Saturday Profile: Tina Sweeten settles into her new role as Columbus Arts Council director


Carmen K. Sisson



Tina Sweeten will tell you she's not an artist, but don't let that fool you. The newly appointed head of the Columbus Arts Council may not wield a brush or palette, but she has surrounded her life with color, from the places she has visited to the people, passions and pets that populate her world.


As Sweeten strides through Rosenzweig Arts Center in downtown Columbus Friday afternoon, she stops to caress a colleague's dog. The past few months have been an education for her, but as summer slides into fall, she's settling into her new role. With the weekend ahead and cooler weather on the way, she can't help but smile.




Where did you grow up, and how did you land in Columbus?


I grew up in Washington State, in Tacoma. I came here with my partner, who is a professor of veterinary medicine at Mississippi State. I lived in Alaska six years, then Minnesota.



Do you have a background in art?


I have a master's degree in nonprofit management. Before this, I worked at (MSU) for the Early Childhood Institute. I've learned a lot since May about art.



What's the biggest thing you've learned?


Not to touch the artists' work! I didn't actually touch it, but I saw someone else touch it, and I learned quickly.



What is your definition of art?


Art is the consumer's interpretation. A lot of people have opinions about that. The artist creates a piece of work and hopes people see what they see, bit it's really the consumer.



Do you have any artistic leanings?


I've played the guitar a long time, but not well enough that I'd do it in public.



What do you enjoy most about your job?


I'm really excited about being here as director of the Arts Council. I really want us to become a good community partner. I love working with volunteers.



Do you do volunteer work as well?


I sit on two boards --the Clay County Development Center in West Point and the Center for Policy Planning and Performance out of Minnesota.



What inspires you to volunteer?


I have always been a volunteer. My parents had us volunteering in grade school. I don't think any time in my life I wasn't (a volunteer). I'm very picky though. I'm a certified volunteer administrator. If I'm going to volunteer some place, it has to be really well-organized.



What are you most passionate about?


Animals. Our house is full of them. Children, people with disabilities, senior citizens. I love working with people



So what kind of animals fill your house, and what are their names?


Three dogs, two cats and two birds -- Tucker, Brynli, Barclay Wyndall, Sterling, Charlie, Kita and Toby. They're all rescued. It's never quiet.



What's the last book you read?


"Three Junes" (by Julia Glass). It was a really good book. I run a book club over in Starkville on the fourth Monday of every month. It's just this bunch of women ... it's a great time.



What do you do in your spare time?


My favorite thing is to curl up on the couch and read a book, especially when it's hot outside, and walking or hiking with the dogs.



What's coming up at Rosenzweig Arts Center?


People need to check out our website ( We'll have a Smithsonian travel exhibit Oct. 28 through Dec. 10. There are tons of programs going on -- blues concerts, Native American dances, African drumming. ... The board of directors is figuring out our brand, looking at our mission, looking at where we want to be in the next five years.



Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.


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