Lexie Millikan is the new Executive Director at the Yeiser Art Center. Although she wasn't born here, she feels right at home here in Paducah. She is an accomplished artist who loves wine and ice cream…not necessarily together! iMeet this former musician and pastry chef who is leading the arts in our area!
Welcome to iMeet, Lexie. Tell us about yourself...
I was born in South Dakota but moved with my family to Idaho when I was very young. We eventually moved back to South Dakota, where I attended high school. So, I grew up in very rural places where outdoor activities were popular. My family spent time hunting, fishing, camping, gardening and exploring.
Both of my parents were very interested in self-sustainability, so they cooked, preserved food by canning, and fixed things instead of throwing them out. My dad was a skilled weaver and woodworker, and my mom grew and arranged flowers as well as working as a librarian. This kind of upbringing created an early interest in knowing how things are made and eventually led to my interest in art and craft.
When we moved back to South Dakota, as I was going into high school, my parents purchased an old condemned school that we fixed up and turned into a hostel, where there was an ever-revolving cast of characters. This sort of large-scale experimental project gave me a lot of skills that would become important later in life including problem solving, building and renovation, and open-mindedness.
I was very interested in music in high school and was part of a three-person, all-girl band, along with the high school jazz and marching band. I played the guitar, piano, and percussion. Unfortunately I haven’t continued those hobbies, but I do still love music.
You're not from this area. How has Paducah been treating you so far?
Of course it can be challenging to move to a new area and re-establish yourself, but I feel lucky to have been embraced by the art community here in Paducah. Dr. Barbara Veazey and Paul Aho were both instrumental in helping me find opportunities with the Paducah School of Art & Design.
I’m also grateful for the relationships I’ve made with the Convention & Visitors Bureau, who are an incredible group of people working so hard for their city. The CVB included me on a trip they planned to fellow UNESCO Creative City San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, for an art and music festival, this past February. There were about twenty people from western Kentucky who went on this trip, including myself and my husband Darron. I was glad that he was able to go along, since he’s truly a Kentuckian, while I’m just a transplant!
Tell us about your family...
I had been living in Kansas City, Missouri, for the past fifteen years, before I moved here. My husband is from Kentucky and has lived most of his life here. We have two dogs, Razz and Luna, and a cat, Kitty. Between us, we have four nieces and three nephews who we spend time with as much as possible.
Tell us about your new position as director at the Yeiser...
I’m very grateful for all of the hard work that the prior director, Stacey Reason, accomplished over the past couple years, and I hope to continue that while bringing my own strengths to the position. It’s the kind of job where you have to juggle many different things at once: having extensive knowledge of the arts, non-profit knowledge, installation skills, staff management, and event planning, among many other things! Thankfully the YAC has a couple of very strong employees, and a working board of directors who help to keep everything in balance.
What are some of your goals for the YAC?
It is imperative to continue to grow and strengthen our membership while continuously assessing membership benefits, in order to keep them relevant. I also hope to offer continued dynamic programming for kids and adults that include free craft activities, music, and art education. In order to make all of this happen, however, my first priority is fundraising!
Where have you worked before now?
When I lived in Kansas City, Missouri, I worked as the Fiber Technician & Lecturer at the Kansas City Art Institute. I maintained looms, industrial sewing machines, 3D printers, sergers, long arm quilt machine, fabric printers, managed the gallery, and taught studio electives in sewing and sustainable fashion. I also taught sculpture classes for the Continuing Education department at the Kansas City Art Institute.
Each winter, for the past couple years I have taught a three-week Introduction to Textiles class at the Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, Tennessee. These high school students are so fun to work with because they are truly open-minded and ready to change the world!
While I was attending college, I completed a year-long internship at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and also worked on installations with the preparator at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
I heard you were once a pastry chef. Do you still bake or cook a lot?
I love to bake and cook when I have time. My parents were always cooking, so I got that love from them. I learned about more upscale food when I worked at the Corn Exchange Restaurant & Bistro in Rapid City, South Dakota. My boss, MJ Adams, was one of the most amazing bosses I have ever had. She taught me about food and wine, life, culture, art, and girl power!
My favorite special dessert to make when we have visitors is butterscotch pot de crème, basically very thick and creamy butterscotch pudding. I also like making fancy breakfasts with homemade biscuits and poached eggs with micro greens. In the summer, bruschetta is my favorite go-to, with thick grilled bread, garden tomatoes, and whatever else I have on hand; olives, garlic, herbs, cheese.
What is the best part of your job? What is the hardest?
I don’t know that I’ve been in the position long enough to properly answer this question, but I’ll give it my best shot. The hardest part of this job is constantly needing to be looking for funding sources. The best part is getting to see people’s reactions when we offer free art and craft activities and they finish a project. Whether it’s a child or adult, it’s a magical thing to watch someone create something!
You're also an accomplished artist. What are you favorite mediums? Do you show your work?
I’m trained primarily in textiles, but have also worked with ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, book arts, painting and performance. I enjoy working with all different kinds of materials and experimenting with unfamiliar processes.
I do show my work, and have a solo exhibition coming up next spring at the Bill Ford Gallery, at the Paducah School of Art & Design.
Have you started Christmas shopping yet or are you a last minute shopper?
I’m a little bit of both. I’ll find something for one of my nieces or nephews and then need to get something for the others to even it out, and so it goes on like that. I prefer shopping at small local shops like Bricolage and Raven & Moth which are both in Paducah, for gifts for my mom and sister.
My brother-in-law gets bourbon now that I live in Kentucky. I usually gather ideas for my husband throughout the year, but wait until the last minute to follow through. Thank goodness for Amazon Prime!
Where and with whom will you spend Christmas this year?
I’ll spend Christmas Eve with my husband, and make oyster soup, a tradition that was passed down from my parents. We’ll probably have champagne with it! Christmas Day will be spent with my husband’s extended family, centered around a large dinner.
What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
I don’t feel guilty for this pleasure, but it’s what I do to blow off steam…riding my motorcycle. My husband taught me how to ride and bought me a small dual sport bike (on- or off-road). We really enjoy riding around the back roads where we live in rural Kentucky.