Art for Albert Lea’s sake

Published 9:35 am Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Leo Held and Marty Shepard recently took new positions at the Albert Lea Art Center. Both are already planning to make some changes and hope more people will become interested in the arts. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

Look for Progress 2011: Everyday Heroes in the Sunday, Feb. 27 edition of the Albert Lea Tribune. Read about dozens of inspirational stories about interesting community members, leaders in faith, rising sports stars, businesses that rock, your amazing neighbors, education standouts, and your all-around heroes in the Sunday Tribune.

The Albert Lea Art Center is getting some new blood — one person to fill an open position and one person to start a completely new job.

Marty Shepard was recently named the artistic director for the Art Center, and Leo Held has taken over as manager of the gift shop. Both have plans they’d like to implement and hope more people will become or stay interested in the arts.

Email newsletter signup

Marty Shepard

Shepard has been on the board at the Art Center for six years and been a member for many years. She’s been involved in various activities, shows and events throughout the years. Board member Carol Wolter said Shepard is a perfect fit for the job.

“She’s very gifted,” Wolter said. “She just creates magic.”

Shepard said she didn’t know at first if the job was right for her, but Wolter helped her see that the position was needed at the Art Center.

Leo Held and Marty Shepard both recently took new positions at the Albert Lea Art Center. Both have experience that will help them with their new jobs. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

“I didn’t know if I could actually do it,” Shepard said.

This sort of job was what Shepard had been hoping to do after her retirement. Shepard worked in education for 40 years, most recently at Riverland Community College as a dean of academic affairs and faculty emeritus. She also had worked at Albert Lea High School as a counselor before moving to Riverland.

Shepard is an avid traveler and likes going to museums during her travels. She said as a child she liked to draw things she saw in nature and enjoyed being outdoors.

“I’ve always been interested in the arts,” Shepard said.

Shepard said she likes organizing events and already has started planning what she’d like to do in the near future. Some of her duties as artistic director will be to handle public relations for the Art Center, including talking with service clubs, informing local agencies like the Albert Lea Convention & Visitors Bureau about events and representing the Art Center to the media. She’ll also make committees as needed, plan events and learn from other art centers.

“We want her to be the eyes, ears and voice of the Art Center,” Wolter said.

Wolter said Shepard is fun to work with because of her enthusiasm and positive ideas.

“It’s a dream for her and something we need,” Wolter said.

Leo Held

Held will be managing the gift shop at the Art Center and said he has the right business background to bring some life into the shop.

“Retailing is a big part of my life,” Held said.

Held owned his own drug stores for more than 40 years. He said he understands inventory control, stocking and pricing. Currently he is a pharmacist part time and will also work at the gift shop.

One of his hopes for the gift shop is to highlight and showcase local artists on a rotating basis to get people interested in stopping in the store.

“It’s a simple thing to showcase artists on a revolving basis,” Held said.

He said he doesn’t think the gift shop name fits exactly what is all sold in the shop, including art supplies and actual art.

“I tell people they should come looking to buy yourself a gift,” Held said.

Wolter said Held will work on some marketing for the gift shop, as well as trying to get more people into the Art Center. He said he’d like to find a way to hold more classes and show people what is all for sale in the gift shop. He said many people don’t know there are art supplies for sale, which are not readily available at many places in Albert Lea.

Held enjoys traveling with his wife, Karol, to visit their four children and 12 grandchildren. He enjoys fishing trips in Canada in the summer and watching the Minnesota Twins. As the new manager for the gift shop he said he’d like to see artwork promoted more.

“There’s a big distinction between trinkets and pieces of art,” Held said.

He’d also like to promote the art in the galleries more by having prices or accessibility to prices for those interested in what they see in the shows.

Wolter said she’s excited about Held and Shepard having new positions at the Art Center, because she feels the Art Center needs to expand in the community.

“We have a strong art presence in the community,” Wolter said.

Shepard said she hopes the Art Center can continue to have different displays like the recent fashion show and expand the concept of what art is.

“Ideally we want anyone to come get ideas and to appeal to artists or the people who appreciate it,” Shepard said.

Wolter, Shepard and Held agreed the focus is to get more people involved in the art scene in Albert Lea.

Leo Held
Age: 67
Address: 535 W. Park Lane, Albert Lea
Livelihood: pharmacist; new manager of the Albert Lea Art Center gift shop
Family: wife, Karol, four children and 12 grandchildren
Interesting fact: He is a big fan of the Minnesota Twins and enjoys going to games.

Marty Shepard
Age: 67
Address: 1400 Martin Road, Albert Lea
Livelihood: retired; new artistic director at Albert Lea Art Center
Family: Shepard’s sister, brother and mother all live in Iowa.
Interesting fact: As an avid traveler, she has visited 50 countries in her lifetime.