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Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016

New Witter Gallery director finds energy, community and a 'strong creative streak'

Tuesday, September 2, 2003

On first day on the job as the Witter Gallery's new director, Rita Hermann, learned of the gallery's vision, helped take down an exhibit and gratefully accepted a bag of homegrown tomatoes... it sure is good to be back in Iowa.

Born in Council Bluffs, Hermann, who comes to the position with a Master of Fine Arts degree from Milton Avery Graduate School of Art at Bard College in New York and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from San Francisco Art Institute in San Francisco, has developed arts educational programming in California, Oregon, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Nebraska.

Hermann said it's exciting to put together programs anywhere but especially to do so in a place like Storm Lake that seems to care so much about its own sense of "community."

"I've been fortunate to have worked all over the country with some wonderfully creative people, learning new things and meeting new challenges," Hermann said. "But after I interviewed with Mary Mello-Nee, Jo Lussman and Marilyn Mittelstadt from the Witter board I just knew that the Witter Gallery had enormous potential and that Storm Lake was a special place that I wanted to be a part of.

"There's a just great energy at the gallery - a group of people any town twice or even five times the size of Storm Lake would be proud to claim."

In her first day on the job, Hermann said she met with Mello-Nee, the Witter board of trustees, to discuss the future of the gallery.

"Community, community, community," Hermann said. "More educational programs, more family activities and more outreach to the schools and other organizations in the area. We hope to revitalize successful programs from Witter Gallery's past and develop new ways to meet Storm Lake's changing needs."

Hermann stressed that there are many things the organization is doing well already.

"Art isn't something you just observe... art is an interactive experience," she said. "The gallery is addressing this, for example, we have a really cool Web site (www.wittergallery. org). We have a board that represents the community and we show local and regional artists who use all forms of media."

Hermann added that it can be a misconception that cutting edge art and artmaking require a large metropolitan environment.

"I disagree," she said. "In rural communities people are required to wear many hats, dig deep to increase their skills, because services aren't readily available. I think we have a strong creative streak that isn't always recognized as such.

"Our young people are entering a new age, of technology and information. You never gain anything without giving something up, I hope we can help expand the skills of our young people while still appreciating the thing that makes life in places like Storm Lake special - our connections with each other. In a word: community."

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