Steamboat Art Museum names Doug Henderson executive director
March 20, 2012
Steamboat Springs — On Monday night, Doug Henderson felt a familiar sensation: butterflies, buzzing with anticipation.
Except he wasn't about to act in a play, nor was he serving as the production manager or facilities manager for an arts organization like he has in the past.
Instead, on Tuesday morning Henderson debuted in his new role as the executive director of Steamboat Art Museum.
Continuing a 20-year career in the nonprofit arts sector, Henderson said he's looking forward to getting to know his new home and the vibrant arts community he's already noticed.
"It feels like a really neat community," he said. "I can't get over how comfortable I feel."
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Most recently, Henderson worked as the facility director for the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts. Before that, he worked as the marketing manager for the Grand Teton Music Festival and participated in and acted as managing director for the Jackson Hole Theatre Company.
"I get to use all of the experience I've had and apply it to what I consider to be a great community opportunity," he said about the Steamboat Art Museum. "I'm here to try and understand what people want from this."
To Henderson, the arts community in a small town is important in an economic and community sense.
"The arts aren't optional," he said. "In my world, it's essential for quality of life as both a participant and as an observer."
Finding a way to Steamboat
His road to the Yampa Valley was serendipitous. Born in Boston and raised in the West, he recalled once traveling to Steamboat to play a soccer game in high school. But he had no memory of the topography or the friendly people he said captured him during a visit last month.
In February, Henderson lost his job at the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts during a leadership change in the organization. He was driving to visit his teenage children in Denver when he decided to take a drive through Steamboat Springs.
He learned about the job opening at Wild Horse Gallery across the street from the Steamboat Art Museum. Before he left town, he had an interview with museum curator and board President Shirley Stocks and met with the museum's search committee.
A few weeks later, he drove a truck into Steamboat to become a permanent resident.
"We were looking for somebody with fundraising and facility experience, somebody with an interest in the arts and somebody with the experience and maturity to present the museum as a cornerstone of the arts and culture community," Stocks said Tuesday.
"I think he brings an energy that's incredible. He's friendly, outgoing, and I'm excited that he's here and willing to take on this role."
So far, Henderson has attended a First Friday Artwalk, a performance at Strings Music Pavilion and met with several residents involved in the arts community. In the coming days, weeks and months, he knows there's a lot more to learn.
"All the pieces are here, they just need to be nurtured," he said. "I see a vital and growing arts community, and there are no limits."
When it comes to the museum, the crux of all future planning is fundraising. But he said the foundation is there to enhance the organization's exhibits, outreach and programming.
"These guys have done a brilliant job," he said about the museum's board of directors. "It's not easy to run any nonprofit. They've created a wonderful asset."
Tacked around his desk already are handwritten notes, tables and charts he's using to organize his thoughts and ideas.
One upcoming project will include restoring the museum's expanded space in the rear, which needs to be brought up to code before it can be reopened as a gallery, workshop and art library space.
"When I look at this, I think we can be a cultural focal point," he said about the museum.
To Stocks, the ability to hire an executive director for the first time in the museum's six-year history is something to be proud of.
"This is a definitely a turning point for us," Stocks said. "This will take us to the next level."
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com
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