Susan Neidert retires from the Center des Beaux-Arts but will continue to offer puppet shows and workshops
Brigham City’s own puppeteer, Susan Neidert, is retiring as executive director of the Brigham City Fine Arts Center, but won’t give up on her beloved puppet shows.
The center recently announced his retirement along with his replacement, Dave Kafton, who served as the centre’s board chairman.
Neidert, who says he made a second career in puppet workshops and the arts after first working as a nurse practitioner, opened the center, along with other like-minded citizens, 20 years ago.
The building, formerly an Elks Lodge which has slowly undergone necessary renovations, served around 300 people in its first year in 1999, and since then over 10,000 have been there for classes, performances and workshops.
“A lot of people said I couldn’t have an arts center in Brigham City, but I didn’t listen to them,” she said. “I thought if I could get five to ten years out of it, I would have done my part. I now hope that it will last another 40 years. “
Some 7,000 children, between 500 and 1,200 each year, have participated in the programs. “We also run workshops in schools to motivate them to be in the creative arts.”
Neidert is stepping down from managing the budget, writing grants and overseeing the facility and programs to spend more time with her family, she said.
She started out in old school Lincoln doing puppet shows and then got into plays but the setup was unfortunately inadequate for productions so she looked for another space and found the Elks Lodge. “I have had an incredible 22 years with the opportunity to be creative not only with the puppets, but also by facilitating the development of other arts related courses and programs and having a say in the renovation of facilities and from the grounds of the Center des Beaux-Arts, ”Neidert mentioned.
“I love many aspects of the arts and it has been a blessing and a privilege, and I am grateful to all of the talented and caring people who have stepped in to make it all possible. I am also grateful to have had the chance to know and work with so many wonderful people that I might not have met otherwise.
Her tenure has taught her that good art is a great community builder not only by providing fun, but also by helping people build their self-confidence and resilience. This achievement resonates with the centre’s mission statement, “Empowering Lives Through the Arts”.
Living in Mantua since 1977, after moving from Cleveland, Ohio with her husband and daughter, Neidert plans to spend more time with his grandson.
But because puppeteers are so important to her (she gave her first puppet show when she was six), future plans include more puppet programs, shows and activities, and the production of a play that she wrote. She also hopes to see the center have a greater presence on the Internet.
“The puppet recognizes the ingenuity of different cultures, promotes storytelling and encourages creativity,” she said. “I want more people to realize its potential.”
She praised Dave Kafton as her replacement for bringing “not only his artistry and love of people, but also his wisdom and skill in keeping things organized and getting the word out. I think it will be good for the Center des Beaux-Arts and the community.
Kafton said in an interview that he always gets his feet wet following Neidert to learn the ropes, but doesn’t plan to change anything until future growth dictates changes.
“Most of our funding is for after-school programs and summer camps, including drama, improv, dance, music and concerts,” he said. Most of it comes from the Utah Arts Council and other foundation grants, but citizen donors also help keep the center open.
Much of the funding for a recent renovation of the exterior facade and part of the interior, including lighting, has been donated.
“Our aim is to keep it as affordable as possible and to continue to provide scholarships to children in need,” said Kafton, from Brigham City. He and his wife, Sheila, have six children and eight grandchildren.
Although he has been very active in the community, over the years serving on the Brigham City Chamber of Commerce Board of Trustees, the Kiwanis Board of Directors, and the Downtown Grants Commission for Children. Facade Grants, “I’m best known for being Ethan Kafton’s father. “
Her son is a well-known presence in the city, helping traders and welcoming people along Main Street.
Kafton, the eldest, graduated from Box Elder High School, worked at Thiokol, and received a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from Weber State College after his last child graduated from high school.