Visionary Awards Honoree Kathie Winter Brings Passion, Heart and Financial Savvy to Arts Patronage
It’s hardly hyperbole to say that Kathie Winter has dedicated her life to helping others. Her first career was as a registered nurse, running operating rooms for a number of area hospitals. She left the health care field after 30 years—having worked her way up to the position of network vice president for SSM Health—then switched gears and became a financial advisor for the next 10 years, helping folks make their way through the financial wilderness, before retiring three years ago.
While she was working in these fields, Winter was also pursuing another calling: patron of the arts. Her interest began thanks to her husband, Richard, an avid art collector with a passion for the arts.
“The joke is that it got to the point that there was no more space for art on our walls, so I told him he should open an art gallery,” Winter says.
So the couple did just that, opening The Caitlyn Gallery in Clayton in the mid-1990s with a focus on contemporary international artists—particularly living artists who had established reputations in their own countries. The physical gallery has since closed, though it maintains an online presence. Winter says they’re working on finding a building in the Grand Center area to re-open the gallery, including a studio for up-and-coming artists.
The gallery experience jump-started Winter’s involvement in the local arts scene, both in partnership with her husband and solo. Her first foray, along with her husband, was sponsoring art exhibitions at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art via The Winter Family Foundation, an effort that continues to this day—the next exhibit is tentatively scheduled for 2020, featuring the work of Israeli sculptor Leon Bronstein.
Winter’s attention to detail and financial acumen from her time working in health care and finance have served her well in her mission to support the arts in all forms. Artists in all areas—from painters to musicians to sculptors to dancers—have benefited from her efforts—Winter has worked to raise funds and garner support for a diverse array of organizations and initiatives, ranging from Jazz at the Bistro to Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, and she has helped endow arts scholarships at Saint Louis University and the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
As she became further involved in the art community, Winter began focusing her attention on organizations that promote community outreach and make art accessible to everyone. “We want to have a thriving art community and have art reasonably available, so people can see performances and exhibits,” Winter says.
She also has a passion for groups that get kids interested in the arts as well as helping young artists interested in making a living through their art. “Kids don’t all learn the same way. Not everyone can memorize things out of a book,” she says. “Sometimes when you put things in a more creative format, they tend to get it easier. There are so many things that can be pulled out of art that help kids develop.”
To that end, Winter has become heavily invested Stray Dog Theatre over the last five years, serving on their board of directors. Winter says she was attracted to Stray Dog’s mission of community outreach and service, especially the group’s after-school programs that foster creativity in kids along with providing them a safe place.
Winter also serves on the board of The Big Muddy Dance Company. The organization helps young dancers who want to make art a career and also has a mission of community outreach, with various programs that take dance performance and education to senior-care facilities and help young dancers go from the classroom to the professional arena.
Winter’s philanthropic efforts also extend beyond the arts community. She’s on the board of St. Louis Arc, which supports those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and she and her husband will be chairs of the organization’s Superheroes for Kids fundraiser to be held on April 25. The Winters are also co-chairing the Care and Counseling 2019 Sunrise Gala on May 4, to raise funds to support that organization’s mental-health services.
So, after helping so many artists, both emerging and established, achieve success through her efforts, has Winter developed an artistic outlet of her own?
“I make a small attempt at playing piano,” she says. “I’ve recently gone back and started taking lessons, though I’m not quite ready for performance just yet!”
This is the fifth of a six-part series featuring the 2019 Visionary Awards for Women in the Arts honorees. The awards ceremony is April 22 at 6 p.m. in Grand Center’s Sun Theater. Tickets cost $50 and can be purchased online here.
Images courtesy of Diane Anderson.