By Brooke Zimmerman

Brooke Zimmerman NeXt!A beloved English professor once pressed me to dig deeper into poetry than I ever had before: to break down every line, to scrutinize every word, to plow through the verse as if it were dark soil to be tilled. I had been afraid that I’d lose the music of it, that the poems would no longer be pretty, pretty things. But the professor was right, of course: taking a closer look served only to deepen my appreciation. I mention this because now, years later, something similar is happening as a result of my involvement in NeXt. I love the Arts and have long been an avid spectator, but I’ve reached the point at which I’m ready to say, what else? What’s… NeXt? (Wink.)

As I go behind the curtain to learn about the machinations that take place in support of the Arts – the cogs and wheels of planning, the nuts and bolts of budgets – my respect is only deepening.

Indeed, though I’ve been a member of NeXt for just two short months, I’ve already had some fantastic opportunities to connect with the Arts, beginning with an informal event at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft. NeXt explored the (amazing) Second Life exhibit and spent time with Executive Director Aldy Milliken, who spoke to us about KMAC’s unique role in caring for and writing the cultural legacy of the city, state, and region. Before that evening in August, I had never set foot in KMAC; now, I will have the privilege of working as a member of the museum’s Fund for the Arts liaison team.

Another highlight of my involvement with NeXt was a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of Actors Theatre. As we traveled from lofty lighting rigs through unseen corridors to sub-stage hydraulic prop lifts, I marveled at the myriad of functions that come together to make theater happen. (I also now believe that Production Manager is one of the coolest jobs in the world.)

In addition, NeXt gives me the opportunity to attend quarterly “Great NeXtpectations” events with Fund for the Arts board members. Shirley Willihnganz, Executive Vice President and Provost at the University of Louisville, chatted with our group in September about her path to leadership. The informal Q&A format of these sessions affords me the chance to build connections with local Arts leaders, and also to gain insights from their experiences.

These are just a few examples from the robust calendar of cultural events in which I will participate as a member of NeXt. As someone who recently returned to Louisville after several years away, I knew that I wanted to jump in and become an active member of the Arts community. NeXt is absolutely instrumental in helping me realize that goal by providing access to Arts events, leaders, and education. And while I’ve always reveled in being the audience, I am incredibly energized to learn about the underlying organizations. I love making the figurative process-to-performance connections, as well as the community connections to board members and administrators. And just as there was more to poetry than receiving the beauty of words, there’s more to the Arts than being a spectator to music, theater, art, and dance. I’m extremely grateful to have this chance to dig a little deeper.

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