decades.
With a building fit for future growth, Heaton set out to fill every room and beyond by connecting more people to the arts through outreach programs.
She says her steadfast commitment to “taking our program to the widest possible audience” will be her legacy. From the beginning, she was committed to doing “whatever we could in the realm of community outreach to get our programs and services out into the world,” she says, regardless of people’s ability to pay or their geography.
The center has received over a half a million dollars to fund programs specifically for underserved audiences over the years. At its peak, more participants were off campus taking art classes in one form or another. The center collaborates with organizations and schools across the state.
Before COVID-19, a significant program included a partnership with the City of Minnetonka and the Dementia Friendly City initiative. With funding from the Minnesota State Art Board, the center delivered programs to people living with dementia, their families and caregivers. Outreach programs stopped during the pandemic but are starting to come back. “We’re focused on incrementally reestablishing everything we did before the pandemic,” Heaton says. “We hope we can continue to grow and develop the outreach programming,” including reestablishing funding streams.
Heaton’s favorite day at the center is the Northwest Suburban High School Arts Conference involving 13–15 area high schools. “We design a different menu of programs each year,” says Heaton, impressed by the students’ talent and excited about how they see the world differently.
Classes and camps are in full swing, and the center always has something new. “We have an amazing cadre of instructors who are constantly changing things up,” she says, which adds to the richness of the programming offered.
Minnetonka Center for the Arts is located on beautiful property in Wayzata, where the public can take ceramics, drawing, fiber arts, jewelry, multigenerational, painting, photography and sculpture classes. It’s also a unique place for a birthday celebration, and the community can visit the free exhibits and the art shop.