U. of Utah programmer hired to foster a creative culture
An academic appointment as assistant dean for the University of Utah's College of Arts sets apart Brooke Horejsi's new job as executive director of Kingsbury Hall. Beyond programming the venue's annual performing arts series, Horejsi will serve as something of a creative matchmaker, connecting artists with students across campus departments as well as with community groups.
"Part of the reason why this job was appealing was having my role be solidly positioned not only within the College of Fine Arts, but being at the table as an assistant dean," says Horejsi, 39, who previously worked as deputy director of fine arts programming at the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University in Minnesota since 2008.
Prior to that post, she directed bookings as company manager with VEE Corporation, producer of touring shows such as "Sesame Street Live!" As part of that show, Horejsi, a Wisconsin native, and her husband, Michael, from Montana, toured through Salt Lake City in 1998. Horejsi earned bachelor degrees in Spanish, English and theater from the University of Minnesota, and received a master's in arts administration from the University of Oregon.
Her husband has been hired as an assistant professor in the U.'s theater department, teaching multimedia sound and design.
Her passion for integrating creativity into the curriculum for 21st-century students, as well as her presenting experience, made her the right fit for the position, says Raymond Tymas-Jones, associate vice president for the arts and dean of the U.'s College of Fine Arts.
Her dual appointment is another step in making arts curriculum serve as more than entertainment, but also intellectual enlightenment, which is crucial in a creative economy, Tymas-Jones says.
"I've been working to depeen the arts impact on this campus," says Tymas-Jones, noddng to the U.'s history at educating many professional artists, while incubating some of the state's major arts groups. "Now I'm also interested — while cherishing that history — in writing our own."
Instead of focusing on a town-gown divide, Kingsbury's programming should change to focus on presenting high-caliber performers who are also interested and skilled in working with students, Tymas-Jones says.
"Kingsbury Hall is a vibrant component of our arts and education agenda, given the central place of the arts in fostering innovation, creativity and quality of life," said Ruth Watkins, senior vice president of academic affairs, in a statement announcing the appointment.
Horejsi has already begun those conversations, working with the U.'s fraternal groups as well as West Valley City's Cultural Celebration Center to host programs to support the Step Afrika! dance group, who will kick off Kingsbury's season on Oct. 4.
Tymas-Jones says he watched Horejsi at a meeting with students recently. At the beginning of the conversation, all of the students said they didn't have time to attend performances at Kingsbury, but at the end of the meeting, most had volunteered to serve on the venue's advisory group.
"She's smart, articulate, and already shown herself to be formidable in terms of the challenges" of the job, Tymas-Jones says.