Touchstones director dreams huge

Astrid Heyerdahl wants to engage with the Nelson community.

Touchstones Nelson has hired Astrid Heyerdahl as their new executive director.

Start huge!

That’s how Touchstones Nelson’s new executive director Astrid Heyerdahl likes to envision the future, and it will be her approach as she gets out into the community and continues to develop programming at our local museum.

“I’m a big, blue sky dreamer,” Heyerdahl told the Star.

“I like big ideas. I like to ask, ‘Okay, no holds barred, money’s no object, what do you want to see?’ You start out thinking big, then bring it down to manageable, rather than starting out thinking small.”

So when she sits down with her staff in January to lay out their plans for the coming years, she’s hoping to embrace any idea, no matter how outlandish. She figures their institution is a known quantity in town that’s currently doing good work, now she wants to up their game.

“People have come to me saying they want to see more exciting things happening in the gallery space. They’d like to see more interaction with the community, more happening and more programs.”

That’s where she comes in.

“The idea is not only to open the doors wider, but to blow them open. To tear down the walls, not literally but figuratively, and find out who are the individuals who have not been involved at Touchstones and why?”

Heyerdahl previously worked at the Gordon and Marion Smith Foundation for Young Artists, the Evergreen Cultural Alliance and Art Wheelers. She has a Master’s in arts education from York University and a Master’s in arts history from the University of Toronto.

She’s having “countless conversations” to get an idea of what the community wants from her. And now that she’s about a month in, she’s interested in developing a presence outside their physical location, engaging with creative work from a variety of genres and seeking out opportunities for collaboration.

“Collaboration is paramount. It’s crucial to life, it’s crucial to art and culture, and there’s so much opportunity for collaboration here in Nelson. So many people love arts and culture, love heritage, and want to see our town come to life. Let’s continue to work together to make that happen.”

Heyerdahl moved from the coast and is now a member of the city’s Cultural Development Committee. She has a 13-month old named Freyja and a husband named Colin Simpson, and “the three of us decided to go on a Kootenay adventure”.

“With her birth it was the opportunity to do something different, to really sit down and determine what we want from our life and as much as we loved the Lower Mainland we wanted something different.”

The job posting “just felt really right” and she couldn’t be happier she landed the gig.

“I’ve known I wanted to be in the art world since I was five. It’s the only thing that’s always made perfect sense to me. I was really lucky my parents saw that in me and nurtured a sense of creativity and curiosity and adventure.”

She grew up in Toronto and remembers visiting galleries as a child. She would drag a stool around and sketch the pieces she loved.

“There was a freedom to explore. My adult self looking back can say that what I loved about it was the opportunity to play, the ability to explore and have that independence, I was just sitting in front of something that inspired me and I wanted to capture it.”

And that’s what she wants to give to Touchstones visitors.

“I want to tell them: here’s your space. Explore. Play. Create. We want you to not only learn about the past, but learn about who you are and what you want going forward.”

 

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