Holter director Chris Riccardo resigns on October 15 to return to ceramics | Local

Health is one of the main reasons Chris Riccardo is stepping down as executive director of the Holter Museum of Art on October 15.

Another is art – having the time to do it.

“I love this place,” he said, sitting in his office, which is often full of work projects and fascinating artwork. Quitting is “one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made”.

He started at Holter as an education assistant in 2014, became acting director in 2015 and executive director in 2016.

Since the pandemic, Holter has been pretty much on his mind 24/7.

“Stress can kill you,” he said of why he needs time to focus on himself and his own health.

“I’m an artist and I want to do this, and I haven’t really had the chance.

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“I would really like to commit to a solid year and be in my studio just focusing on my work.”






Chris Riccardo works on a sculpture in this 2014 IR file photo.


THOM BRIDGE, Independent Disc


In the future, he would like to intervene periodically to help the Holter.

The Holter plans to hire an interim director for six months as it launches a search for a permanent director, Holter board chairman Corey Palmer said.

Riccardo is Helena’s third artistic director to step down in recent months – Steven Lee of the Archie Bray Foundation for Ceramic Arts became Bray’s special projects director this summer, and Grandstreet Theater general manager Kal Poole announced his resignation in July.

The three departures are amicable.

And all three directors say the pandemic was a factor in their decision.

Riccardo took over the leadership during a very difficult time, when it looked like Holter might have to shut down.

“We’ve done a lot in six years,” he said.

The Holter is more financially stable, it has expanded its education and outreach programs, and built the new “W” Wiegand Creativity Center, providing a venue for all kinds of arts and community events.

“It generates revenue,” he said. “It brings in people who have never been to the museum…and they are exposed to the art.”

Initially, Holter planned a fundraising campaign to launch Holter Re-Imagined in 2018-2019, but scaled back that ambitious vision once COVID hit, focusing on the “W”.

Riccardo has also invested in rebuilding trust and close relationships with community members, businesses and donors.

Other achievements include:

  • the launch of two popular youth arts programs – the After-school Teen Arts Council and Art for Survival;
  • installing a new membership database and increasing the number of members;
  • redesign of the Holter website;
  • launch of the Healing Arts Program with St. Peter’s Health;
  • launch an artist-in-residence program; and
  • featuring dynamic and thought-provoking shows like the interactive CAVE exhibit and “Speaking Volumes: Transforming Hate.”

“I’m super proud of the exhibits we’ve brought,” he said.

During the pandemic, Holter has been sharing artist exhibits and discussions online, which it will likely continue to do.

Riccardo now sees the perfect time to leave, so that a new leader can take Holter to the next level.

“The last six months have definitely taken their toll,” Riccardo said. “People are tired.

Board chairman Corey Palmer said the board is planning a farewell event for Riccardo and a celebration of his accomplishments, but the date has not been set.

“I’m excited for Chris,” Palmer said.

The last few years have been difficult, especially for him. He is under the most pressure.

“I want to thank the community for helping us through these tumultuous times.

“Chris really stepped in and stabilized the Holter and stabilized the finances,” Palmer said, “building a solid staff.”

He especially credited Riccardo for creating the healing arts program, defining a compelling vision for Holter, and overseeing the creation of The “W.”

“He has ensured that the Holter is a place where the community comes together to discover unique artistic voices.”

Last Wednesday, Steven Lee spent the whole day in his studio and you could hear the smile in his voice even on the phone.

Time to make art is one of the reasons Lee stepped down as manager of The Bray.

He doesn’t think what’s happening in the art scene in Helena is unique.

He is seeing nationwide leadership shifts in the world of ceramics, he said. “A lot of people have moved on.”







Steven Young Lee is working on a play

Steven Young Lee works on a piece in his studio on the Bray grounds in this 2016 IR file photo. Lee recently stepped down as resident director at the Archie Bray Foundation and is now in charge of special projects.


THOM BRIDGE, Independent Disc


For Lee, who announced his job change last November, “it was a good time to hand over the baton.”

He had just led a successful multi-year capital campaign and campus renovation and oversaw the receipt of The Bray’s largest endowment gift – a $15 million gift from the Windgate Foundation.

A new director can bring different energy and ambition to the organization, he said.

The pandemic has been a truly scary time for The Bray.

Although he has an established international reputation, “everything could have been gone in a minute”. People dug in and did everything they could to keep it afloat – moving classes, art auctions and online sales.

Funding from government and foundations and donors has brought tremendous relief.

The state and federal government as well as the foundations have changed their rules to be more flexible and responsive.

He sees the pandemic as an opportunity for nonprofits to question themselves and see how they’ve always done things.

“It allowed us to see things in a new light.







Kal Poole

Stage manager Kal Poole performs a monologue on the set of ‘Our Town’ at the Grandstreet Theater in this 2015 IR file photo. Poole announced his resignation as the theatre’s general manager in July.


THOM BRIDGE, Independent Disc


In July, Kal Poole announced his resignation.

“I got my dream job and it was great. I love, love, love Grandstreet,” he said. “But I think it would be nice to have someone with a different skill set” to step in.

He wants to escape stress and looks forward to spending more time with his family.

“We had to reinvent the wheel 12 times,” he said of his reaction to COVID.

Grandstreet had to close for months.

So he took plays and acting classes online, helped the city build an outdoor stage in Hill Park, produced shows with all the actors masked, and installed a new heating and air conditioning unit. which purifies the air.

The main problem facing arts organizations, he said, is that people have fallen in love with their couches.

“People buy streaming services instead of tickets.

“People need to break away from Netflix,” he said, and start going to shows, museums and galleries again.

He views leaving Grandstreet as a time to grow.

“I have a ton of things that interest me. I can’t wait to see the sequel.

“I have worked in theater for 30 years.”

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Montana Arts Council executive director Tatiana Gant said nonprofits have been particularly at risk during the pandemic. “They tend to run very close to the line.”

There has been some turnover in the Montana arts associations, but it’s not something they’ve been tracking the numbers on.

There are plenty of job openings in nonprofit organizations in general, Deputy Director Kristin Han Burgoyne noted, but that’s also true in state government and the private sector.

For many art directors, navigating COVID was one of their legacy accomplishments, Burgoyne said.

But Helena’s three artistic directors have all built an incredible legacy of achievement, she noted. “I don’t think COVID got the better of them… It will be exciting to see what they do next.”

Gant added: “I’ve heard people say, we’re not going back to a previous time, it’s a portal. We will cross into a totally different place.

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