While the Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts and History opened its doors in the early 1990s, the current Center’s director has only been around for 10 months.“I’m really an administrator, but I guess the beauty of this job is it kind of takes one of my passions in life, which is the arts, and then combines it with my one of areas of expertise,” said CAH director Debra Fitzgerald.
Here, the Lewiston resident speaks on her job as director of the Center for Arts and History, as well as her past experience in the arts — and in the theater.
What does your job as director involve?
My job is multi-dimensional, because in addition to being the director for the CAH, I’m also responsible to direct continuing education and community event departments … We have several exhibits each year that rotate through and then each of those exhibits, we want to develop programming to be bringing the community and students and faculty in our doors. We have the “and History” piece of (the center), where we have the permanent Beuk Aie Temple, which is just recently restored.
How do you try to combine both art and history?
This is something that we really want to explore in the coming year or two, is how can we better depict or visit that “and History” part of what we do. We developed a deeper more meaningful partnership with the Nez Perce County Historical Society … It’s kind of whatever we want it to be. We just have to figure out which is the best fit. Is it bringing in a historian in residence each semester? A historical scholar who does research here and bring students down? … That’s part of what we’re really exploring.
What’s your history with history and art?
I did some community theater growing up and through high school. I was on the Idaho Commission of the Arts for 11 years, and I was appointed by Governor Anderson in 1987. I really got familiar with the art world in Idaho, connected with a lot of artists, arts organizations. My main focus when I was with that commission was working with arts and education. … I really developed a lot of art programming for teachers and schools, as well as developing local arts councils. I just grew up really loving the arts. I played the piano, I sing, so performing arts.
What was your involvement with the Lewiston Civic Theatre?
I actually met my husband there. We were dance partners together in a show. My uncle Tom Campbell — he’s the statue in front of the (Lewiston) Tribune — he and his wife were really instrumental in starting up the Civic Theatre. So, from the time I was about 4 years old on, I attended Civic Theatre performances, and got involved in theater in high school and went on to audition for CT shows. The most recent show I did was in ’05 or ’06, we did “Sweeney Todd” and I was Mrs. Lovett. And in ’03 we did “Dolly,” and I was Dolly.
What’s the biggest challenge as director?
It’s just grown up organically. I try to be really strategic and plan and dream. One of the things that I’m trying to do with our advisory committee is take them through an exercise to find out what our “Why?” is. Why is there a Center for Arts and History? Why do we do what we do? Why is that important to the community? Why is that important to Lewis-Clark State College? The vision really drives that mission. What do we see? If we really answer the “Why?” where are we going to be in 10 years? What is that going to look like?
What task do you do that people wouldn’t expect the director of an arts center to do?
When we were reopening the Beuk Aie Temple, we had a little spot where we needed some black curtains along the wall and to cover some shelving, and I sewed the curtains and hung them. And I think they look very nice.
Treffry can be contacted at (208) 883-4640 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at: @LindseyTreffry.