Evart councilman named executive director of Artworks
Matt Hildebrand: 'I'm really excited to get going'
BIG RAPIDS — With a love for creating art and becoming in touch with the local community, Evart resident and councilman Matt Hildebrand is excited to venture to Big Rapids to become the new Artworks Executive Director.
“I love creating things. That’s just part of who I am,” Hildebrand said. “ ... I was looking to make a change, and looking at my history and experience, and then just my love for the arts ... I came across the executive director spot at Artworks, and I thought that it would be an excellent fit for me.”
Working as the Activities and Guest Retreat Director for SpringHill Camps since 2016, Hildebrand announced his plans for his new position during an Artworks Facebook live video on May 15.
“I’m really excited to get going,” he said.
Being an artist himself, Hildebrand said one of his favorite pastimes, especially during the recent pandemic, is to create wood animal carvings for his four children.
“My grandfather was a master wood carver. I am nowhere near that level, but I enjoy it thoroughly,” Hildebrand said. “ ... I always grew up going to his house, and he always had this huge display of things he’d carved.”
While his grandfather, Donald, wasn’t the one who taught Hildebrand to carve, Hildebrand said he was a great inspiration to him learning the techniques, noting he didn’t actually begin wood carving until about five years ago.
“I actually explained to my wife that my grandfather was a wood carver, and I’ve always wanted to give it a try, but I’ve never given it ago,” Hildebrand said. “And for, I think it was my birthday one year, she got me a little inexpensive set of carving knives, and I started on my first project, and I absolutely loved it.”
Now, being able to practice his technique and create art for his little ones, Hildebrand looks forward to tackling his next endeavor as executive director and implementing a few ideas of his own for the kids and adult programs.
“I really am looking to just bring some new perspective and also some new excitement,” Hildebrand said. “I’m excited to see what we can do with some of their community and kid’s programs as well. I have four kids of my own that are going to be super excited about all the kids programming that they have, in addition to all their adult programming. I’m just excited to dig into all the things they do and see how I can help put my mark on that a little bit.”
Hildebrand is set to begin his new position June 15, training directly with current executive director, Lynne Scheible, until her retirement July 1.
As well as Hildebrand, Artworks past president Roxanne Cullen is also excited to see what he brings to the city of Big Rapids.
“Our mission is ‘to vitalize our community through the arts and humanities’ and our values are ‘community, connections, collaboration, and creativity.’ So, when it came time to search for a new executive director, it was essential for us to find someone who would honor those values,” Cullen said. “Matt has a proven record as a community builder and working with teams. He has had extensive experience with non-profits and with larger, more complex organizations than ours.
“The fact that he is coming to us from near-by Evart is also bonus. He brings an understanding of West Michigan life and he has experience as a city councilman and the challenges that small cities face.”
Looking forward to a new role, Hildebrand said he hopes to continue to keep up the good work Scheible has been doing over the past years, while connecting with the Big Rapids residents.
“I’m excited to see what the community of Big Rapids needs and wants, as well as the art community, to see what they need Artworks to be, and then how we can make it into what they need,” he said.
Though the gift shop is currently open for curbside pickup and online ordering, Hildebrand said Artworks as a whole is hoping to reopen its doors June 1, as long as the executive order doesn’t change.
For more information on Artworks, visit artworksinbigrapids.org or follow "Artworks in Big Rapids" on Facebook.