View of the museum's north woods garden

Meet Natalie Kennedy

The Bell Museum welcomes Director of Statewide Engagement Natalie Kennedy

Published05/20/2021 , by Nehwoen Luogon-Bojkov

Woman standing next to polar bear displayThe Bell Museum is excited to welcome Natalie Kennedy to our team! Kennedy joins us as the new Director of Statewide Engagement. In this role she will lead the development and delivery of public programs and initiatives in advancement of the Bell’s aspiration to be a Museum Without Boundaries, supporting engagement beyond the museum’s walls and with diverse communities across the state. 

Kennedy’s educational background is quite varied. She completed her undergraduate degree at Carleton College, majoring in Music. After spending some time working in Minnesota nonprofits Kennedy went on to complete her master’s at Hamline University in non-profit management.  She was later awarded an American’s for the Arts fellowship and was part of the inaugural artEquity BIPOC Leadership Circle.   

Kennedy has spent the majority of her career in non-profit arts organizations in education, outreach, or community engagement roles. Her work focused on bringing the heart, mission, and programming of an organization out into to the community; to schools, community centers, and other spaces where people gather. Kennedy’s diverse professional experience in various arts institutions that were focused on different mediums ranging from visual arts to opera to contemporary dance, ultimately led her to the Minnesota State Arts Board. With big picture thinking in mind and a broad perspective, she supported arts and culture at a high level. This experience helped her lean into the many ways that she could support organizations that focused on life-long learning, engagement, and accessibility. Kennedy shared that an aim of her work with these organizations is to inspire them to take risks and think broadly.

“I hope to give people permission to think outside of the box and go beyond what they are normally doing—allowing organizations the opportunity to take risks,” she said.

During her time at the Minnesota State Arts Board, she co-founded the Minnesota Access Alliance which aimed to advance accessibility for people with disabilities in arts and cultural organizations across Minnesota. In her work as program officer she also focused on ensuring that arts and culture programs and opportunities offered in Minnesota were not only available, but also welcoming, representative, and accessible to communities that were not already actively seeking or benefiting from them. These efforts included specifically seeking out and working with BIPOC communities, immigrant communities including those where English is not their first language, and communities across greater Minnesota. This work helped to demystify the organization, identify and reduce barriers to access, and support people in the understanding that this organization belongs to them as much as anyone else.

What brought Kennedy to the Bell was the new role’s focus on state-wide engagement. The alignment between her previous role at the Minnesota State Arts Board and the opportunity to work “beyond boundaries” was a perfect fit! Kennedy looks forward to collaborating with  different communities and helping Minnesota residents see the Bell, Minnesota’s museum of natural history, as THEIR museum, and that the collections, resources, and vast knowledge is for everyone to benefit from, and to enable them to do so right there in their own communities. Kennedy is excited to get hands-on into the various communities in Minnesota, make connections, learn more about what is already available, what people are hungry for, and figure out how the Bell can play a role.

“The Bell Museum is not just somewhere you can go but it’s something that YOU can be a part of as well,” Kennedy shared.

As Kennedy gets more settled into her role, she is also looking forward to deepening her knowledge about Minnesota’s natural history! With her extensive experience in arts and culture, Kennedy welcomes the opportunity to continue being a life-long learner.

When Kennedy is not spending time at the Bell she enjoys cooking and entertaining (though the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in her preparing large, festive holiday-style meals for her family for fun!). She also has three children that keep her busy as well as a newfound plant hobby—each plant now has its own name! When you see Kennedy in the museum, make sure to say ‘hello’—don’t forget to ask her about her plants or her box turtles!