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Changing Stars: Recognizing Chelsea Kauffman

Posted By Salt Lake County ZAP
February 13, 2017

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outstanding emerging arts professional

Chelsea Kauffman is a recent graduate from the SUU Master of Fine Arts, Arts Administration program.  Nominated by her supervisor from a summer internship at Repertory Dance Theatre, they were excited and inspired by Chelsea’s “authenticity, engagement, innovation, vision and effectiveness.”  She was able to accomplish a massive amount for RDT and clearly left a lasting, positive impression through her work there.  We are honored to present her with our first Outstanding Salt Lake Emerging Arts Professional award.  

chelsea kauffman headshot

Here is more about our award winner, Chelsea:

When did you fall in love with the arts?

I grew up in a home full of a passion for music, creativity, and talent. I sang, played the saxophone and guitar, and danced. At 14, I discovered theater and it was then that I truly fell in love with the arts. Being involved in theatre and music provided me with a safe space to be myself, feel comforted, and have a home and a family to support me.

How have you seen the positive effects of the arts in your life or in the Salt Lake County?

When I was 14 my family was struggling financially and ended up homeless for quite some time. From there, I faced foster care, my parents' divorce, and my mother's severe depression. I struggled to believe in myself and do my best, but the arts inspired me to change my stars. The arts changes lives. It provided me with peace, community and hope. I owe it to the arts that I am still here today. 

chelsea kauffman portrait

What do you imagine the arts community could look like in Salt Lake?

I hope that the arts become available and life-changing for low-income families and particularly for those fighting emotional battles. I know there are many economic, political, spiritual, and economic challenges for the lives of many in Salt Lake. The arts provide a refuge. It is a gathering place for understanding, comfort, and unity. I believe the arts can be an answer for many who are lost and alone. 

What are some steps for getting there?

To get there, we can open our doors and reach out to organizations that fight for those who feel lost and alone. To do this, we must be accessible and provide a place of welcome. This does not just include attendance to our performances and galleries, but the importance of the arts in life at an early age, how it can transform learning, and its ability to prompt expression and discussion about our lives. The arts can help us find and apply answers.

chelsea quote

How has your work impacted the Salt Lake community?

My work in the Salt Lake community hasn't gone on for very long but my story and passion has driven me forward. Because of my life experiences, I am able to look at things from the outside and see the forest from the trees. With this, I apply my organizational skills and become a power house that challenges and pushes organizations to reach their full potential. I analyze every facet of arts administration in hopes that we continue to fulfill our mission as we move towards our vision. I know that my story is an example of the strength of the arts and my skills are what keeps them doing the good that they do. 

What energizes you in your work? What is your purpose?

I am energized by new things and challenges as I love to learn and understand life a bit more. In my work, I hope to magnify the many purposes of the arts, my passion for the arts, and I hope to give back to the community what the arts have given me. 

chelsea kauffman in the snow

Describe a time when you took a risk. What inspired you to take that risk? And what was the result?

I took quite a risk attending graduate school. Accumulating student loan debt and taking time off of a consistent income was something that frightened me financially. I refused to repeat the past. Additionally, there is a misconception that going into the arts will yield little financial reward. I knew that if I didn't do what I loved, I would regret it for most of my life. I didn't want to sacrifice my heart and passion because of my fears. The arts helped me defeat my fears once and it will continue to give me comfort. Graduate school was a sacrifice. I was truly blessed by a supportive husband that helped me complete my studies without worrying  about finances. In the end, I survived. I finished graduate school. And now I have a wealth of arts administration knowledge and experience to advance the work and my personal mission of the arts. 

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Chelsea was interviewed by Rachel Cook. 

Rachel Cook is a Masters Candidate with SUU Arts Administration and a member of the Salt Lake Emerging Arts Professionals advisory committee. She loves art, the mountains, and spends her spare time with her husband. 

Learn more about the Salt Lake Emerging Arts Professionals Recognition Program.