Member Spotlight: Katrina M. Daniels

Posted by Abigail Alpern Fisch, Oct 26, 2020 0 comments

Katrina Daniels is the Exhibition and Gallery Sales Director at the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center, which provides public awareness, education, and enjoyment of the visual arts by promoting the works of Michigan artists. The Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center has provided more than 500 free art exhibitions and granted over $110,000 in awards for students.   

How did you initially become involved in the arts? 

I have been involved in the arts on a personal level for most of my life. I went to college for Interior Design and then later for a second B.A. in Art History and Visual Culture with a minor in Museum Studies. I feel incredibly lucky to have come from a home where the arts were encouraged through classes, trips to cultural centers, and exploration. I was also fortunate to attend schools that had rich arts education programs which fostered a deep love of the arts.

When did you take on your role at the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center? How do you see your work supporting the organization’s mission of promoting Michigan artists and creating accessible opportunities for community members? 

I have served as the Exhibitions and Gallery Sales Director at the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center for 3.5 years. I work directly with artists to create opportunities for them to exhibit and sell their work, share their stories through blogs, and artist talks to introduce them to the community directly. I also develop programs such as ARTpath to bring the work out of the traditional gallery setting and into the public realm. ARTpath offers more accessible opportunities for the community to engage with the work of Michigan artists.

Could you describe the ARTpath exhibit from Summer 2020? What was your role in the project’s inception?  

ARTpath is a program developed and produced by the Gallery and our partner, the City of Lansing, which brought 20 temporary, site-specific art works along a 3.5 mile stretch of the Lansing River Trail. This year over 80,000 visitors enjoyed the public art along the River Trail during the duration of this project. I am one of the co-founders of ARTpath in addition to Emily Stevens, the Manager of Leisure Services in the City of Lansing's Parks and Recreation. ARTpath was born from conversations about community, new urbanism, and research on urban architecture, brainstorming about locations and areas of the city to activate and more. 

When artist Isiah Lattimore approached us with the idea of creating a mural of George Floyd, we were excited about the idea and thrilled that the City of Lansing was so supportive of the installation of the mural. We also knew that the mural may be controversial as some of the rhetoric around this topic has been, but we believed strongly in the work and the message. When we heard that the mural had been vandalized, we were so disappointed. The vandalism of any artwork can be devastating, but this felt deeply hurtful to the community. After the news was made public, the overwhelming reaction was to try and restore the mural. The image of the vandalized work was shared hundreds of times and the community started to ask on social media how they could help.

Artist Isiah Lattimore painting his mural of George Floyd

We later found that a group of concerned citizens had gone to the mural and spent several hours trying to clean the graffiti off in an effort to save it. An artist in the community started a GoFundMe page to raise money and the Gallery started a fundraiser as well to capture the donations that the community was offering. After speaking with the artist Isiah, he didn't think that the mural could be restored due to the nature of spray paint, so he decided to recreate the mural on the same location. As the artist worked to create the new George Floyd mural, members of the community came by to share how much they appreciated his work, to thank him and offer encouragement. After he was done the new mural was coated in a protective clear coat to keep it safe.

What advice do you have for professionals involved in gallery settings, public art programming, and/or community engagement to respond to the continuing challenges of COVID-19? 

Working in this current climate is difficult and what is going to allow us to grow is our ability to listen and respond to our community, to be nimble, and to innovate. When the quarantine began and the Governor announced her Executive Orders, we had already been working on ARTpath for months and we were looking forward to the installation. Initially, we weren't sure how we could move forward but we were committed to producing ARTpath and paying our artists for their work. Maintaining regular and very open communication with all our stakeholders was key. When it was safe to allow our artists to install, we moved forward with the utmost precautions. We had planned a large outdoor kickoff event which we could no longer host, so we pivoted and encouraged the community to take self-guided tours using digital maps of ARTpath or downloadable PDFs to print at home. We launched a brand-new series of outdoor artist talks and partnered with our local public media center to produce a television show that took the viewer on a guided tour of the program. The pandemic forced us to change how we work, but I believe many of the outcomes made this program even stronger!

What are you most proud of from your work at the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center? What are you looking forward to working on next?  

I have been incredibly lucky to work with a tremendously talented team guided by Barb Whitney's leadership as our Executive Director. I am so proud of ARTpath and what this project has become. I believe in the power of the arts and the power of bringing art into non-traditional spaces. Seeing the community respond to the George Floyd mural was powerful! This public mural is free to see and free to access; there isn't a cost or a schedule to witness the work—it is there whenever one wants to see it. This mural has become a site of gathering and reflection. I have found candles, flowers, and trinkets left at the base of the mural from the community that has visited it and that is tremendously meaningful.

I am looking forward to ARTpath 2021! In addition to our installation of work created by Michigan artists, I will be working with our Education Director, Michelle Carlson, to create additional programs for ARTpath next year that will offer the community more ways to engage.  

What do you enjoy about being a member of Americans for the Arts?

Being a member of the Americans for the Arts is wonderful as an arts administrator. Americans for the Arts is a rich resource of tools that I use often, and often serves a guidepost for my work. As someone who works in the public art realm, I have found the Public Art Network to be a reliable source of information and inspiration.

Americans for the Arts Membership

This series features the many Americans for the Arts members doing transformative work for arts education, public art, advocacy, arts marketing, and more. An Americans for the Arts Membership connects you with this network of more than 6,000 arts leaders and gives you access to latest professional development and research. You can become a member by visiting us online, sending an email to [email protected], or calling 202.371.2830.

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