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Spotlight Iowa City: ‘WorldCanvass’ host loves meeting people

BY SARAH LARSON | MARCH 04, 2010 7:30 AM

Rob Johnson/The Daily Iowan
Joan Kjaer walks outside of the Old Capitol Town Center on Wednesday.
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You may not know her, but Joan Kjaer likely wants to know you.

The Iowa City resident is curious about others.

“I’ve just always, always been interested in meeting people,” said Kjaer, who has a warm, motherly air about her. “I’m just always interested in people and their stories. I just like meeting new people. It happens very rarely that I don’t feel some connection with someone.”

Kjaer has the opportunity to make these connections as the UI International Programs senior communications adviser and host of the program “WorldCanvass,” which débuted in November 2009. The show, which appears on UITV and KRUI, revolves around a different international theme each month. Asia will be the show’s topic at 5 p.m. Friday in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber, when Kjaer speaks with Chinese musicians and professors on culture and political issues.

“Countries and people are much more than their politics,” said Kjaer, surrounded in her office by a few classical paintings. “So if you have a little bit of a lot of different things, I think it gives a nicer experience of the locale you’re exploring.”

Gerhild Krapf, who hired Kjaer in International Programs and helped create “WorldCanvass,” lauded Kjaer’s abilities.

“It’s really a wonderfully engaging program,” the International Programs external-relations director said. “And she does it with great skill.”

Kjaer, a UI alumna, majored in anthropology and religion and planned to attend graduate school in religion before she ended up as a classical-music producer and announcer for KSUI, an Iowa Public Radio station. Her former KSUI feature “Know the Score” focused on performances and interviews with different musicians and composers, either visiting Iowa City or locals. In 2009, she ended her 32 years at the organization as the deputy director.

Her current position with International Programs, in addition to the “WorldCanvass” job, includes writing press releases and finding new ways of projecting different programs in the community.

The 57-year-old also said she loves traveling. Western Europe became a favorite destination after her first visit, when she was 19. She said Rome is her favorite; she loves the layers of history present there and the way in which modern mixes with ancient.

When she isn’t talking about her work or travels, Kjaer proudly shows off her granddaughter, who is a little over 1 year old. The mother of two said a big reason for staying in Iowa City was her family.

Kjaer’s younger sister, Jackie Kjaer, who works at the UI as a secretary in the Office of the General Counsel, spoke highly of her.“She’s one of the best people I know and could hope to know,” Jackie Kjaer said. “She’s very thoughtful and caring, and that carries over into her work. She’s just really found a niche that is good for her.”


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