When Denise Crouse was laid off from her job in the finance industry last year, she knew it was an opportunity, at 42, to reinvent herself. For 10 years she’d worked in accounting, where she admitted she felt motivated by her paycheck rather than passion. Losing that stability last July turned out to be a gift. Now, as the new gallery coordinator at Contemporary Arts Center, she’s found a job that’s truly meaningful.
She began volunteering with the CAC in August, first as a “sitter” (spending the day at the gallery talking to visitors) and before long she was helping out full time with exhibits and installations.
“The arts, to me, are incredibly important,” she says. “There’s something special about being around art. It gives you such motivation, it helps you realize more about what you can do to expand your own personal creativity. It helps you be more appreciative.”
In addition to her job at the CAC, which began Dec. 1, Crouse also volunteers as a site steward through UNLV, where she helps protect Native American ancient rock art sites. She’s also involved in a horse therapy program (Crouse has a master’s degree in psychology), introducing children with disabilities to horses and horseback riding.
Volunteering became important to Crouse after she spent a year, unpaid, teaching English in a small, impoverished town in the Hunan province of China.
“It was the most incredible experience of my life. I felt so fulfilled,” she says. “Everyone was so grateful I was volunteering, but I felt like I got so much more than I gave.”
It’s a theme she plans to carry over at the CAC. One of her goals there is to greatly expand the volunteer program and invite members of the community to share their strengths with the gallery, whether it’s grant writing, painting the gallery, maintenance or gallery sitting, like Crouse did in the beginning.
She’s also using her background in finance and focusing on further developing the organization from a business perspective. Her goals are to increase fundraising, focus more on grants and to become more involved with the Clark County School District. In addition, Crouse has been in touch with concierges at most of the resorts, telling them about the CAC in hopes of drawing in tourists. “I think it’s vital to the survival of the city,” she says. “I have this theory. If you want to bring economics back you have to have art, you have to have dance, you have to have theater. You have to have that as a base to attract people to come, and to get the people in the community to stay here, to live and to grow.”