Rachael Sutton-Brothers ’16


From Horse Wrangling to the Denver Art Museum: Learning to Live In Balance

LEAP student Marissa LoNigro sat down with Rachael Sutton-Brothers to find out what brought her to the program.

If you ask Rachael Sutton-Brothers about her multiple talents, jobs, internships, and school she’ll laughingly say, “I never say no!” After studying classical guitar in her home-state of Tennessee and working on a ranch in Montana, Rachael Sutton-Brothers is now a second year graduate student in the LEAP Institute for the Arts pursuing her new passion: development and event planning in large non-profits, and arts consulting. Fellow graduate student Marissa LoNigro had a chance to talk music, art, and horses with Rachael, and how this led her to the Arts Leadership and Administration program at Colorado State University.

ML: Tell me about your degree in music?

RSB: I got my degree in music performance with a classical guitar emphasis, and I taught guitar lessons for about six years during college and after. I’m from Chattanooga, Tennessee and I went to Lee University, which is a small liberal arts college. I decided I didn’t want to stay teaching because it’s hard and inconsistent, and I felt like I needed to learn more about it, like get a music education degree, if I was to continue in that field. So I decided to come back to school. There aren’t many options for arts administration training in the South, especially any that focused on what I wanted to focus on, so I looked at programs across the country and Colorado stood out. I have family out here, and my husband is into rock climbing and he’s very outdoorsy. So we came to Colorado.

ML: What interested you in arts leadership and management?

RSB: One of my good friends from my undergrad was doing arts administration at Boston College, and we both had talked about it and originally planned on going into that for our Master’s. I did a lot of events and worked at art museums back home, and I knew that I liked that area but I took some time because I didn’t want to go back to school until I was sure. I was going back and forth between this and music therapy, actually.

ML: I got a degree in music performance myself, and I realized that options can be a limited if you follow the traditional career track. Did you experience something similar?

RSB: Yeah I realized I didn’t like performing, but a music performance major was my only option. If you don’t do performance your other choice is music education, but I couldn’t be a band teacher! I don’t even play a band instrument. I actually did a complete 180 after I graduated. For a summer I didn’t do anything with music and I went out to Montana to work on a ranch.

ML: Really? That’s a big difference from classical guitar!

RSB: Horses are my other life. I did wrangling and horse stuff, and I loved it! I think it’s good to have a break and figure out what you want to do.

ML: So, how do you like the program so far? How’s it going?

RSB: It’s definitely the most challenging thing I’ve ever done but it’s been a fantastic learning experience. I’ve had so many opportunities that I would never have had if I didn’t come to Colorado State University. Like my job at The Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT). I never would have gotten that if I didn’t come here. I’ve met a lot of incredible people, and it’s been a really positive experience. You push through it and realize you were capable of a lot more than you ever thought. My favorite thing we’ve studied so far has been the arts and law stuff in the Law and the Arts Class – LEAP 660. I’m interested in professional development and business consulting, and everything we learn is really applicable.

ML: Speaking of opportunities, can you talk about your internship at the Denver Art Museum?

RSB: I’m a development intern, and I mostly do RSVPs, help with event planning and coordination, and a lot of donor tracking. Events are my niche. We’re planning a couple of big galas next week and a massive one in December. I love being a part of such a big organization. It’s a big staff so I work with a lot of people. I like working with people! Also the governor, senators, and celebrities come to our events!

ML: Do you have a favorite exhibit in the museum right now?

RSB: Oh yeah! The “In Bloom” exhibit features impressionist paintings about flowers and nature. Last year we had Cartier come through, and that was really cool.

ML: You also work on campus at TILT. What do you do for them?

RSB: I’m a graduate student coordinator for professional development. I started last September, and I slowly started taking on more jobs. Now I help my boss, Dr. Colbert, run the teaching certificate program. I also handle advising, workshops, conferences, and I help maintain the website.

ML: So what would you like to do with your degree? You mentioned the consulting business, could you elaborate on that?

RSB: I’d like to keep working events and development with a large non-profit, like what I’m doing now with the Denver Art Museum. As a side business I’d also like to specifically consult with up and coming non-profits, and companies just starting. I’m interested in employee development, rethinking strategies, and providing non-biased assistance. I’m also not strictly interested in working with the arts either. I would work with other nonprofits too.

ML: I like that you have such a firm plan in your mind, and you know what you want to do.

RSB: Well I actually came here thinking I wanted to start a fine arts academy, and now that’s not something I want to do anymore. I found that I really loved event planning.

ML: Where do you see yourself in five years?

RSB: Running the world! Actually, I’d love to be working for a large nonprofit, like the Denver Art Museum, a university, or the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. I’d also like to be starting my consulting business.