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Wilmington Arts: Kristen's Kenan Farewell

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

I’m terrible at goodbyes. 

So, rather than bid you farewell (as was my assignment for this blog!) I invite you to share in some of my favorite arts memories from my four years at UNCW.  

I remember my first UNCW Presents show in Kenan Auditorium, when Ricky Skaggs took the stage with his band Kentucky Thunder. I remember Mr. Skaggs’ virtuosity, and also his generosity with his musicians who each had a chance to play one of their own songs with the ensemble.  

I remember the musicians of The Nile Project who spent a week with us in Wilmington. Their residency began with a concert, where I danced in the aisle with my kids, and ended with a sunset cruise on the Cape Fear River where we shared music and stories about our rivers, the Cape Fear and the Nile.  

I remember our very first Lumina Festival of the Arts in the summer of 2017. We worked closely with our local arts colleagues, from naming the festival, to planning a schedule around performances by our resident company Opera Wilmington, to making sure film and poetry were represented alongside opera, theatre, music, and dance. We had 22 events that first summer, and exceeded our attendance goal by more than 1000 people. I have a framed program in my office, signed by artists from all the participating companies, and it’s one of my prized possessions.

I remember LA Theatre Works’s production of The Mountaintop, a play by Katori Hall that imagines Martin Luther King, Jr.’s final evening in the Lorraine Motel. The night before the play, I learned in a community roundtable discussion that Dr. King was scheduled to come to Wilmington the day after he was killed. 

I remember a conversation with a parent after our very first sensory friendly Seahawk FAM performance, when she told me that her child on the autism spectrum had never been able to attend an arts event before, but here they were comfortable. 

I remember the day last fall when we realized that, with the help of our community partners, our StepAfrika! performance was sold out. This was our first show after Hurricane Florence, and the artists worked with students from DREAMS and DC Virgo, Upperman Center and the Dance Cooperative. Representatives from DREAMS and Support the Port spoke from the stage about their hurricane recovery efforts. The performance was electrifying, with an instant standing ovation from an audience that was ready to be inspired.

I remember the days each April when all five of our UNCW arts departments – Art & Art History, Creative Writing, Film Studies, Music, and Theatre – hosted events to culminate the work that students and faculty had been working on all semester. And I remember the Mondays in June when Kenan Auditorium was full of glitter and sequins from the dance recitals we hosted over the weekend. 

Most of all, I remember all of you – the audience members who make our arts work meaningful. Over time I got to know many of you in our lobby, over the phone and by email. Thank you for showing up, and for the times when you told me that even though you might not recognize the names of the artists on our stage, you always know you will see something interesting or hear something new at UNCW Presents and the Lumina Festival. 

Tomorrow night, we’ll be announcing our 2019-20 UNCW Presents Season, which my colleagues and I have planned and curated with great care and joy. I hope you’ll join us to learn about the artists who will inspire us and connect us next season. I can’t promise that I will say goodbye then either, but I’ll certainly be happy to see you one more time in Kenan Auditorium. 
-Kristen Brogdon

The UNCW Office of the Arts can't say farewell to Kristen without sharing our own Kristen memories. Read on for a little taste of how great it has been to work with Kristen these past four years:

"So I’m not sure if many people know this about Kristen, but she’s a culinary genius, ranking up there with Julia Child, Gordon Ramsay, Rachael Ray and even the best of them all Guy Fieri. I remember maybe within the first couple of weeks of working here, Kristen brought over some lemon zucchini bread she made for the staff. Upon hearing this, my first reaction was LEMON ZUCCHINI BREAD – that doesn’t sound like a palatable and/or good combination of things at all! One afternoon my curiosity and hunger got the better of me and I decided to try a slice. Let me tell you, that bread was one of the most delightfully decadent things I have ever eaten. You could actually taste the love in the bread. Kristen had mastered the art of infusing love into bread, a lost art known only to greatest alchemists of olden days. It was at that very moment I knew, she was the boss for me." —Emmanuel Mitcham

"My favorite Kristen memory has got to be right after the Lumina festival when she took all the interns out for brunch in celebration of the festival coming to an end. After all the long days, different projects, and overall craziness that ensued throughout the festival, we got to just relax and reminisce on our favorite stories and highlights. Kristen went out of her way not only to make us feel appreciated but also get to know us personally. She asked about our career goals and gave advice based on her past experiences that was really helpful. It’s no question that Kristen has been the most motivating, caring and genuine boss I’ve ever had." —Anna Kehoe

"Picking one memory is very challenging when there have been countless experiences during her time with us.  We have all benefited from her tireless work ethic and passion.  I know that I am a better person for having worked with her." —Jeremy Summers

“From the rush of last year’s Lumina Festival, to being her intern in the Office of Community Engagement, working for Kristen has been an absolute blast. She has a genuine passion that has resonated in everything she has done at UNCW. This passion has been contagious and will continue to inspire me as a recent graduate. While her presence in the Wilmington community will be missed, I am excited to see everything she will accomplish in Minnesota!” —Kyle Kissinger

"It’s rare to come across a colleague like Kristen. She’s the kind of manager who isn't afraid to hold very high expectations for her colleagues—inspiring and motivating them to work really hard to meet or exceed those expectations along the way. Sometimes you’re successful, other times you’re not, but you know that the effort you put forth was worth it. Kristen has supported, defended, and challenged me in the best ways and as a result, I’m a better administrator, a better artist, and a better person.  She will be missed." —Fidias Reyes

"Within my first few months of working for the Office of the Arts, our team decided to join the Walk to End Alzheimer's. My family joined up with Kristen's to walk for Alzheimer's awareness, research, and support. With probably a hundred other people all carrying pinwheels recognizing those who have suffered from Alzheimer's, we walked the Wrightsville Beach Loop. It was a very thoughtful and genuine day, full of laughs and memories. Kristen's dedication to the arts and the arts community extends far beyond the office or the auditorium, and it's something that I'll never forget." —Lindsay Lake

"One of my favorite memories with Kristen involved an engagement at her home with artists and staff. The room was filled with conversation and laughter. Kristen baked bread with beets and other spices for the event. Thinking the bread was more sweet than savory, my husband tried the bread and complemented Kristen on the dessert. She responded by telling him the ingredients, and we watched his face transform to pure shock. Beets?! We all laughed, and this memory will always bring a smile to my face."  —Denise Melvin

"Kristen always excelled at doing her before-show curtain introductions. Kristen also excelled at loving Duke's basketball teams, being a Duke alum. One time before a performance, I happened to mention to her that Duke lost twice to the Carolina Tarheels before March Madness. Kristen was shocked that me and Jeremy are both Tarheels, but she wasn't rattled a bit and still nailed her before-show intro. I've only been on the Office of the Arts team for a year and wish I could have worked with Kristen longer." Manny Fernandez

"I do not remember which show and I do not remember even which season. All I remember is the moment I felt truly appreciated by Kristen. It was the day of a big show, one that Kristen knew was going to have me pacing in the box office. 

Just as I noticed the loaf of golden sweetness, Kristen popped out of nowhere and said I know you like my zucchini bread, and I know you are going to have a long day so I stayed up late and made this for everyone." —Abigail Beck

All of us here at Kenan Auditorium and the Office of the Arts are going to miss you, Kristen!