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Arts Council leader to head state library association

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Debbie Mikula is leaving as executive director of the Arts Council of Greater Lansing after nearly six years to take over the reins of the Michigan Library Association, starting May 24.

Program manager Meaghan Martin will serve as interim executive director.

Mikula said being the “champion and ambassador of placemaking” has been the biggest accomplishment during her tenure. She cited public art in in Reo Town and Old Town as examples.

Mikula helped start the Creative Placemaking Summit in 2015, a Lansing-based conference fostering dialogue between residents and institutions about the overlap of art and public space.

She also pointed to “making sure there are opportunities” for artists and that artists, whom she called “very independent,” understand they have a role in changing the community though the schools and municipal organizations. “They can change the culture and the landscape.”

Since she was 22, Mikula, 59, has served as an executive director to various arts and culture organizations in Michigan and Washington, D.C., but she has never touched libraries.

Mikula’s first love was theater. When she was 21 and a fresh graduate from Michigan State University, she spent the summer as an intern at the 100-year-old Ramsdell Theatre in Manistee.

“I walked on to the stage and the lights turned on and the first act curtain opened and I saw the most beautiful theater,” said Mikula. “That was where I grew up in administration. I learned that my work may not be designing a show, but it may be administering cultural and arts organizations.”

Mikula said she is “not going very far.” She will continue to be part of the Mayor’s Arts and Council Commission and serve on the Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs.

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