The most important skill that Roxanne Heaton has developed in her 18 years as executive director of the Minnetonka Center for the Arts is flexibility. “It’s never boring; when you serve the public, you never know exactly what the day holds,” she says. Rather than an obstacle, Heaton views this unpredictability as energizing, a constant reminder of the dynamic nature of the arts. “It’s easy to get buried in email and paperwork, but I try to spend part of every day connecting with people and watching our teachers in action,” she says.
The St. Paul native earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Hamline University and pursued an MBA at St. Thomas before moving to the east coast in the early 1980s. She took a five-year break from the corporate world to be a stay-at-home mom, after which she began her career in nonprofits at an arboretum in Philadelphia.
In 1999, with their daughter entering college and their son beginning high school, Heaton and her husband were ready to return to Minnesota, and her job search led her to the position she calls “a perfect fit.” “I’ve always had a passion for and real interest in the arts, and the center’s mission resonates with me,” Heaton says. She took ceramics classes in high school and college and even had a potter’s wheel at home, but “my skills have gotten pretty rusty,” she admits. “I tell everybody now that administration is my art form.”
Creative problem-solving is at the core of her job, which on any given day might include developing and expanding programs for underserved populations, filing grant applications or managing the facility’s many studios and classroom spaces.
Heaton takes pride in being able to offer opportunities for local artists to teach and exhibit their work at all stages of their careers, but running an organization that is dependent on contributed revenue can be daunting. “Getting a $100,000 grant can mean the difference between a dozen teachers having work for a year or not,” she says. “You have to be quick on your feet to put together and administer a program of that size.” If the grant falls through, the challenge becomes “how to still help those teachers find work and maintain their ability to make a living,” she says.
Heaton credits the community’s appreciation for the arts with the center’s success and longevity. “We’re fortunate to have a culturally aware population that recognizes the value of the arts in individual lives and in enhancing quality of life at large,” she says. “As a result, we’ve touched a lot of lives. People who attended our summer programs are now bringing their kids for summer camp.”
Even away from the office, Heaton’s hobbies reflect the creativity and passion that define her career. “I love to cook and experiment with food,” she says. “It gives me joy to share what I make with the people in my life, and I think I get out of it what a lot of art students get out of the work they make in our studios.”
Minnetonka Center for the Arts
The Minnetonka Center for the Arts offers art classes, exhibits and outreach programs for children and adults. Prospective students can register for a Saturday sample class, where they can experiment with a new art form before committing to an eight-week class.