I am writing this message to announce my retirement as Artistic Director of Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts as of mid-February 2024.
I am proud to say that with the help and support of our incredible arts community, an exceptional staff of dedicated arts collaborators and mentors, the families and friends of our artists, and most important of all – our company of theater and visual artists with disabilities – Interact has been a vital part of the Twin Cities professional arts community for almost thirty years.
In our history, Interact Theater has won two Ivey Awards as well as multiple awards from the National Endowment for the Arts. We have collaborated with Mixed Blood Theater, the History Theatre, and Theater Latte Da here in Minnesota, as well as with Tutti Ensemble in Adelaide, Australia.
Interact Visual Artists exhibit work in professional galleries throughout the region, and received a 2018 Innovation Award from the MN Department of Human Services in recognition of the quality of work coming out of our Studio – an award which also enabled us to launch our Virtual Gallery, now reaching arts patrons from across the globe.
Back in early 2020, Interact’s Board of Directors and I had started developing a succession plan that we thought would roll out over the next two years. Then the pandemic hit, and our plans were put on hold.
When Interact was forced to shut down in March 2020, we were not sure what the future would bring. Over the next two and a half years – thanks to the tireless work and dedication of our Board and Staff and the unwavering support of Interact artists’ families and communities, we not only survived – we kept on creating with fifty zoom creativity sessions each and every week in both visual and theater arts. We mounted arts exhibitions with our Virtual Gallery, and we produced our first-ever virtual theater event, Zoomtopia.
My plan all along was to step down once Interact was back up and running after the pandemic.
When our long-time Operations Manager retired in early 2023, we brought Joseph Price into the mix. Joe has a long history as an artist himself, and as Program Director for the U of M/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program, and most recently as Department Head of Theater and Dance and Producer of Tent Theater at the University of Missouri.
Joe is also the proud father of a creative child with a disability, and he has a deep love for our mission and vision. Joe now assumes leadership as Interact’s Executive Director. After working side-by-side with Joe for the past year, I know he is the best person to take Interact forward into the future.
My own next step is to go through almost thirty years of Interact history on film and in articles and testimonials from our community and to create a living archive that will document and share Interact’s story. During the past 27 years, as word of Interact’s unique mission and success has spread, I have been contacted by people from across the U.S and the globe who are interested in learning about our model. Our work has already inspired the creation of successful organizations in Adelaide, Australia and Chiang Mai, Thailand that reflect our mission.
I look forward now to having the time to tell these important stories, and to show the transformational power of the arts and human creativity to change lives and make dreams come true for people with disabilities.
I also look forward to continuing to be one of Interact’s most enthusiastic supporters. I hope to see you soon, and often!
Interact Founder / Retiring Artistic Director
A fond farewell from Minnesota’s own Kevin Kling:
I don’t know where to begin when it comes to praise for Jeanne Calvit. The talent and care she brings to disability culture and the arts in general have greatly enhanced both worlds. The bridges she has built through performance and the visual arts have made Jeanne a personal hero. Jeanne is stepping away from the Interact helm, but I know her heart will always be with her beloved company of incredible artists.
Here is Kevin’s full statement:
In the mid 1990’s I attended a show at the Interact Theater, starring the phenomenal Eric Wheeler, and was forever changed.
Except for a couple performers, the entire cast was made up of actors with disabilities. It was powerful, funny, moving, intelligent and the acting was masterful. I knew I had found a home. Over the years, through many productions, travels, triumphs, and tears, Interact has become much more… they are family.
At the helm is Jeanne Calvit. I don’t know where to begin when it comes to praise for Jeanne. The talent and care she brings to disability culture and the arts in general have greatly enhanced both worlds.
I have toured the United States, England, France, Australia and Thailand with Jeanne and in each case she has changed lives.
In Adelaide, Australia the renowned Tutti Arts was patterned after her Interact model. Her work in Chiang Mai, Thailand focused on bringing performance to a group of young people with disabilities and its success led to the construction of a new state of the art facility. Two years later Jeanne was awarded a medal and citation by Thailand’s Princess Sirindhorn for her work.
Here at home she has been recognized for her contributions by receiving a Minnesota “50 Over 50” Award, among many others.
Jeanne is adamant about letting an artist create their own way, or as the sign says in the theater, “Work Your Quirk.” This has resulted in an art form unlike any other, a power grown from talents and abilities often overlooked. She gives artists a much needed platform, literally, and a place to shine.
An equal impact is the affect she has had on our community’s perception of ability. The audiences that have experienced her productions come away with a greater understanding of humanity and themselves. The bridges she has built through performance and the visual arts have made Jeanne a personal hero.
Jeanne is stepping away from the helm, but I know her heart will always be with her beloved company of incredible artists.