Iowa State student headed for the international art world of Sotheby's

AMES, Iowa -- She may have started elementary school with a speech disability, but Kate Brown is ending up right where she wants to be--on the threshold of a career in the international art world. After graduating from Iowa State University on May 10, the Hixson Scholar from Odebolt heads to Sotheby's Institute of Art in London for her master's degree.

Although Brown will take a side trip to exhibit at the 2008 Des Moines Arts Festival in June (the jury named her an Emerging Iowa Artist), she has no "desire to be the starving artist."

"I honestly need to create art to settle myself," she said. "It's kind of a grounding point for me to not get all chaotic."

Instead, Brown will use her integrated studio arts major and French minor to pursue preventive art conservation, a career within the curatorial area. It involves proper care and handling of works of art during storage, transport and exhibition to minimize deterioration and damage. Brown is interested in curating photography.

"A lot of conservation methods for photography are very invasive or actually involve recreating a brand new photo. But then you lose the original photo's 'moment' --the historical aura that happens when a new image is created," Brown said, who believes art is essential to record social history.

"Art talks about the fringes of society that a lot of history doesn't address," she said. "I'd really like to see that preserved and conserved for future generations."

Art has been Brown's passion since second grade, about the same time her teacher complained about her speech impediment. Since preschool, Brown had been in speech therapy to overcome a malfunctioning tongue muscle.

"In the beginning stages of speech, my back tongue muscle never fully developed. So I didn't have the strength to push my back tongue forward to create words," she said.

Brown endured 14 years of speech therapy to correct the problem. During the weekly--sometimes daily--sessions, she worked on exercises to strengthen her back tongue muscle. The therapist pressed tongue depressors on the back of her tongue, and she'd press back.

By the time Brown was in middle school, the impairment started to fade. But she sounded like she had a strong accent which prompted people to ask where she was from. And then there were the prejudices.

"If you can't speak correctly, people assume you're not very smart," she said.

Brown was certainly smart enough to go to college. But she couldn't afford it without a scholarship. She applied for more than 60, nearly giving up hope by her senior year. But one came through.

"I got the Hixson and that was it! The scholarship was a lifesaver," she said.

Iowa State awards the Christina Hixson Opportunity Award to one student in each county who has faced challenges of personal and/or financial hardship, and has shown the potential to succeed.

And, maintaining the Hixson Scholar academic standards and behavioral expectations also helped her obtain other scholarships. She received Roy J. Carver Scholarships, a Study Abroad Scholarship to spend a summer in an immersive French program in Lyon, France, and a College of Design Rome Scholarship for a semester of study abroad.

The Hixson program also offers seminars, activities and resources that inspire leadership and provide a community of friends. The program support, Brown says, "has made a world of difference."

She credits the Hixson program with helping prepare her for her "greatest accomplishment," as fine arts director on the Student Union Board. She installed art exhibits; organized, promoted and installed three student juried exhibits; created the Art Stops Hunger Charity Event; produced ISU Project Runway; and organized Kids Art Day at the Memorial Union terrace.

It has helped her experience the "other side" of art. And that's the side of art she's about to enter.