Getting Personal: Kelly White

Getting Personal is an email Q&A with a local personality. Here, a chat with Kelly White, the executive director of 40 North 88 West, the Champaign County Arts Council, and an art history instructor at Parkland College.

What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?

Hmmm, I guess around 7 a.m., and the first hour usually involves showering, oatmeal ... and wishing I had scheduled a meeting later in the day.

What did you have for lunch today? Where? With whom?

I am actually dog-sitting this week for an adorable dachshund named Dexter, so I went home for lunch to let him out.

Best high school memory?

Geez. That's a long time ago, and I'm not sure those memories are exactly appropriate for public consumption.

Tell me about your favorite pair of shoes.

Anything Dansko.

What does a perfect Sunday afternoon include?

Not having to do anything or be anywhere.

Was there one book you read as a child that you still cherish? Own? Read?

Picking one is tough, but a couple that truly stand out are "The Phantom Tollbooth" (the Doldrums completely freaked me out) and the "Malory Towers" series by Enid Blyton — the whole English boarding school thing completely captivated my little kid brain.

Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?

Italy! And I'm finally going this year! Oh, and the city of Colmar in France so I can experience the Isenheim altar piece by Matthias Grunewald.

Tell me about your favorite pet.

That would be my Ernie and Bert, two amazing gray kit cats that I got at the Champaign County Humane Society when I was in college. They were brothers who lived 18 years and died within months of each other.

Have you discovered that you are becoming like one of your parents? Which one and how?

I would be lucky to become like either of my parents, but funnily enough, I kinda think my dad is becoming more like me.

What would you order for your last meal?

Anything my mom makes.

What can you not live without?

OK, it sounds kind of expected, but I would have to say art. Creating it, reading about it, teaching it — it's where I always land.

Who do you have on your iPod?

I don't actually own an iPod — I just have a cheapy little MP3 player, and currently it is completely full of audio books, to which I have become addicted.

What's the happiest memory of your life?

Wow, that's a pretty heavy question. Too many from my childhood to choose from, but I do remember when I was doing my master's thesis research on a relatively unknown 19th-century artist, I came across her personal journal that someone had discovered untouched in their attic. It was amazing to realize that I was probably the first person to lay eyes on those pages since she had packed it away long ago. For days, I lost myself in her words and traveled back in time.

If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite?

Ah man, I can't decide. Jon Stewart would be great. Maybe Louis CK. Wes Anderson? Bill Viola? Jenny Saville. Yeah, I'll have to get back to ya on that one.

What's the best advice you've ever been given?

The less you want the more you have.

What's your best piece of advice?

Live and let live.

What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?

I was the dishwasher in the kitchen of a nursing home, and I probably made minimum wage.

What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?

Probably quitting my job and moving to Savannah, Ga., to pursue my master's degree. Admittedly, I should have arrived at that decision about five years earlier, but I am not exactly known for embracing change.

Do you have a bad habit? What is it?

Uh, yeah, pretty sure I have a bad habit. I procrastinate, talk too fast and have to have the TV on to go to sleep.

How do you handle a stressful situation?

Does anybody really want to know that? I make it work, but it's not always pretty.

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