Appointed by Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox, Donna Law leads the Utah Department of Cultural & Community Engagement as the interim executive director.
“Donna brings a wealth of experience in the arts, administration, government relations and communications — a full package of skills that will serve the state’s cultural and community engagement needs well,” said Gov. Cox in an announcing her appointment.
Donna Law is the former executive director of development and government relations at Southern Utah University. Previously, she directed SUU’s Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service, and led communications and marketing at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. In 2005, she was named women of the year by the Cedar City Chamber of Commerce.
She serves on the Utah Transportation Commission and previously chaired the Utah Office of Museums Services board. Of note: She’s a gradulate of the Utah Division of Arts & Museums’ Change Leader professional development program, and is already networked into the program’s active group of creative leaders.
Beyond her professional qualifications, she offered this personal note: Becoming comfortable talking about her status as a breast cancer survivor has helped her become a health advocate. “Health screenings save lives, and I’m an example of the importance of finding issues early,” she says. “Once I was vulnerable enough to share the news about my cancer with others, I learned there are always generous people to provide support, counsel, and comfort. No one need face challenges like that alone.”
To introduce her to the greater CCE community, we asked our new boss a few professional questions, with a personal curveball or two.
What about your past experience at Southern Utah University seems most relevant to your new role at CCE?
My career at SUU covered 26 years, beginning as a volunteer for the Utah Shakespeare Festival. With USF and other Shakespeare Festivals (Idaho and Orlando), I had a chance to connect culture and community in two places very different than Cedar City. Coming back to Utah as a fundraiser, my first project was the Southern Utah Museum of Art and the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts. Most recently, I’ve been focused on deepening the connection between SUU and the Cedar City community. All of these positions have prepared me for this new job in CCE and I’m so looking forward to working with the people throughout all our divisions to impact Utahns across the state.
What has most surprised you in your first week or so at CCE?
Not really a surprise, but it has been joyful and thrilling to feel the passion our people have for their work and its statewide impact.
From your time managing theater companies — what character will you draw upon as you move to state government?
This question gave me pause. What I reflected on was my experience with the musical “The Spitfire Grill.” It’s based on the movie of the same name but with a different ending and accompanied by a small orchestra including a cello. (My favorite song: “The Colors of Paradise,” which to me is about seeing hope, and hearing the cello, as well as the beautiful harmonies of the ladies who work the grill. We produced the show at Utah Shakespeare Festival in the fall. As marketing director, I could just see our patrons coming to the city with the fall colors showing in all their glory).
The story centers on Percy Talbot, a recent parolee assigned to tiny Gillead, Maine, where she is placed as a waitress at the town’s only diner. With a new perspective of the town, Percy challenges the status quo, gathers people together around a vision, and demonstrates that one person can, indeed, make a difference. I believe we all have that same opportunity as we engage with our teams, refine and deliver our programs, and contribute to the communities large and small.
What’s something about you that surprises people?
I’m a huge advocate for adult learning. Even after working in higher ed for a large part of my career, I didn’t finish my bachelor’s degree until I was 56, and I completed my master’s degree three years later. Through that experience, I learned how much I loved learning as an adult and applying that learning to life and career. It’s never too late to finish a certificate or degree.