Jennifer Dewey is excited to be the new executive director of the St. Tammany Art Association.
Although, as she put it, “It's like jumping from one speeding train to another.”
Dewey, who served as development director for the Baton Rouge Art Gallery, said fall is the busiest time of year in the art world, and she is starting her new job right in the midst of the action.
At the same time, she said, the timing was fortuitous.
“I moved to Mandeville this summer, but I didn’t expect a job here,” she said, explaining that she had been commuting from Mandeville to Baton Rouge for work, which was easier than her previous commute from Lafayette.
“Getting a job in the art world is a challenge,” especially in a small art community like Louisiana, she said.
But then fate, and artist friends, intervened.
Glass artist Paolo Dufour first mentioned the opening at the St. Tammany Art Association to Dewey.
“And then Scott Finch, a week later told me, ‘You have to apply,” Dewey said.
She did, and got the job replacing Kim Bergeron, who left the STAA to become outreach director at the Youth Service Bureau.
Dewey said she is looking forward to the shorter commute, the vibrant art community and much more about this new "speeding train."
Although her position in Baton Rouge kept her very busy (she oversaw the gallery’s membership program, major gifts grants, annual giving and more,) she doesn’t expect a great change of pace moving to a smaller town.
In fact, she said, the art scene in Covington is in some ways more dynamic than in Baton Rouge.
“Downtown Covington is very charming; artists seem drawn to the area,” she said. “In Baton Rouge it’s not like that, though downtown Baton Rouge is coming back. Covington has a cool, charming, artistic vibe.”
Dewey got a good taste of that vibe during Fall for Art in downtown Covington on Oct. 13.
“It was ginormous,” she said of the crowd. “It made me really happy to see all of these people in the community come out for the arts.”
Dewey said she did some “undercover work” before her interview with the STAA board of directors in September, visiting the Art House on Columbia Street.
“It’s a very welcoming space,” she said, noting how much goes on within that building alone, including classes and parties, not to mention exhibits. The Art Association is hosting a New Orleans Museum of Art exhibit that features Louisiana artists.
Dewey pointed to a work by Clementine Hunter hanging on the Art House wall.
“To think that she stood and looked at the same painting. Right there. That’s what I love about art,” Dewey said.
Dewey, a graduate of University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said her love for art didn’t blossom until she was in her 20s, but now she knows where she is meant to be.
“These are my peeps," and they've been great to work with, she said.
“(The STAA has) a hardworking board of directors,” she said. “They’ve been at this for 60 years — no small feat.”
STAA Board President Roswell Pogue has been especially supportive, she said.
Changing jobs in the midst of a very busy season can be hectic, Dewey said, noting that she is still finishing up with her former gig in Baton Rouge, where there is a major gallery fundraiser at the beginning of November.
But she’s comfortable with the challenge.
“To work at a nonprofit is to accept the chaos, and to be comfortable with the busy," Dewey said.