Kelly Downes

Arts Council Director
Keep learning, and see everyone and everything as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Kelly Downes grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and moved to Cape Girardeau in 2015. She received her bachelor’s degree in humanities (fine art/history) from Michigan State University and is now pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in art education from Southeast Missouri State University. Kelly is the director of the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri and also a RYT 500-hour trauma-informed yoga instructor with additional training in mindfulness-based stress reduction. She is passionate about the cross-section of art and activism and is particularly interested in the ways the humanities can be utilized to create self-sufficient economies and sustainable prosperity for all living beings. She is very excited to be a part of the arts in the Cape Girardeau community and hopes that her enthusiasm for all of the arts translates into community participation with the Arts Council. Her life’s greatest work is her son, Bob.

Favorite writers/thinkers/artists:

Bob Marley — His liberation philosophy, dedication to human rights and social justice, and the power of the music he created have inspired me every day of my life.

Dave Eggers — My literary, education, non-profit, creative HERO! I have had the life-altering privilege of meeting and talking with Mr. Eggers, and almost every decision I make as the Director of the Arts Council can be traced to his influence.

Andy Goldsworthy — An artist of profound skill and patience, all of his work is temporary and exists in accordance with nature. Watching his documentaries will leave you forever changed.

Inspired by: freedom of expression. Unequivocally. I am inspired by people who speak difficult truths and who possess the critical thinking skills necessary to never stop questioning. Observation (including self-observation) is one of the most important tools one has in their arsenal. Observation without judgement keeps creativity moving.

Advice to young artists: The most important thing about being creative is having a growth mindset. So, put yourself in challenging situations that feel just outside your skillset range, or around people who know more/have more experience than you. There are resources literally everywhere, but nothing replaces a face-to-face mentor.