Four months ago, as president of the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts board, Darnell Dukes helped begin the search for a new executive director.

She had no idea then she would end up filling the position.

Dukes, 56, a Seymour native, was interviewed at the end of December, accepted the job this month and spent her first day on the job Tuesday.

“I actually was approached by a former board member if I would take the position if it were a full-time thing,” she said. “I had to think about it. I enjoyed what I was doing. I liked the people I was working with and working for, and so it was one of those things I went back-and-forth a lot before I actually thought, ‘Maybe I can do this.'”

Story continues below gallery

Dukes spent more than 37 years in banking. Her involvement with the SICA board began in 2006.

In mid-September, when Jill Tasker resigned, the board began looking for its fourth executive director since 2011. The position had been a part time; but since there were full-time responsibilities and part-time hours and pay, the board decided to make a change.

The board had hoped to have someone in place within a month; but a couple of big events were coming up, so the search was put on hold until late December.

With Dukes’ longtime interest in the arts and involvement with the board, she was the right fit for the job, board secretary Cindi Lucas said.

“All of the times we haven’t had a director, she had to step in and make sure things got done,” Lucas said. “She has a real passion for the center and cares about the center, and she knows about how the center is run and what it needs.”

Lucas said it was a good move to make the position full time.

“Having her there, I think things will flow and things will get done,” Lucas said. “I just think it’s going to be a win-win for the center to have her there. I’m excited. I’m anxious to see what this brings. It’s kind of a new chapter for us.”

Dukes said her grandmother got her involved in art lessons and classes at a young age, and she continued painting and drawing along with picking up sewing, crocheting and music.

“As far as art, I’ve done everything but take dance lessons, and my kids did that,” Dukes said.

Since joining the 10-member SICA board, Dukes has served as vice president and president. She said she learned a lot in those roles.

“I feel like we’re really involved in the community more than what we had been, and I think that’s very vital to the organization,” she said. “I’m always one that feels like it’s important to give back to the community because they in turn will give to you. So I think that people need to know that we’re here and we’re not just here for Seymour. It’s the whole surrounding area.”

Dukes said it’s important to keep current programs going.

SICA resident artist Kay Fox offers private lessons and is looking at doing group lessons. Betty Johnson has an open studio in the pottery barn, and Don Hill mans the print shop. Plus, there are rotating art exhibits and art for sale.

Dukes and her friend, Stephanie Mysak, started Paint the Town social painting events three years ago, and they want those to continue. The events have been conducted at the winery, restaurants and area businesses.

“We’ve really enjoyed doing different types of classes, and we try to distinguish ourselves just a little bit different than your typical Wine and Canvas because we want people to learn something of everyone, too,” Dukes said.

Other community events benefiting SICA include An Artful Affair and Seymour CityJam. Holiday ARTventure, ARTFest and Friday Night Live are at the center.

Friday Night Live is a free outdoor concert series conducted in the spring. Dukes is thinking about expanding it this year, possibly including an open mic night.

“I’ve just been in awe of the number of people that talk about the venue here, ‘We love to play on that stage. That is a great location,'” Dukes said. “I think we just about have every one of our Friday Night Lives and enough people that have expressed interest to play for 2015.”

Dukes said there are some things she’d like to change. SICA has offered summer art camps for several years, but attendance has been down, so she wants to see that increase.

“It’s how can we get people to realize that we are very affordable,” she said. “It’s five days, it’s from 9 until 12:30, and they go to four different stations and learn different things and have a good time.”

Dukes also would like to increase center membership. For $25, an individual can join and receive a newsletter and 20 percent off class fees.

“It’s not something that is overly expensive,” she said. “I think people think it’s going to be costly.”

Dukes wants to draw people in during the daytime. She said that could include bringing stay-at-home moms in for a Pinterest craft party.

“I know people go out of town for a lot of things, but they can come here,” she said. “As far as I know, we’re the only hands-on arts center in the area, and it’s just letting people know that we’re here. In order to keep maintaining the programs, we’re going to need support from people within the community.”

Other ideas include offering adult yoga classes, camps for youth clubs and organizations, work retreats for businesses and art therapy at nursing homes.

To make these ideas come to fruition, Dukes said she will have to get out in the community and let people know about SICA.

“Even though I know a lot of people in town, I’ve just never had the availability of going to their place of employment and talking with them,” she said. “I think that will be kind of fun to be able to show people how passionate I am about the arts center and what we can do for them.”

Dukes file

Name: Darnell Dukes

Age: 56

Hometown: Seymour

Residence: Seymour

New position: Executive director of Southern Indiana Center for the Arts in Seymour

Education: Seymour High School (1977)

Experience: 37½ years in banking, working at HomeFederal Savings Bank and Bloomfield State Bank

Organizations: SICA board member (2006 to 2012 and 2013 to 2014); Seymour Main Street committee (2011)

Family: Husband, Clifton Dukes; children, Erin White, 30, and Kristian Doboze, 26

At a glance

Southern Indiana Center for the Arts was formed in 1991 at 2001 N. Ewing St., just north of Seymour.

SICA was the idea of Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer and Seymour native John Mellencamp and his mother, Marilyn. The house in which SICA is located dates back to 1851, is owned by John Mellencamp and is leased to the center. SICA pays Mellencamp $1 for rent every two years.

The complex also features a pottery barn and antique print shop museum.

Through Mellencamp’s generosity, SICA has established itself as a regional center for the visual, performing and artisan arts.

Hours are from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday or by appointment.

For information, visit soinart.com or call 812-522-2278.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.