The first event Stephanie Pevec attended in Lexington after moving here from Wooster, Ohio, was the opening reception for the Lexington Art League’s Nude 2008 exhibit.
“We were used to 50 people at an opening being a big crowd,” says Pevec, who was the exhibitions and education director for the Wayne Center for the Arts in Wooster. “To see 300 to 400 people at that opening completely energized me, and I said, ‘I have to work with the Art League.’”
At the time, Pevec was starting to make connections in town, getting to know leaders at most Lexington arts groups in an effort to find a place for herself. One of the first leaders she contacted, and who she says was one of the first to call her back, was Art League director Allison Kaiser.
Now, less than three years later, Pevec is the new executive director at the Art League after Kaiser left to take the same post at the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra.
“This is what I have been working for my whole professional life,” Pevec says, sitting in the kitchen of the Loudoun House as the galleries undergo the transition from the early fall KY.7 Biennial show to the Art Fever fund-raiser.
Since she was a little girl, Pevec has been involved in the arts. She thought her career would be dancing on a stage. She majored in modern dance performance at Kent State University. But after graduation, Pevec found that she was getting a lot of work in visual arts and arts administration, ultimately leading to her job at the Wayne Center.
She moved to Lexington in 2007, when her spouse, Kim Harris, got a job as the director of development for the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry.
Pevec immediately started moving into the Lexington arts scene and did a number of freelance gigs, including working with the Lexington Ballet as an artist in residence, conducting a study for LexArts, and curating The British Are Coming exhibit for The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky. She also launched the Contemporary Dance Collective with a performance in June. She says she will continue that project, but getting the executive director job has slowed it down a little. She expects the Collective’s next program to be in early 2011.
Pevec, 37, says that being an active artist helps her work with artists at the Art League.
“I can have conversations at a different level,” Pevec says. “I can talk to them about what challenges they face, where they see contemporary themes emerging in their work and how we can work with them at the Lexington Art League.”
Pevec also says that 15 years of working her way through the ranks of arts administration gives her a strong perspective on how organizations work and what is required and should be expected of each job.
“These are work environments unlike any other,” Pevec says. “You have to be resourceful and resilient.”
As development director at the Art League, a job she held from 2008 until August, Pevec’s job was to sell potential donors and sponsors on supporting the organization. That has given her a perspective on what she wants to amplify in her new role as director, and it isn’t just having great events.
“Our events are fantastic,” Pevec says. “But the core of what we do is our strength. One thing we hear a lot from our supporters is that the quality has continued to grow over the years here, and we want that to continue.”
She cites community-engagement projects, including partnerships with Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Center and Habitat for Humanity, as signature endeavors that she wants to build on in addition to continuing the league’s work with top artists in Lexington.
“Artists are every day finding new ways to be creative,” Pevec says. “Being that organization that supports progress through art is very, very important.”