We met Heather during Creativity Week 2015 last fall in Brookings, South Dakota. As a member of the Brookings Arts Council, she is so enthusiastic about the arts and has created an environment that welcomes art advocates of all levels and abilities. Aside from her work at the Arts Council, she’s a photographer, too, who 16 years ago left a full-time job to pursue her passions. To this day, she’s reaping the benefits of that risk. “I met people who have inspired me creatively, critiqued my work and pushed me to be better and have taken my career to new levels and opportunities.”

Name: Heather (Kallhoff) Kuhlman

How can people connect with you? 

Facebook (personal):  Heather Campbell Kuhlman
Facebook (business): Kallhoff Portrait Design

Where do you live now?  Where do you call home?

I live in Watertown, South Dakota , but I call Wheeling, West Virginia, home.

Give us a behind-the-scenes look at your average day.

Workout, play with our labradoodle Buster and our Rottweiller Angus, and head to the Brookings Arts Council – where I am the executive director. Or work on art, photograph some of my amazing clients and/or continue on the remodeling of our house! I try to spend as much time with my husband, Mark, and our children.

What projects are you currently working on, both in your career as well as hobbies or passions?

I love the business of art! Creating new marketing concepts for the Arts Council or my businesses, and working/teaching others so that their art businesses can grow. Continuing to evolve programs like the Art Factory (classes for our developmentally delayed population) and creARTive (a statewide high school art competition and expo).

Personally, I just learned to solder, so I’m experimenting with some textural jewelry and patinas, encaustic, digital painting. I want to learn so many things. … One day, I want to learn to focus!

What challenge in your life or work are you most interested in overcoming?

Not being patient! I wish I had more time (although I’d promptly fill it), and I definitely learn to breathe and just let “be.”

If you could do any job, what would you do and why?

I would be a full time artist/travel journalist. I love to travel, see others’ art, history and culture and then I would want to try the different arts I just experienced. I think it would encompass much of my skillset.

What’s your desert island album/book/TV show/movie?:

Album: Van Morrison … all of his music

Book: The Phantom Tollbooth/Nancy Drew books. I still remember them from my childhood with great fondness!

TV: Just Lie to Me: My husband is a detective, so we love watching body language and micro expressions. We have great discussions about people’s “tells.”

Movie:  P.S. I Love You … Sappy chick flick, but I love the concept of love never ending–

Since you live in one of the OTA states:

•    Why do you choose to live here? I am an outdoorsy girl, and South Dakota provides me the ability to enjoy all kinds of natural surroundings. Siche Hollow, West River/Black Hills, Palisades are some of our favorite places to enjoy. My husband and I love to hike and kayak. One day, we hope to do the Fort to Field 50 kayak paddle.

•    What is the most beneficial aspect of living in the region when it comes to your career? When I first started into photography, it was primarily a male-dominated field, especially in the Midwest. Being a female, having a “different eye” than maybe my male counterparts helped to separate me and make my work and style more readily recognized.

•    What’s one thing you would change about the OTA region? I would love to see more of a focus on the arts in our school districts. Federal funding continues to be cut to the arts and, unfortunately, that trickles down affects our kids. I think people forget that problem solving, divergent thinking and creative thinking all come from the experience in all kinds of art … the very type of skills that help us adults be successful in our businesses, industry and our personal lives.  That is the reason creARTive was born.

•    What’s one thing most people don’t know about the OTA region? I would love to see more education on the Native American arts in regard to how it is created and the meaning behind the pieces.

Where do think good ideas come from?

Everywhere! I think often the great ideas come from seeing something taken for granted in our every-day life and taking it in a completely new way or direction. I wish we would view things as a child more often … We need to lose our inhibitions/fears/the inner force that tells us to stop thinking creatively for fear of what others will think.

What’s one current trend you think will change the world?

