RapidChat: Carroll Velie on her new 'encore career' with the GRAM

After 31 years at Varnum LLP, Carroll Velie was ready for lazy unscheduled days, traveling, and better exercise clothes. But before her final curtain call, Carroll is giving one last performance within her "encore career" as Manager of Fundraising Events at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.
Rapid Growth: Tell us more about your ‘encore career’ with the GRAM.

Carroll Velie: After 31 years in a human resources leadership role with Varnum LLP I gracefully retired, ready for lazy unscheduled days, traveling, and better exercise clothes. I always knew I would do something else; I was exploring a variety of avenues and came upon this part time job at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

RG: Is this a new or existing role you're moving into?

CV: A new part-time role.

RG: What attracted you to the GRAM after being with Varnum LLP for 31 years?

CV: The mission of GRAM (connecting people through art, creativity, and design), inspirational leadership, culture of teamwork, the opportunity to learn and contribute knowledge, and passion for community. And, I love a good party!

RG: How will you build up fundraising programs and attract new audiences?

CV: Adding community corporate knowledge and perspective of who might want to be involved in GRAM’s events that have not necessarily been in the past, including diverse groups.

Bringing in those new to Grand Rapids through corporate relationships, enhancing retention efforts of employers.

The Grand Rapids Art Museum is committed to engaging all people through its donor outreach, programming, and exhibitions. One example is GRAM’s fall exhibition David Wiesner & The Art of Wordless Storytelling, which will offer ‘art adoption’ opportunities for works in the exhibition, priced at various levels to appeal to a wide array of audiences—grandparents, families, etc.

RG: What other things does the advancement team focus on?

CV: Grant writing and reporting to community and national foundations, individual and corporate fundraising, building donor relationships, museum membership, and more.

RG: Do you have a favorite artist or type of art?

CV: Varnum has a wonderful art collection that was curated over the years by Dirk Hoffius and Dan Molhoek. They introduced me to the amazing talent of Michigan artists, primarily contemporary art but not exclusively, and let me be a tie-breaking member of their art committee.

Scott and Linda LaFontsee, who we are honoring with our Live Artfully event in September, have been another great source of honing an appreciation for art.

RG: Why do you feel that it’s important to support art in your community?

CV: The Grand Rapids Art Museum provides an inclusive gathering space in our community. Through innovative exhibitions, collections, and thought-provoking learning opportunities, GRAM strives to foster new conversations and participatory experiences for all.

RG: What are you looking forward to most this summer with the GRAM?

CV: Preparations are in full swing this summer for our annual Live Artfully Dinner on September 13, honoring Linda and Scott Lafontsee. In addition to working on a wonderful celebration for the Lafontsees, I’m looking forward to catching a concert or two at GRAM on the Green, the Museum’s annual free summer concert series.

RG: What personally inspires you to stay connected to the community?

CV: I am inspired and energized by the openness and collaboration that is inherent in the community today. It feels like there is a shared desire to make this community a thriving, inclusive home for everyone. I am warmed by the number of young people, particularly women, entering senior corporate and government positions. And more generally, it seems like there is a sense that if we work and care together, we can achieve change.  

Jenna K. Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.
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