New museum head ready for 'adventure'

TUPELO – The GumTree Museum of Art has an outgoing executive director and an executive director in waiting.
Tina Lutz will end her 16-year career at the museum on July 31. Her replacement, Kit Stafford of Tupelo, will officially take the helm on Aug. 1.
“Tina is here for this month, so I’m mentoring with her and trying to learn as much as I can,” Stafford said.
Sam Agnew, chairman of the museum’s board of directors, said Stafford was chosen from a field of 19 candidates.
“We interviewed a handful of people at the end of June,” Agnew said, “and we offered her the job.”
For the past 11 years, Stafford has worked as an art teacher for Tupelo Public School District. The bulk of her time was spent at Pierce Street Elementary, then she moved to Thomas Street Elementary during the school system’s reorganization.
“It’s sad to leave the school and the children,” Stafford said, “but this is going to be a fun adventure. It’s going to push me in a new direction.”
A Fulton native, Stafford earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Mississippi State University. She worked as a painter and freelance artist before becoming an art teacher.
Stafford already has made an artistic impact on the look of downtown Tupelo. It was her idea to pay tribute to Elvis Presley by placing guitars decorated by students at various sites.
“That was my brainchild, my idea,” she said, “then my husband figured out how to make that work and get the guitars fabricated.”
The 35-year-old lives in Tupelo with her husband, Russell, and their three daughters, Reid, 17, Shelby, 10, and Sophie, 3.
In addition to overseeing the day-to-day operation of the museum and scheduling exhibits, Stafford will be director of the GumTree Festival in the spring. She’s anticipating plenty of work between now and then.
“There’s a lot to learn, and I’m so excited,” Stafford said. “I’m thrilled that they selected me.”
Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@djournal.com.

M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal