Q&A With Kathleen Brady Stimpert

I’ve always been intrigued by the Blanton Museum of Art. The building, the artwork within, and its beautiful architecture. I’m also interested in everything that has to do with Public Relations and Marketing, especially at a museum. So I contacted the Director of Public Relations and Marketing at the Blanton and asked her if I could interview her for my blog. She said yes.

Where are you from?

I’m from a small town in Louisiana called Alexandria. It’s a cultural desert so I left at the first opportunity that came along when I was 16. I applied to the art school at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. They had a program for juniors and seniors in high school and I went there as a classical voice major. It’s based in Winston-Salem so my last 2 years of high school were spent there.

Where did you go after you were done with school in North Carolina?

I moved to Boston and went to Emerson College. While I was at Emerson, I began taking Art History classes. It was a huge game changer for me as I decided to focus on Art History. Then I went to Boston University after Emerson for my sophomore year.

How did you end up in Richmond, Virginia?

My parents had moved to Northern Virginia and they looked into VCU‘s art program for me. I was always interested in new experiences so I decided to move to Richmond, Virginia to finish college. This was extremely helpful in preparing me for New York later on in my life.

What brought you to Austin?

I graduated from VCU in 1996 and I wasn’t crazy about Richmond so I packed my bags and moved to Austin.

What made you leave Austin and move to New York?

I moved to New York in 1999 because I couldn’t find any arts related opportunities in Austin. So when I got to New York, I literally faxed 100’s of resumes to every gallery that was in the Arts Dealers Association guide. It is very competitive, as you know, so I was happy to take anything. I got a job at this one gallery but didn’t really like it. There was another gallery that was close that I was interested in and I would go there and see the shows that they put on. I eventually sent my resume to them and they called me and offered me a job at Forum Gallery.

What were you doing at Forum?

First, it was primarily administrative, then I got offered a sales position at Forum. After doing it for a while, I realized that it really was just a glorified sales job. Just by the turn of events, the PR Director left and the Director of the gallery asked me to take over this position. I enlisted the help of other PR professionals in New York and I just learned on the job. I had never written a press release in my life. I never thought PR would be something that I would pursue.

How did you end up at the National Academy Museum?

A job opened at the National Academy Museum for Director of Communications. The interview must have gone well because I got the job. There’s no better place to do arts marketing than in New York. I was engaging with so many people and it was so interesting but I needed a change. I needed to get out of there. I had been in New York for 7 years and in 2005 I ended up moving back to Austin.

So you moved back to Austin for the 2nd time. What did you end up doing here?

I found a job with the City’s Art in Public Places program. I worked there for 2 years and I liked it because it was new for me but I was doing lots of work that was not really of interest to me. When I saw this job at the Blanton I applied for it and I got it. It’s been wonderful because the museum, over the course of the past 6 years, has changed and grown so much.

What do you do as Director of Public Relations and Marketing at the Blanton Museum of Art?

There’s the PR side of it, which entails writing press releases, doing outreach, and then pitching the press/media in hopes that they will cover the shows and exhibitions. Then the marketing side consists of getting the signage, brochures and collateral ready and up.

What suggestions do you have for people who want to get into PR? In a museum?

Identify people in the field and network with them. Continue writing so that you’re constantly honing your craft and so you don’t let that skill drop. Keep yourself open to all opportunities. I thought I wanted to be an art dealer and that wasn’t the right fit for me. Now I’m in PR.

Stay relevant, flexible and responsive to trends in culture. Social media is everywhere so it’s important to have a strong social presence.

Do you have any kids?

I have a 3 –year old son. The older he gets the more he’s able to understand art. The biggest change in my life is that I’ve gotten married and have had a son.

Are you involved with anything else in Austin?

I co- founded Austin’s Cultural Campus. It’s a pedestrian friendly cultural destination comprised of 6 museums, offering exhibitions, performances, shopping, dining, and more. I thought what’s a program that could benefit us all? We all help each other with marketing and we work to build awareness for all our museums.

Would you ever go back to NYC?

No, now that I have a son probably not. I still find it to be the most amazing city ever though.

What are your favorite places to eat in Austin?

Contigo, Hillside Farmacy, Foreign and Domestic, Salty Sow, East Side Café, Barley Swine and Uchi is the best Sushi I have ever had! My husband is a master BBQer. I’m not much of a chef but I love to eat!

What are your favorite things to do in Austin?

I like to walk around the lake in the Mueller neighborhood. I like to go to the Farmer’s market, do yoga, and I love having BBQ at friends’ houses.  

Do you have any pets?

I have a 14- year old cat named Rudy.

Born in a small town in Louisiana, Kathleen needed something that was much bigger and exciting and it looks like she got that and much more. Moving to North Carolina, Boston, Virginia, Austin, New York then back to Austin, Kathleen is not a stranger to travel. She said that her town that she was born in wasn’t “culturally diverse” and now she’s definitely cultured because of her travels, by working at a museum and currently residing in one of the most diverse cities in the nation.