Q&A with new Arts Council executive director

Christian Lutz, the new Executive Director of the Grinnell Area Arts Council, began his work in Grinnell on Wednesday, Oct. 1. Lutz was born in Davenport, Iowa and has lived in the Midwest ever since. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern College in Kansas, and a master’s degree in education from the University of Kansas. He has been involved in the arts since his time as an undergraduate, working mostly in theater. Since then, Lutz has worked in architecture and with various nonprofit organizations. Lutz sat down with The S&B’s Nora Coghlan ’17 to discuss his plans for his new position.

Christian Lutz smiles outside the Grinnell Arts Center Gallery. Photo contributed.

Christian Lutz smiles outside the Grinnell Arts Center Gallery. Photo contributed.

What did you do before you got this position?

I’ve basically spent my entire career in the nonprofit sector. In the last five years, for three of those years, I was Executive Director of the Iowa Architectural Foundation based in Des Moines. The foundation [is] a statewide organization that [promotes] architectural awareness and appreciation by the public. … The past two years I was Assistant Executive Director for the American Society of Professional Estimators, which is a professional organization for those in the construction-estimating profession. A lot of my responsibility was raising non-dues revenue, which was convention, sponsorships, advertising and things like that.

What roles does the Executive Director of the Arts Council play and what does your position entail?

The executive director is basically the chief administrative officer. Basically, the board determines strategic direction, long range planning, policy adaption and then the executive director implements and executes what the board has decided in terms of policy programming fundraising, things like that. It’s kind of like a CEO in a way if you look at a big company. An executive director is the nonprofit version.

How did you end up in Grinnell?

Actually, I’m not a stranger to Grinnell. I had been here on a couple of occasions. One time, the Architectural Foundation had a board meeting here in town. In fact, I think it was at the Comeback Café … The second time there was an event at the College. The Iowa Museum had a meeting, a statewide conference, so there were some materials that I took to that. So I am familiar with Grinnell. Basically, I had seen the position posted on the Iowa Arts Council website. I had been wanting to come back to Iowa. I wanted to work with a nonprofit again. So I said, ‘Why not?’

What direction are you planning on taking the Grinnell Area Arts Council and what are some of your goals?

Right now I just have to learn the culture, with it being a new organization, and the people involved and the stakeholders. I think at some point we will do a strategic planning process, but really it’s not my vision. It is a combined vision of what we determine after we go through the strategic planning. Any nonprofit does a strategic planning process and that is basically looking forward and over the next few years, what direction do we want to go in. There has been a lot of exciting momentum that I want to capitalize on that has happened here recently with acquiring the building [Grinnell Arts Center] and renovating the third floor into the Loft Theatre. We have a lot of momentum and I just want to make sure that we keep moving forward with that momentum and we don’t lose any of it.

What are you most excited about for your new position?

Everything! What really impressed me when I interviewed was the unwavering support the community has for the Arts Council. For a town of 9,200 people to raise a half a million-dollar endowment so quickly, as well as the 100,000-200,000 dollars that was necessary for the loft renovation in such a short amount of time, some small towns would kill for that … It’s just a given here that something you support in town is the arts.

Anything else you would like to add? 

I would encourage students from the campus not only to attend our events, but also [get] actively involved, and I know that’s a lot to ask … It’s a really great way to make connections with the community because a lot of students when they get on college campuses they never leave … but really, getting involved in the arts center—either attending or participating—is a really great way to get out and meet the community and to start forging those relationships that you could take advantage of in future years … Pursue your interests in the arts. It’s not just painting and sculpture or drawing. There’s the literary arts, the creative arts, the dramatic arts. We are always looking for instructors … Whatever talents are out there we are always looking for those [students] to provide classes.