Social media. The world is very small now, and with that comes good and bad.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

  1. Be thankful…the act of gratitude and thanks often can turn a situation around.
  2. Live each day to the fullest with no regrets. Life moves on, and sometimes you can’t get that moment back to take that adventure, to say you are sorry, to love.
  3. Do one thing every day that scares you. Great adventures, happy accidents happen in that.  And when they don’t and it’s a mistake or a failure, you quickly learn to pick yourself back up, and that mistake is often self correcting.

Who is the most creative person in your life and why?

My Grandmother Steckel. She survived the loss of her mother and father, fell in love with a music conductor who during the depression traveled the country to send money home to his wife and children. She persevered through the death of her husband to get her masters degree at 60. She was resourceful, positive, musically talented, adventurous, a naturalist, a born teacher. She is the one who taught me to believe in yourself, to be brave, to take risks, to live each life as an adventure and to think “outside of the box.”

Who is the most connected person in your life, and what personal characteristics make him or her so well-connected?

Rod Evans in Sioux Falls. He is not only a world-renowned creative in photography, he is a talented painter and an incredible business man- but first and foremost, he is a father and husband. In my opinion, he has found the key to art, business and family and is able to keep them in perspective. I think many of us strive to find that balance, and he has accomplished it!

Who is the most community-focused person in your life, and how do they impact their communities?

Bill Koegler of Oglebay Park in Wheeling, West Virginia.  He has lived his life forwarding the commitment to nature and art working his way through every station of the park to now holding the position my grandfather started, Director of Oglebay Institute, the cultural division of the park. He is a well-respected educator in Park Management and Foundation work and instructs on the Oglebay model across the country.

At what intersection do you live your life? 

I think I fall more into the creativity/art/athletics triangle.  I have a love affair with light and shadows…everywhere we go, I get caught in the play of light and dark. Wherever we travel we have to stop and experience the art venues of the area we are in, meet the artists, make connections and network. My most creative thoughts come while driving or while working out or when we are in nature.

Who are the three people you need to have coffee with when you visit Sioux Falls?

Rod Evans (art), Rick Tupper (Honor Flight)…and someone I have yet to meet…

What’s the best way to put inspiration into action?

Like Nike has so well stated, “JUST DO IT!”  So often, we allow that inner voice to talk us out of a great idea for fear of what others will think, we second guess our process, we don’t work through the mental block or creative block, or we are so fearful that we never take that first step.  WE are our own worst enemy much of the time! The first time you break through that fear or hesitancy, great things often happen. And if they don’t, oh, well, not a big deal! The next time you are confronted with the struggle, it’s easier to work through because you’ve done it once before! I’m a huge fan of impulse and adventure. Some of my best experiences were because I just did it vs. thinking about all the things that could have gone wrong.

Who do you hope to leave a legacy for?

I hope to impact those with artistic and creative souls.  I hope they saw the adventures, the mistakes and happy accidents that I’ve experienced and saw that through it all, I lived…I created…I never stopped learning.

Who’s one regional writer/artist/leader/entrepreneur we should pay attention to?

John Lopez. I am so in admiration of his talent, his creativity, his artist soul.

What’s the greatest risk you’ve taken?

Quitting my teaching job to become a full time photographer 16 years ago. We had a small child, bills, adult responsibilities to take care of. I quit teaching with the support of my husband and because of that risk, I experienced national speaking and awards. I was able to take my children to Italy for 3 weeks while I was doing a commercial job. I met people who have inspired me creatively, critiqued my work and pushed me to be better and have taken my career to new levels and opportunities. Because of that one risk…I am still being reaping the benefits!

What’s your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?

I don’t know that I’ve ever had just one…I’ve had lots! I think that what I’ve learned is that I didn’t die, you can survive crying for days, embarrassment fades, scars heal. Be humble, say you’re sorry and love with all your heart.  I think I’ve learned that I CAN do it … My favorite quote from Walt Disney says it best though: “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious … And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”