Director—KJM Center for the Arts at South Puget Sound Community College. Red hair is the first thing that you notice about Cassie Welliver upon meeting her. Her warmth and depth of character are also obvious. She is an artist, a mother and the director of the Kenneth J. Minnert Center in Olympia. Cassie tells us that her love for the arts started when she was ten, “a friend invited me to tag along as he stage managed a production of Last of the Red Hot Lovers at the Players Guild in Canton, OH. At the end of the night, I was allowed on stage under the lights, and that was it… I was hooked!” Her love for art on the cutting edge is apparent. “It doesn’t really matter to me what form it takes—music, visual arts, dance, theater—so long as it fires new synapses and challenges the way I view the world. In recent years, it seems to come in the form of outsider art and modern dance, so I watch those genres most closely. If the work incorporates humor, so much the better!”.
How do you measure success?
By levels of inspiration. I do look at the finances too, but I feel personally and professionally successful when audiences, especially kids, come out of an experience really excited… really amazed by what they just saw or heard.
Who do you admire most?
Hands down it’s Wangari Maathai, the woman who was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize for her initiative to plant trees. She started out with a lot of education (one of the first African women to earn a doctorate) and a grass roots organization in Kenya, and from that there has grown a Pan African Greenbelt Network that plants millions of trees that make a major impact on the environment and the lives of people all over Africa.
What is the biggest challenge you have overcome?
The birth of my son. After wanting a baby so much, and a natural birth, he was two weeks late when the water broke and still no labor. My husband and I worked for four days, and with a lot of difficult medical interventions, to birth him conventionally, but ended up with a caesarian delivery. I couldn’t even be awake
for it as I had to be put under general anesthesia, during which I developed a respiratory problem. He’s now seven years old, and I love him more than anything in the world.
If you could have any super power what would it be?
The ability to control time. There are so many maintenance activities you need to do as an adult that take up all but maybe two hours of each day: work, eat, sleep, exercise, clean house, send birthday cards, etc. What if you could do all of that really well, and then stop time and spend as long as you wanted on creating an artwork, or wandering an Asian forest, or scuba diving in Hawaii?