Lucia Erikson-Kincheloe has always loved the arts, but never imagined her passion would lead to an award recognizing her contributions to the community.
Last week, Erikson-Kincheloe was awarded the first-ever Kevin Meinhardt Award for distinguished public service at the Jefferson City Council meeting for her work on the Cultural Arts Commission, where she serves as chair. Meinhardt, who died in 2012, had served on the Jefferson City Historic Preservation Commission from 1990 to 1998 and served on the city's Board of Adjustment from 1997 until his death.
Gail Strope, director of human resources for the city and former staff liaison to the Cultural Arts Commission, presented the award last week, noting the honoree displays public service devotion, excellence and professionalism, as well as outstanding enthusiasm and reflects the highest ideals of citizenship.
"She's worked tirelessly," Strope said of Erikson-Kincheloe. "She has a love for both art and serving her community."
Strope noted Erikson-Kincheloe has spearheaded a number of projects and events, including the Sip & Sit wine tasting event held downtown in the fall. Strope said Erikson-Kincheloe often donates her own money and supplies for events put on by the commission.
Erikson-Kincheloe said she always had a passion for the arts, from performing stand-up comedy or acting on stage to creating her own works of art through painting or work with ceramics.
"It was a way to express myself," Erikson-Kincheloe said.
When the city created the Cultural Arts Commission in 2009, Erikson-Kincheloe applied and was selected to serve right from the start. She credits former Mayor John Landwehr in encouraging the committee to be formed, as well as her friend Ann Littlefield who helped get the commission going.
"Interest in promoting and growing the arts in Jefferson City was really what propelled me to become involved," Erikson-Kincheloe said.
While talking about her involvement in the Cultural Arts Commission, as well as her role as founder of the Cultural Arts Foundation, Erikson-Kincheloe kept thinking of more people to thank for their help or their role along the way: from former City Councilwoman Cindy Layton and 4th Ward Councilwoman Carrie Carroll to interim City Administrator Drew Hilpert, as well as assistant City Attorney Jeremy Cover and Mayor Eric Struemph.
But she saved her highest praise for Strope. Describing Strope as selfless, humble and smart, Erikson-Kincheloe said Strope helped guide them through the process of creating the commission and the foundation.
The foundation, Erikson-Kincheloe said, was created to help the commission not rely solely on city funds and allow them to come up with new projects and events to start in Jefferson City.
"When you work in administration of arts, it's another way to contribute," Erikson-Kincheloe said.
"It doesn't always have be mainfested in a piece of pottery or a joke, it can manifest itself in building a community spirit or building an organization."
Erikson-Kincheloe said many of the commission's projects are going to be unveiled this spring, from a life size sculpture in a roundabout near Menard's to a new mural that possibly will be located on U.S. 50, all of which will be permanent outdoor art installations.
The commission also is looking at starting an ice cream festival by partnering with Central Dairy, an idea Erikson-Kincheloe said she got from a similar festival in Boston.
"It's a lot of things that are finally, finally going to start," Erikson-Kincheloe said.
She said her favorite aspect of serving on the commission is the people she serves with. She said each has a "refined set of skills" and the group has become a finely tuned organism that gets things done and has fun doing it.
"We have the coolest bunch of people," Erikson-Kincheloe said.
"That's been the most fun."
Erikson-Kincheloe said she spends time on commission or foundation projects every day, but she's never seen it as work.
"It really is something I enjoy thinking about. I like to see progress," Erikson-Kincheloe said. "It's brought a lot of joy to my life."