New director of education, outreach at Fitton Center aims to grow programs

Kate Rowekamp was recently promoted to the director of outreach and education at the Fitton Center. CONTRIBUTED

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Kate Rowekamp was recently promoted to the director of outreach and education at the Fitton Center. CONTRIBUTED

HAMILTON — The Fitton Center recently announced that Kate Rowekamp has been promoted to the director of education and outreach.

“Kate Rowekamp, who has done such an outstanding job with putting our education program together over the last few years and really growing that, is now the head of education and outreach,” said Ian MacKenzie-Thurley, executive director of the Fitton Center.

Rowekamp first joined the Fitton Center as an education assistant and was promoted to run the education program, he said. Prior to her promotion, she served as the director of education.

“She grew it to an outstanding size, and then COVID-19 hit, and decimated us. We went from record numbers to literally nothing,” MacKenzie-Thurley said.

In her new position, Rowekamp will oversee all educational programs both at the Fitton Center and out in the community.

Most recently, the Fitton Center has been active in area community events such as the Liberty Township Fall Festival and Breakfast at the North Pole, Operation Pumpkin, Music on Main and the Hamilton Tree Lighting.

Because of her background as an artist, Rowekamp said she brings a fresh perspective to the role, such as creating new opportunities for artists, or looking at barriers to entry in the arts.

With the assistance of Caroline Digiovenale, the Fitton Center’s newly appointed education and community experience coordinator, the Fitton Center’s outreach program has grown to support regular programming five days a week across six partner locations in Butler County.

Educational workshops have been added to engage and connect with others in the community, including two culturally focused programs with Salvation Army and Living Waters, to name a few.

“What we’ve been doing recently is working with new community partners to see where there’s a need we can fill. We just started a partnership with Saint Aloysius, for example, so we are there twice a week offering classes to their students,” Rowekamp said.

She said the Fitton Center’s in-house educational programming also continues to thrive with a record number of 256 students in the current class session.

“Not only has Kate been able to help us weather the storm, but our numbers have come back, and they’ve grown. I’m incredibly proud of that, and that’s a testament to Kate, our fantastic instructors, and facilities team, and the work that they’ve done,” MacKenzie-Thurley said.

He said the Fitton Center at its core is about education and outreach, and that has always been a focus for everyone on the team. Members and students have also continued to support that mission.

“We’ve continued to do that at one of the most challenging times in the arts ever, and have succeeded incredibly well,” MacKenzie-Thurley said.

Rowekamp said the increased numbers are due to several factors. People are more comfortable going out now, and they are looking for things to do. There has also been an increased awareness of the Fitton Center across the community.

The week of the shutdown, the Fitton had completed its highest number of class registrations ever with 180 students of all ages enrolled. However, all classes, workshops and programs had to be canceled due to COVID-19.

With support from the City of Hamilton and the broader community, classes, workshops and camps were able to re-start in June of 2020 with reduced class sizes, social distancing and masks, but only 35 students were able to return to Summer Camps.

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