Board of Directors profile – Kevin Ruddell, SANCA’s Board President

Meet Kevin Ruddell, SANCA’s Board President

Kevin joined SANCA’s Board of Directors in the fall of 2019, but he and his family have been a part of our SANCA community since our early days. Kevin retired from the world of writing software in 1997 to be an at-home dad. Kevin previously served on the Board of Northwest Girlchoir for seven years, including two years as Board President. He has degrees in Physics and Computer Science. During his twenties, his creative outlet was Modern Dance, and he is pleased to now find artistic expression in circus. Kevin also enjoys photography and took formal and performance photographs for Northwest Girlchoir for many years, and several of his photos from SANCA’s flying trapeze tent have appeared on the SANCA website. Other hobbies include Alpine skiing, open water swimming, martial arts, hiking, travelling, and languages (French, Italian; some Spanish, Mandarin, Vietnamese; a little Latin, Irish, Japanese, Icelandic, German, Greek, Esperanto).

SANCA: How did you become involved with SANCA?

Kevin: A friend told us about SANCA and we came to the first open house. There, we tried some wire walking and met the friendly people.

SANCA: How has SANCA impacted your life?

Kevin: Our kids did camps and classes for many years, including 6 years of weekly flying trapeze. They developed self-assurance through developing physical skills. My son did a year with the P3 program, which involved a lot of consistent work, culminating in a final performance, of which he was justifiably proud.

After watching my kids’ classes for many years, I signed up for an aerial class in 2013 and gradually began training more intensively, specializing in corde lisse. I have performed several times since, both with SANCA and with other groups. It has given me a means of creative expression which I had been missing for many years. I’ve also taken several trampoline classes and Cyr wheel lessons.

SANCA: Do you have a favorite circus discipline?

Kevin: Corde lisse.

SANCA:  What circus skill have you learned that you’re most proud of?

Kevin: A few years ago, my coach asked me what I wanted to work on. My answer was unclear, but he thought I wanted to work on the hipkey climb, so he demonstrated a beautiful, flowing hipkey climb. This seemed way beyond what I could do then and I was impressed that he thought me capable of such a thing. I studied the video of his demonstration and practiced, and a few weeks later I was able to do a rudimentary form of hipkey climb. This was a milestone for me. It seemed like walking into a wall and passing right through it.

SANCA: What inspired you to serve SANCA’s community as a Board Member?

Kevin: In 2019, Dan Bridge, then Interim Executive Director, asked me to join the Board. Dan and I knew each other from working together years before, so I listened when Dan told me he thought I could be of some help to SANCA. SANCA is a force for good in the community and I was more than happy to see if I could help it develop further.

SANCA: We’re facing challenges now with the COVID-19 pandemic. How has your view of SANCA’s role as an arts organization in Seattle changed or been influenced by this challenge?

Kevin: SANCA has been trying to continue to provide a place where people can experience the joys of circus arts, but it has been really difficult because of the dangers to staff and students from COVID. I’ve been very impressed by the creativity that SANCA has shown in launching the Circus at Home online classes series so that people still have access to their beloved circus classes. Our staff have also gone to tremendous effort to modify the facility so that we can offer limited, socially distant, small classes in our large facility. We’re following King County and the State’s guidelines for Phase 2 re-openings. Many people are anxious because of the pandemic, and SANCA helps by providing an environment for constructive growth for people, which is really good for our mental health.

SANCA: Given the recent incidents of injustice and racism, and long-standing inequities that are profoundly affecting black and brown people right now, do you have thoughts on how the arts in general, and SANCA in particular, can support efforts for justice and equity?

Kevin: Black people have experienced persecution for a very long time in this country, continuing to the present day. SANCA needs to make an environment where Black people feel safe, important, and included at SANCA. Prior to COVID, SANCA had already started new efforts to do this with the formation of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team. It’s led by staff members who are people of color, and they are developing action recommendations for SANCA — including a few that we’re already in the process of implementing, like sharing the stories of our BIPOC staff, students, and artists. We’ll start seeing those stories in the SANCA newsletter and with regular social media postings on Tuesdays.

Interview by Jeff Deveaux, Development Director