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New Anderson Center director starts work

By Ruth Nerhaugen, contributor

Christopher Burawa, a poet and translator with extensive experience in arts administration and community outreach, will take over leadership of the Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies on Tuesday.

He succeeds Robert Hedin, who retires as executive director Aug. 31.

Burawa comes to Red Wing from a position as director of the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee.

The Center for Excellence is devoted to inspiring and educating students about the community and the importance of the arts.

The emphasis on an interdisciplinary approach here is of particular interest to him, Burawa said, describing it as “a very rich area of exploration. …

“We’re living in a time where the arts are really reaching out into disciplines beyond on the arts themselves,” he said — including science and arts entrepreneurship — and “creating new expressions of art.”

A native of Iceland, Burawa earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the literary arts from Arizona State University. He worked as literary arts and communications director for the Arizona Commission on the Arts before moving to Tennessee.

According to Burawa, one of the factors that attracted him to Austin Peay was the opportunity to work in collaboration with artists and educators to promote community engagement and development through the arts.

“(He) brings to the Anderson Center a deep, personal commitment to the arts and their role in the community,” Anderson Center officials said.

“For me, the real attraction is the range of opportunities that Robert (Hedin) and the Anderson Center and the board have created,” Burawa said. “The Anderson Center is so plugged in to the arts and culture of the community.

“The residency program is unique,” he added. In addition to promoting the arts in the community, he said, it gives artists “time and space to create.”

Burawa has a broad range of abilities and experiences.

While at Austin Peay, he created new and innovative ways of promoting the arts; developed partnerships with local, regional and state arts and cultural organizations; facilitated fundraising and donor development; oversaw the administration of the center’s endowed Roy Acuff Chair of Excellence; and initiated several interdisciplinary programs combining arts, science and technology.

In addition to his work in arts administration, Burawa is an award-winning poet and translator. He is the author of two books — “The Small Mystery of Lapses” and “Of the Same Mind: Poems by Johann Hjalmarsson” — plus poems and translations that have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies.

He has been awarded several major fellowships, including one from the National Endowment for the Arts, and most recently completed a translation residency at the Icelandic Writers Union.

Area connections

Burawa was born in Reykjavik and also lived in Bermuda and in Spain as a child, before the family settled in Maryland.

His father, the late George Burawa, was an engineer and a station director for NASA. His mother, Aslaug Hermanniusdottir Burawa, studied dance and studio art as a young woman. She also will be moving to the Red Wing area.

His wife, Christina, has family in Northfield, Minnesota, so the Burawas have been to this area many times — including a trip for him to the Boundary Waters.

Mrs. Burawa holds a degree in drawing and painting. She has worked as a public art project manager and an art appreciation instructor, and also is a practitioner of the Japanese healing art of Jin Shin Jyutsu. She is interested in working in the health area.

She and their daughter, Eydis, 4½, hope to join Burawa in Red Wing this fall.

He was chosen from among more than 70 applicants from a broad geographic area, Anderson Center Board Chairman Art Kenyon said.

“I’m very pleased that someone of Chris’s qualifications will be taking over at the center,” he added. “After a rigorous search and interview process, the Search Committee feels confident that we have chosen the best candidate to guide the center into the future.”