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Local mom hauls in dough for Englert

BY JULIA JESSEN | AUGUST 31, 2011 7:20 AM

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For Katie Roche, life and art are interchangeable.

The mother of two has had a personal and professional life deeply enmeshed in the arts, from her personal endeavors as an artist, singer, musician, and writer to doing thankless behind-the-scenes jobs, such as working in the box office or running audio, to organizing the Summer of the Arts and always working to promote arts in the community.

And now her passion continues in her new role as development director for the historic Englert Theatre.

Roche said she’s excited about communicating with the Englert’s donors and community members as she begins her work for a venue she has always admired.

“I’m joining the organization at a really important time,” said Roche, who officially took the position last week. “At a time when things have never been so good for the theater, and the future has never been so bright.”

However, she also knows that she and the Englert have a responsibility not only to the community and the donors who support the theater but also to the artists who perform there.

Having worked as an artist in numerous fields, she said, she has a unique perspective, being able to relate on a personal level to both the administrative and artistic side.

“You have a better understanding of community collaborations and what it takes to pull off incredible things on a regular basis,” she said.

It may seem, with her immense and varied amount of experience, that Roche would want to live and work in a bigger city — which she did. For a while, Roche lived New York City and all around the country, working for the arts in different capacities. But she and her husband were always drawn back to Iowa City.

“We traveled all over the country, and we’d say, ‘Yeah, this is cool, but it’s not Iowa City,’ and we realized we had started comparing everything to Iowa City,” Roche said.

Those who work in the arts in Iowa City and interact with her value her presence.

Mark Ginsberg, who worked with her on Summer of the Arts, said her talents broaden art’s appeal to a younger audience.

“She brings a passionate creativity … I think she offers a next-generation approach to keeping theater, drama, music, and culture relevant for the attraction of not just the older generation but the newer up-and-coming generation,” he said.

Andre Perry, the executive director of the Englert, said he values the qualities that Roche adds as the development director.

“She brings a lot of vision to the position,” Perry said. “She has a really deep understanding of community in Iowa City and the surrounding area.”

Even as she begins her new job, she continues to create her own art.

I’m a Sweet Stalker is the coloring book for adults she has been working on for 12 years that challenges the public’s dramatic reaction to news stories. She also is working on recording an album with her all-female band The Awful Purdies, for which she will sing, play accordion, glockenspiel, the washboard, or a different instrument depending on what the song needs.

Ultimately, Roche approaches everything she does with her own creativity and artistry.

“I started as a kid with a deep love of poetry, visual art, and music, and at any point in my life where that hasn’t been leading me, I am not happy,” she said. “I think that [art is] absolutely essential to our happiness.”


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