Jill Tutt acknowledges and respects the learning curve that welcomes her into her new role as the Cultural Arts Leader at St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre.
But Jill also draws on the benefits of her friendship with the previous arts leader, Cindy DuBois, who retired Jan. 1 after serving in several capacities with the City since 1997.
“I had a relationship already with Cindy, and she was the one who pushed me to apply for this position,” Jill said. “Cindy laid a solid foundation, and I know I have some big shoes to fill. But with that solid foundation, I know I’m able to take what she started and hopefully grow it. I’m excited about doing that.”
Jill, a native of Springfield, Ill., who resides in Dardenne Prairie, had been a program specialist for the last nine years with Missouri Arts Council, where her responsibilities included planning, coordinating and managing more than $1 million in grant programs.
“I loved assisting the grantees with paperwork, making sure they had everything in place that they needed to have in place and making sure they met their deadlines,” Jill said.
Jill is eager to embrace the demands of her new job, from developing additional programs, overseeing the Cultural Arts Centre’s budget, grant writing and facility managing.
“I’m looking forward to learning all the little, intricate details of each of the programs the Cultural Arts Centre has to offer,” she said. “What we have to offer here is absolutely incredible. The St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre can be a model for other local arts agencies that are looking at establishing their own arts council or establishing a different program.”
Jill lauded the Cultural Arts Centre’s volunteers, and said because of them the Cultural Arts Centre has “something for everyone, no matter what age.” There are art classes and camps, music, theater, social dances and bus trips to interesting sites and attractions around St. Louis and in neighboring states.
“What I want to do in my first year is get a handle and a grasp on the current programs we have taking place — see what works, see what maybe isn’t working,” Jill said. “If it’s a popular program, obviously we don’t want to get rid of it. We want to see what we can do to maybe enhance that program. For example, with the social dances, maybe we can have a dance instructor come in prior to the social dance and have a dance class.”
Diversity is something Jill hopes to celebrate in some fashion at the Cultural Arts Centre.
“We might be able to involve other communities,” she said. “Maybe we can bring in some artists that we wouldn’t normally have at the arts centre to (give) a performance. Or maybe we could have a gallery showing that celebrates African American art. We have some great ethnic communities within St. Charles County, and I think it would be great to highlight those communities in some shape or form.”
Jill has a master’s degree in Community Arts Management from the University of Illinois Springfield. Her bachelor’s degree in Arts, Theater and Dance came from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Despite being an arts leader, Jill laughed and said: “I could not draw a stick figure to save my life.”
“I was about 2 or 3 years old when I started with dance lessons,” she said. “In addition to dance lessons, I was ice skating as a kid and then moved on and was involved in Girl Scouts. As I got older, I got involved in playing the flute. My background has been primarily with the performing arts.
“But I didn’t want to make a career out of performing. So I found this program at the University of Illinois Springfield that taught me the business side of the arts and how to do things like marketing, recruiting volunteers and budgeting. I loved it. I found my niche.
“I am so blessed to have a career that I’m able to say I actually love. A lot of people can’t say that. I think it takes a lot of passion and customer service to be in this type of role.”
Jill said the Cultural Arts Centre has a new look, to some degree, with a fresh coat of paint on the walls, new ceiling tiles and an improved hanging system for gallery shows.
“It’s going to help the volunteers get the artwork hung quickly,” she said. “It makes the artwork look more professional. We have the capability of hanging large pieces of artwork with the new hanging system, but we also have the capability of hanging really small pieces of artwork and making them look spectacular.”
One thing won’t change under Jill’s leadership.
“Cindy made this a very welcoming place, very much like a family,” Jill said. “I definitely want to continue to make this place feel like home. My door is always open.”
For more information on the Cultural Arts Centre, visit www.stpetersmo.net/arts-center.aspx or call 636-397-6903.