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Staff Highlights: Get to Know Cultivate’s team in 2 questions


For the core team at Cultivate, fostering a passion for art shaped by individual experiences is a vital means of connection. Each member brings a unique background and perspective of the contemporary art world, and celebrating these varying paths helps shape the trajectory of the gallery. With an aim to highlight the dynamic means by which people are introduced to contemporary art, the Cultivate team considered what brought them together to share a greater goal. Each member was asked the same 2 questions, and though their responses, one can see the ways by which art is introduced, nurtured, and emphasized in vastly different ways. None of them superior, none of them “correct” — merely joined in a greater, intertwined network of creative, powerful connections.


What is a core memory you have in relation to the art world?

Arielle Creps, Development Director — My mom would take me to museums, zoos, galleries, and other cultural institutions throughout my childhood. We spent a lot of time talking about the artwork, artifacts, and animals we saw. These experiences and conversations encouraged me to be inquisitive about the world, to think more critically, and to express my thoughts and opinions.


Brian Criner, Director of Operations — My core memory would be seeing a Rauschenberg in person for the first time. The way that painting spoke to me was otherworldly.


Claudia Pimentel, Director of Education — All of my most intense core memories of art are connected to Story and Narrative - playing video games like Final Fantasy or animated films like Studio Ghibli. I think reading the comic BONE by Jeff Smith as a teenager was life-changing for me, because it bridged the gap between the importance of story-telling and the viability and value of being an artist who tells the stories. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to tell stories, but hadn't quite bridged the gap of how the human connection can be communicated through mediums of art. Comics, video games, and animated films - all of which had a foundational impact upon me and the values I still hold - are direct catalysts to why I am involved in the arts today. Corey Bordo, Finance Director — My core memory is a trip that I took to the Detroit Institute of Art in the spring of 2021. There was an exhibition on art from the Revolutionary Periods, both French and American. On top of amazing pieces, there was an exhibition on French table service, which was fantastic. The origin of French service is fascinating because everything is done with great intention. From the placement of the flatware to the shadows that the candlelight provides. It was the most satisfying art experience I have ever had.


Hailey Ciesluk, Digital Media Coordinator — There are so many experiences from my childhood that I could reflect on, but ultimately the memory that sticks out the most is visiting Chicago with my friends as part of a field trip while I was in art school. Getting the opportunity to explore a city teeming with art and admiring work with peers who shared similar interests was such a fulfilling experience. Plus, I’ve found a special love for exploring museums/galleries with people as it allows me to get to know someone through the works they are drawn to, how they respond to a given piece, etc.

Kae Pershon, Director of Exhibitions — While there have been many times in my life where I have shared a special moment with a piece of work at a museum or gallery, I have to admit many of my foundational memories involve my Lisa Frank school supplies. I imagined entire narratives within the confines of my neon notebooks, file folders, and trapper keepers during elementary school. Undiagnosed with ADHD, her bright color palettes and fantastical scenes were critical in helping me remain still and quiet whenever I finished an assignment earlier than my peers. There were entire worlds to discover whenever I needed something to capture my attention. While Lisa Frank may not be considered a fine artist or contemporary master, it was her work that cultivated my own creativity and narrative drive during the formative years of my life.


Mallory Shotwell, Director and Founder — I remember my high school art teacher, Mrs Rose. I took as many art classes as I could, but it was AP art in high school that was a period of time when I learned that art, to me, is like breathing: I need it to live. It changed everything for me. I am so grateful for people like that that gently guided this path forward.

Ryker Huizinga, Volunteer Coordinator — Some of my earliest memories involve drawing in my sketchbook. As a kid, I would take it with me everywhere I went. I remember studying my favorite video game and cartoon characters, trying my best to recreate them as I covered every page with drawings and made my own comic books. It was my outlet for imagination and expression, and in this way art has always impacted and influenced my life.


If you were an artistic tool which would you be and why?


Arielle Creps, Director of Development — If I was an artistic tool, I'd say that I'm a dual-ended prismacolor marker. Perfect for both big-picture and small-picture stuff.


Brian Criner, Director of Operations — If I were an artists tool I would be watercolor because I prefer to always be in a state of flow.


Claudia Pimentel, Director of Education — Posca Paint Marker - vibrant, versatile, non-intimidating once you get to know them.

Corey Bordo, Director of Finance— If I were an artistic tool I would be an eraser. I want to have a short memory and remember that it's never too late to start over fresh and rebuild/restart.


Hailey Ciesluk, Digital Media Coordinator — I would most certainly be the paint brush I use to create my pointillism paintings. It’s old with bristles all bent out of shape — there are even distinct spots worn down where I hold the brush. But despite it’s wear it is my most valued art tool and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Like my brush, we are people who work hard and get worn out, and yet we still find it in ourselves to adapt to make something meaningful.

Kae Preshon, Director of Exhibitions — This is a tough question because there are so many tools! This might be inspired by a recent conversation I had during our Open Studio Nights (shameless plug! It's the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month from 6-8pm. Stop by and say hi!). We were talking about the difficulty of watercolor as a medium. One of the folks had gotten a really high end brush but hadn't even tried it yet because they were so nervous about using it. I think I can relate to that. I think because of my height and overall aesthetic people find me intimidating when they first meet me. Then they get to know me and they find I am a real go with the flow, controlled chaos kind of person (much like watercolor as a medium). So I am a watercolor brush, a bit intimidating at first, but once you get to know me you realize there was no reason to be nervous.


Mallory Shotwell, Director and Founder — (Oh this is a cheesy answer, but it’s the first thing that came to mind and I mean it—) but I’d be a frame, cuz I want to highlight folks greatness.

Ryker Huizinga, Volunteer Coordinator — A camera, taking time to reflect, appreciate, celebrate, embrace new perspectives, and share memories. Or a 96-pack of crayons with a sharpener -- a little extra and the possibilities are endless!





For more information on Cultivate’s team, as well as their mission & values, visit their website at https://www.cultivategrandrapids.org/mission-and-vision

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