What does a city look like when it’s reaching its full potential?

For starters, it’s packed with people like Kellen Boice.

She’s ambitious, to say the least. But when it comes to her passionate work ethic, ambition is merely scratching the surface.

Kellen is the director of the Sioux Falls Design Center, a nonprofit organization that works to “inform and engage the public on the impact of design in our daily lives and in our community.”

And Kellen’s energy is “running the one-man show.”

When it comes to our design community, the talent is there, and they are striving toward mainstream credibility. To do that, the Center is a hub for them to connect, collaborate and learn from one another’s design endeavors. They so far have attracted a strong group of architects, but there’s potential for even more growth, and Kellen is eager to educate the OTA region.

“Design is everything,” she says. “It’s everywhere!” She admits that design work is undervalued in this community. “But there are groups working to expose design, like AIASD, AIGA, SDID, and we’re doing it in almost a collaborative way,” she says. “Come here to make sense of all the acronyms on the window. You will learn something.”

Kellen celebrates local projects like Chalk the Walk, the recent Pop Up Park and SculptureWalk. “It’s nice to see design work that brings the community together,” she says. “I’ve always really enjoyed that.”

A go-getter from the get-go

Even though her stamina is now fueling the design community, Kellen has always persevered whole-heartedly. In every chapter of her life.

After high school, she worked in sales and as a photographer at Harold’s Photo. “I got this idea that I was going to walk in the door and learn this whole business, and that it would be my life-time commitment to this family,” she recalls. “Then I got manager position at 26th Street, but managing people is very difficult! I hit a wall.”

And her instincts took over.

She moved to Arizona to attend the Art Institute of Phoenix and continued to live there after graduation to work for a building developer, handling their marketing and advertising.

“It was fun! I wasn’t using all my skills, but it was a nice toe in the water.”

In 2011 and after seven years away, Kellen moved back to South Dakota. With absolute determination.

“I’m going to blow up Sioux Falls, I’m going to come in crazy!”

And it was not like that. She applied for several jobs but got little to no response. “Everything I was taught on how to get a job was not working.”

Her parents suggested she apply at Breadsmith, and so she did, but even they gave her push back.

“They said, ‘You’re so over-qualified, we don’t want to hire you.’ It was so disappointing!”

But nothing defeats her.

“I just said, ‘You got to hire me! I will be the best worker, I’m super loyal, through thick and thin, we’re going to do this.’ And they hired me! It was great.”

Kellen stayed at Breadsmith for two and a half years. During that time, she’d apply for jobs in something more her field, but nothing came up. So she took out her frustrations by giving her all to Breadsmith. Up the ladder, persevering.

“I’d get discouraged, so I’d learn to knead the bread. All right, let’s learn how to do morning production!” she says. “It was really fun, because I’d never done anything like that, and it was so physical. By the end of that two and a half years, I wasn’t just exhausted, I was super lean and healthy!

“You know,” she interrupts herself, “if you’re in a lull in your life, go do some really good manual labor. It works!”

She’s so enthusiastic. It’s hard not to want to try as hard as she does, even if it does mean kneading bread at 4 in the morning.

But Kellen’ll do that to you. Make you want to push yourself.

Because, why wouldn’t you?

Behind Kellen is last month’s gallery exhibit at the Sioux Falls Design Center, featuring “Feminine Attempts” by painter Klaire Pearson. “My paintings are a way for me to explore the unnatural expectations of femininity.” Read more about Klaire’s artwork at www.klairepearson.com.

This month, the gallery will show “You May Want to Sit Down for This,” presented by South Dakota Interior Designers (SDID) and featuring work by SDSU interior design students. A gallery reception will be 5:30–9 p.m. tonight at the Design Center.

‘She is an incredible people person’

After leaving Breadsmith, “I made it a full-time job into a finding a job,” she said. “I knew I needed to take a risk in order to be where I wanted to be.”

She revised her resume and changed her portfolio, cultivating an ideal vision for her future. “I knew what I had was good, but I wanted to make it better.”

It worked.

Within two months, she was facing two job opportunities and ultimately accepted the job as director of the Design Center. She’s been there for a year and a half now.

“Kellen is always enthusiastic about the Sioux Falls Design Center,” says Stacey McMahan, a co-founder and member of the Advisory Board. “She is an incredible people person. She cares about the people visiting and using the SFDC, details, presentation and success of each of the events.”

Events include Design Talks, Pecha Kucha Nights, PicNics, lectures and gallery exhibits, and all events are free. “This is how we build momentum,” Kellen says.

The work was not what she expected in the beginning, and there are so many moving parts. “There are new deliverables every day, but this is successful, and people are educated,” she says. “The ability to make this job exactly what I think it needed to be has been kind of an interesting concept to me.

“Right now, we got a good little program going, but I’m always thinking bigger.”

Stacey says the Design Center provides a nice identity for the local design community. “There are so many possible avenues to pursue, but we need to be careful not to get over-extended. It’s hard but essential to be patient and grow into the character and needs of Sioux Falls.”

Kellen will rise to the occasion. She is a fighter who’s always keeping our city’s best interest in mind. And with a realistic, can-do attitude.

“I’m not ignorant to the fact that you can’t change the world in a day. But one thing that hinders improvement of design in our community is that so many people say, ‘That won’t work,’ or, ‘That can’t happen.’ And we can’t think like that!

“There’s something bigger at work, and I’ve decided periodically throughout my life to jump in with both feet forward, and just go for it.”

As a city, we are fortunate to have her resilient attitude. But as a design community, we can prosper because of her.

“I like to think of the Sioux Falls Design Center as small but mighty, and Kellen is a large part of the ‘small but mighty’ character,” Stacey says. “She will succeed with anything she puts her mind to.”

And we will all benefit from it. Just by getting to know her, I know I already have. “Making life better for people is kind of the end result,” Kellen says.