Interact sees change in leadership

Jeanne Calvit, founder of Interact Center for the Arts, has stepped down after almost three decades as the arts organization’s […]

Jeanne Calvit posing in front of a wall of artwork.

Jeanne Calvit, founder of Interact Center for the Arts, has stepped down after almost three decades as the arts organization’s artistic director and leader. Calvit’s retirement was effective February 14. 

Calvit founded Interact in 1996. In a letter on the organization website, she said: 
“I am proud to say that with the help and support of our incredible arts community, an exceptional staff of dedicated arts collaborators and mentors, the families and friends of our artists, and most important of all – our company of theater and visual artists with disabilities – Interact has been a vital part of the Twin Cities professional arts community for almost 30 years.” 

Under Calvit’s leadership Interact won two Ivey Awards as well as multiple awards from the National Endowment for the Arts. The nonprofit in 2018 received an Innovation Award from the Minnesota Department of Human Services in recognition of the quality of work coming out of its studio. That allowed for the virtual gallery launch. 
Interact has had numerous collaborations with theaters. Visual artists work in galleries throughout the region. 

Calvit and the Interact board began planned for the future and leadership succession before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Interact moved creativity sessions for theater and visual arts online, hosted virtual exhibits and produced Interact’s first-ever virtual theater event, Zoomtopia. 

Joe Price, who joined Interact in 2023 as operations manager, succeeds Calvit. Price is the father of a disabled child. He has a long history as an artist himself, as program director for the U of M/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program, and most recently as Department Head of Theater and Dance and Producer of Tent Theater at the University of Missouri. 

“After working side-by-side with Joe for the past year, I know he is the best person to take Interact forward into the future.” Calvit said. Her next task is to go through almost 30 years of Interact history on film and in articles and testimonials and to create a living archive that will document and share Interact’s story. 

Read Calvit’s story at Letter from Founder Jean Calvit.

Another key person at Interact, art teacher Deborah Ann Helmke-Wodtke, died in February. She was 71 and lived in Brooklyn Park. She was a hairdresser until a stroke in 1991 left her paralyzed on the left side of her body. She attended Hamline University and after graduating, found her dream career of teaching art to disabled adults at Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts. She worked there for many years until her own disability made it too difficult to continue. 

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