ArtReach St. Croix has a vision to make the St. Croix Valley a nationally recognized destination for the arts, and it believes that Heather Eastman Rutledge is the person who can make that happen.

The Stillwater-based nonprofit last week hired Rutledge to be its new executive director. She will take over for Jessica Pack, who stepped down in April.

"I'm very excited," Rutledge said. "The position with ArtReach St. Croix is a great fit with my experience. I'm a Midwestern girl, and now I get to bring it back home."

A native of Iowa, Rutledge spent the past nine years as the assistant director of the Abington Art Center and Sculpture Park in suburban Philadelphia. She was responsible for marketing, public relations, program development, along with administrative and operations duties.

She previously was a program assistant and grants manager for the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation's Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour program and member services coordinator and publications editor for the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. She also completed professional development programs in cultural leadership and management with the Pew Charitable Trusts and Leadership Philadelphia.

Her background meshed well with ArtReach's desire to find someone who had arts administration and marketing experience and demonstrated a strong ability to collaborate, said Bill McCarthy, president of ArtReach's board of directors.

"We are confident she can do all of those things," he said. "That's the challenge of an executive director; you have to be able to all those things. It's a really good fit, for what she is and what we need."

Rutledge was one of 40 people from across the country who applied. She will begin on Oct. 3 after she finishes a few projects she has in Pennsylvania, McCarthy said.

Pack had the top job at ArtReach for about five years. Under her leadership, the nonprofit grew from a small organization that stored its supplies in a jail cell in the basement of the Washington County Historic Courthouse to a thriving center with its own facility, hundreds of volunteers and myriad classes.

Rutledge said she plans to continue that momentum by using technology to further promote and market ArtReach and further establish it as a resource for art institutions in the St. Croix Valley.

She is married to Andrew Rutledge, who has taught elementary school for 17 years in Jenkintown. He will remain in Pennsylvania for the school year to complete his teaching contract. He will look for a job in Minnesota for 2012-13. Rutledge also has two sons, who also will remain in Pennsylvania this year.

Tim Harlow • 651-735-1824 Twitter: @timstrib