Michelle Denton’s lifelong passion leads her to head West Nebraska Arts Center
SCOTTSBLUFF — A girl walks along a mile and a half long stretch of the Platte River south of Kearney in the 1960s. With an impulse to create, Michele Denton picked up her pencil and started to draw.
Denton’s father was busy on the farm and her mother had died when she was 6, so she had free time to wander the river and practice her craft.
“Being an artist, you can be anyone,” she said. “You just have to do it.”
As she progressed through elementary, middle and high school, art continued to make an impact as students from the university came to the school to instruct an art project.
Denton’s lifelong passion to show her creativity connected her with the community and world around her. From those experiences, she is now able to inspire others to get involved in the arts as the director of the West Nebraska Arts Center.
Denton served as the interim director of WNAC since July but was named the permanent director in November.
“I think I’ve always wanted it,” she said. “I feel good here.”
During those four months as interim director, she said she learned about the financial aspect of the center. While her role as the director has not yet eclipsed a year, Denton’s involvement at the arts center started in the 1980s. Denton and her family moved to Mitchell in 1981 and she quickly found connections who informed her about the West Nebraska Arts Center. During her hours of volunteering, she learned about hanging pieces and decorating the galleries.
“Mary Hunt and I have been doing the decorating for 10-15 years for the different fundraisers,” said Denton. “I learned a lot about hanging and decorating.”
Then when her children attended Mitchell Public Schools, Denton donated her artistic abilities.
“My kids were involved in plays in Mitchell and I would dress them in costumes and made sets,” she said. “My favorite set was for the play ‘Big River’ because I painted a river walk with the Missouri River as the backdrop.”
She also got involved in the Junior Duck Stamp contest where she traveled around the Panhandle teaching students how to draw a duck and shade its surrounding environment.
From her passion for art, she has developed a unique view of her surroundings.
“As an artist, you have a great curiosity about things,” she said. “I love to re-purpose items and recently started to create abstract artwork.”
As the board searched for a new director to replace Executive Director Donna Thompson, Denton, who was serving on the board at the time, made a suggestion to serve as interim director to see if she was a good fit.
“That’s why we used her as an interim to see if she would fit,” said Board President Doug Hoevet. “Since she did, that’s why we offered her the position.”
Denton brings an enthusiastic energy to the arts center and an interest in interacting with others.
“Michele brings a lot of creative energy, enthusiasm, determination and hard work to her new role as executive director of WNAC,” said Maria Lena Medina, program manager at WNAC. “I work closely with her on a daily basis and I really enjoy her willingness and eagerness to learn every aspect of her new role and what goes on here at WNAC.”
Denton plans to focus on learning her responsibilities as the director for a year before pursuing new outreach initiatives. Still, her previous experience on the board of directors gives her insight to the direction and future of WNAC.
“She knows where we plan to go,” said Hoevet. “Being on the board gave her the initiative to fulfill what the board was after and we’ve asked her to fulfill those steps.”