Carolyn Bogott: Ritchie has enthusiasm for life

Published 5:57 pm Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Kelsey Ritchie exudes competence, as well as enthusiasm for life. She is currently operations director of the Austin Area Arts and has responsibility for the business end of the Austin ArtWorks Center, Paramount Theatre, and the ArtWorks Festival. It is a challenging job, but Kelsey is well suited for it with her versatility and creativity.

Kelsey Ritchie

When she was 13, she moved to Kauai, Hawaii, from Minnesota. It was a difficult adjustment, as she was an outsider, but during her high school years she gained confidence and learned she liked working with people and being a leader. She credits her many travel experiences, including a month in Kenya working with other high school students on how to use media to do AIDS education, with broadening her viewpoint.  Her college major was graphic design, with a minor in business, including a course in business law, all of which serve her well in her current position.

Being an extrovert helps her in all phases of her job. She said she, “can talk to anyone about anything.” In her work for the retail sales at the ArtWorks Center, she meets with artists who have applied to sell their work and sets up the review process by a retail jury of experienced retail professionals and artists.

Depending on the decision of that jury, she either explains about selling on consignment and helps the artist price their work, or explains that their work could be better sold in another setting like the ArtWorks Festival, a gallery show or some other venue.  Her policy is never to tell an artist simply “no.”  She makes alternative suggestions, especially to students, that they might refine their technique and come back in a few years. She notes that the retail space endeavors to carry items in a wide range of prices to please tourists, as well as serious collectors. They started with items from only 25 artists and now carry work from 100 sources.

For gallery shows and Paramount shows, Kelsey works out the scheduling, the contracts, the marketing and follows up on all the logistics.  She said she has learned how to do this from reading past files and just working through the process.

The ArtWorks Festival is a favorite part of her job. She loves the entire process and is present the entire weekend. She is a part of most of the committees who are made up of volunteer leadership. Kelsey does the communications with and management of donors, orders the supplies, keeps track of schedules and all the little details. She said she likes “wacky solutions” and it is clear that attitude must serve her well with all the challenges that come with an undertaking like the festival.

A “wacky” idea, which she cites as an example of her creative thinking is the renting out of the Paramount Marquee during the COVID-19 closings for birthday greetings, baby announcements, memorial messages and other greetings.

When asked what inspires her, she said “I am all about people!” She loves the diversity of experiences working with people.  Other sources of inspiration are her roots and family, music, theatre, nature, animals, and traveling.  She also enjoys making art of all kinds, but especially mixed media, and she likes to attend the classes at the Artworks Center to explore new techniques.

When a problem arises or an issue bothers her, Kelsey often thinks of her grandmother’s challenge.

“What are you going to do about it?” Kelsey said. “This encourages me to do something if I am truly passionate about an issue and inspires me to try to find a solution. It something ‘terrible’ happens, I sometimes remind myself  and others that the world is not ending.  Pivot and find some other way to move on.”

This philosophy has helped her in many personal and professional situations — large and small.

Thank you, Kelsey Ritchie, for the vibrancy you bring to the Austin arts scene and to our community!