Intern Katrina talked with Fitton's Director of Education and Digital Content Producer, Kate Rowekamp, to learn more about her role at the Fitton!
Q: What is your favorite style of art? Who (maybe multiple) is your favorite artist?
A: I’m a big fan of printmaking and illustration, but more often than not I tend to take a mixed media approach that blends techniques from several different styles.
My biggest contemporary influence is the artist Casey Riordan Millard. I was incredibly fortunate to apprentice for her as an undergraduate, but even before I knew her personally, I was a huge fan of how she used whimsical illustrations to confront deep emotional conflicts and her interdisciplinary approach to creating work. For the longest time I thought artists had to pick just one thing (sculpture, painting, printmaking, etc.) and stick with that, but Casey’s work opened my eyes to combining multiple approaches to create an immersive environment for the viewer. When I had the opportunity to work with her, she taught me so much about the creative process, plus she is just an all-around awesome human
Another major influence is Edward Gorey. I discovered Gorey right around the time I was trying to figure out my personal style. I was mistakenly convinced that in order to prove I was a “serious artist” I had to create realistic portraits in oil paint, and I was MISERABLE! An alum of my school passed away and generously donated an enormous collection of art books to our department. As a work study student, I had the job of organizing all of the books into a makeshift library, and in the process came across a tiny red book called The Gorey Alphabet. When I saw Gorey’s whimsically dark, ink-based illustrations I knew that was the kind of thing I wanted to be doing. When I shared this with Casey, she taught me how to draw using pen and ink and everything just kind of clicked.
Additionally, since I’m a big creature-person Ernst Haeckel, Jim Henson and Guillermo del Toro have also been highly influential in terms of the types of subject matter I favor in my work.
Q: How did you prepare for your initial interview with the organization?
A: I made sure to research the organization online to see what they were all about in order to ensure that I could tailor my responses during the interview to match with their organizational goals. For example, while I am an artist, since the position was for an education administrator, rather than discussing my printmaking skills, I focused more on sharing my experiences in the education world that could translate to the type of work required for the position.
Q: What goals have you set within yourself for the job?
A: One of my biggest goals for the Fitton was to bring printmaking to our class offerings, and I’m currently in the process of building a really great print program with the students and teachers. Being so close to two Miami campuses we have quite a few community members who have learned printmaking, but after graduation lost access to a place to continue their practice. Our print instructor - Billy and I brainstormed and researched what this could look like and met with the Executive Director of the Fitton Center to pitch our idea. He was very interested in the idea and gave me the greenlight to start putting together an official proposal.
In the evenings when I’m not working at the Fitton, I adjunct as the printmaking professor for a university in Kentucky. As part of that position I’ve been working on upgrading our lab. Using my knowledge gained from that experience I was able to draft a proposal and create a budget for what we would need to start-up a printmaking program at the Fitton completely from scratch. Working with the Fitton’s ED we planned that it would take about 4 - 5 years to get the funding we would need to buy a press and other materials, but luckily we had a donor step forward and generously offer to fully fund the acquisition of a press! Our 4 - 5 year plan was drastically accelerated by this, and we were able to move from planning what a printmaking program could look like to actually implementing printmaking curriculum as part of our education program.
The core of our printmaking program is a weekly adult printing class, a youth summer camp, and a teen camp - but I have been really excited by the number of other opportunities we’ve had to incorporate printmaking into other events and types of programs at the Fitton Center. We have transported the press up to High Street to do live printing demos at Operation Pumpkin, had community “Ink & Drink” events for people to come and learn about the printing process, workshops, and right now we have partnered with the Boys and Girls club to offer weekly youth printmaking classes.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your career?
A: One of the most rewarding parts of my career is working with our scholarship program to bring arts education access to everyone. At the Fitton we like to make sure that everyone in our community can participate regardless of financial barriers. Anyone interested can apply for a scholarship to one of our classes, camps, or workshops. We offer one free class/workshop plus one free camp per student per year. This means that the same student can join us every summer for camps and take one class every year at no cost to them. I believe this has a huge impact, because it provides an important creative outlet for our community to which not everyone might otherwise have access.
Q: What person within the organization has influenced you the most?
A: The person that influenced me the most was my predecessor, Jenn. She taught me so much about running a successful education program- staying organized, communicating with staff, problem-solving, and more. I am so grateful to have had her as a mentor.
Q: What steps are you taking in preparation for the future of this organization?
A: Further to what I mentioned with the printmaking program above, we have been gradually expanding our printmaking studio and have since introduced a second press and are currently in the process of installing a laser cutter. I think it is really important to continue incorporating modern techniques into the traditional artistic processes we already offer so that we can serve as a valuable resource to our community.
Q: What gallery exhibition that has been displayed at Fitton, has stayed with you throughout your time here? One you just can't forget.
A: We had a show called "Crossing Over" that featured a group of artists from The Weavers Guild of Greater Cincinnati, Inc. During the opening the Weavers Guild had live process demos, and I was fascinated by the work of an artist named Michelle Christman who was making needle-felted sculptures. I was able to connect with her for some tips and now I love to work on needle-felted projects in my downtime as a hobby.
Q: What important skills do you personally bring to the organization?
A: I’m really into good organizational techniques and perfecting ways to maximize efficiency. Basically, I love to troubleshoot and figure out ways to take existing structures/procedures and make them work even better (especially when it comes to incorporating software/technology.)
Q: What is the biggest way you connect to donors?
A: I am so thankful for our generous donors, but I don’t personally connect with them all that much. We are really fortunate to have an excellent Director of Development who works with all of our Donors. That said, I do make sure to acknowledge our education department’s donors in our program brochures that are released three times a year.