She’s supported everything from ballet to circus tents and now Karen Briggs brings her skill and experience to the LaGrange Art Museum as its new executive director.
“The board believes that Karen has great ability to move the museum to be a true educational and creative endeavor for the visual arts for Troup County,” said Ethyl L. Ault, president of the museum board of governors. “Karen comes to the museum with years of experience working with boards, communities and especially the business community area. The board and Karen have great vision for the future and we hope the community welcomes Karen with characteristic generosity.”
Briggs, who has served as interim director for the last six months, brings to LaGrange a long history of working with arts organizations.
“I have made a career out of startups and turn-arounds. I’m constantly working myself out of a job, usually as a consultant” Briggs said. “I’ve worked for some incredible arts organizations.”
Those organizations include a diverse range including the symphony, theater, the ballet, a circus and, even an Arts Festival in Atlanta, where she was director of development for five years.
“I grew up in a politically active family in Washington D.C. and I was constantly exposed to cultural arts. It was everywhere,” she said. “I call myself an arts activist.”
It was as a child that she first fell in love with the arts - back stage at the Utah’s Ballet West.
“My grandparents took me on a back stage tour of the ballet. I was amazed and shocked that what we saw as an audience was really cardboard. The back stage illusion that transforms everything got me. I never wanted to go in the front door again,” she said.
It was while she was working for the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta that she had her introduction to LaGrange.
“I was in New York City standing in line to go into the biggest black art show in the country when I heard this distinctive booming voice that was obviously not from New York and not black,” she said.
It was LaGrange art collector Wes Cochran.
“We didn’t meet at that point, but the first impression stuck with me. I wanted to know who he was. We met the next summer,” she said.
After that meeting, she helped develop an art exchange with the Cochran Gallery and Atlanta galleries. That relationship led to Briggs being hired as a consultant for the LaGrange Art Museum last year.
She was hired as a consultant to work on developing the Museum with director Megan Johnston. When Johnston left in 2011, Briggs stepped in as Interim Director.
“It was a good fit. It brings together everything I’m passionate about and everything I’ve worked for,” she said.
Briggs has already led the museum in making plans to expand education space in the Center for Creative Learning. She’s also added art classes including ceramics and plein air painting, for adults, as well as expanding classes for children.
In the fall, a folk art exhibit will be held in partnership with the Legacy Museum on Main. The opening will include an event with quilts, whirlygigs, folk music and a glass blower.
“We’re working to get into every pocket in the community,” she said. “Art has been such a catalyst in my life and in my children’s lives. It builds your ability to be creative, to be critical thinkers. I know what it’s done in my life and I love to pass that on.”