After three months on the job, Heather Rutledge is settling in as executive director of ArtReach St. Croix, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting people of the St. Croix Valley with the arts. The Star Tribune recently caught up with her to find out how things are going and what is coming up.

QWhy did you want the job as executive director at ArtReach St. Croix?

AI saw the job description, and it fit well with my experience. I had worked for 10 years at a community art center and museum [in Pennsylvania]. I worked with grant-making and cultural alliances, and did advocacy to raise visibility.

QWhat have you been up to since you took the job in November?

AI spend three weeks here, then three weeks back home in Pennsylvania. Come June, I will be here full time. Right now I am fully devoted to meeting people and learning about Stillwater and getting the lay of the land to get the big picture. My son thinks I paint when I go to work, but I've also been planning programs and writing grants.

QWhat have you enjoyed most so far?

AThe culture of collaboration is strong, and I find that spirit up and down the valley. I love that.

QWhat are some of your current projects and goals?

AOur mission is to connect communities to the arts and make the St. Croix Valley a national arts destination. I want ArtReach to have a more active presence in the St. Croix River Valley and help increase the visibility of what's going on here. That is a huge but attainable goal. One of our challenges is to communicate that vision.

QHow do you plan to make that happen?

ABy coordinating with tourism folks and being at the table when they develop tourism resources, and let them know that arts are not narrowly focused. In a recent visitors guide put out by the St. Croix Valley Regional Tourism Alliance, arts was the first spread inside the magazine. A lot of cross-promotion of art festivals up and down the river so we can connect people with them. I also have put together a task force, an ad-hoc committee, so I am getting some help [promoting programs].

QWhat is coming up in the next few months?

AWe have a lot of fun stuff coming up. Our current "Reflections" exhibit features six regional glass artists. We have upcoming writing classes and monthly author events, and seminars on environmental issues and how that relates to the arts. We also have Valley Reads [an initiative encouraging residents to read the same book] April 12 to 25.

Tim Harlow • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @timstrib