Kit Stafford leaves GumTree to return to teaching this fall

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Kit Stafford is going back to her roots.
The GumTree Museum of Art executive director was an art teacher before coming to GumTree, and at the end of the month, she’s leaving the museum to return to the classroom.
“It was a very hard decision,” Stafford said. “It’s like I blinked and three years have passed.”
Stafford taught kindergarten through fourth grade before taking over at the museum three years ago, and she’ll return to teach third through fifth grade this fall. Her last day at the museum is July 24.
“Some of the best things we’ve done at the museum have been in education,” she said.
During her tenure at the museum, she’s overseen three festivals, has planned and directed numerous exhibits and, most recently, has overseen the Toyota-funded Cultural Connections program, which included Japanese art lectures and workshops for children and adults.
“I’m proud of the festival. Ground work was already laid for this amazing tradition, and I’m proud of the fact that we continued that and opened it up for more artists,” she said.
One of the biggest challenges she faced as director was fundraising. In addition to its annual fundraisers, GumTree Museum was helped by a community fundraiser this past winter.
“One of the major challenges for all arts organizations is the constant need to fundraise. The fundraising mechanism gets in the way of quality programming you want to see happen,” she said. “The arts organizations as a whole add tremendous value to the community. It’s a challenge for all of us.”
Still, she said, she’s thankful for those who’ve supported the museum in her tenure.
“I always felt encouraged and supported by the people in the community,” she said.
The GumTree Board of Directors is currently searching for Stafford’s replacement. A list of duties will be posted soon at gumtreemuseum.com.
Being the GumTree Museum director is like six roles in one, she said, ranging from curator to programming and event planning to accountant to marketing coordinator.
“It’s taught me so much, and it’s made me grow,” she said.
She has a few words of advice for her successor.
“Have a passion for the arts in this community,” she said. “Make lots of lists, and prepare to multitask.”
sheena.barnett@journalinc.com