As a teenager, Kate Luchini gave new meaning to life as an active high school student. Art fed her soul, and she feasted wherever she could. An honors student at Marblehead High School, Luchini was allowed to double up on art classes. She discovered that Montserrat College of Art in Beverly offered evening classes, so Luchini and a friend drove there to take life drawing. On Saturdays, she squeezed in an art class at Massachusetts College of Art (now Massachusetts College of Art and Design) in Boston.
You might think Luchini would express a bit of surprise recalling what she accomplished as a young person, but she simply voices gratitude. “I think that’s one of the great things about this area,” she says. “You have this abundance of resources and a lot of opportunity.”
Today Luchini continues to thrive through art, this time by working to help Lynn develop a profile as an arts community. As the director of the Downtown Lynn Cultural District and an enamel artist herself, Luchini brims with enthusiasm about helping Lynn transform from its postindustrial identity into a vibrant cultural enclave.
“We’re really focusing on building an audience with consistent, high-quality programs and promoting the cultural and artistic assets,” Luchini says. One is Arts After Hours, a downtown theatre company that presented Romeo and Juliet this past summer in an unexpected place— the historic Pine Grove Cemetery. “It’s pioneering,” she says, “wide open for people to create all kinds of unique art and art engagement.”
Luchini just started her directorship in May, but she was already engaged in the art culture as the director of Experiential Learning at Montserrat, a position she still holds. Previously, she was executive director of Lynn Museum/LynnArts, a community arts center. She is especially proud to have teamed with Lynn’s Economic Development Industrial Corporation and city government to win recognition from the Massachusetts Cultural Council as one of the first Cultural Districts in the state. “We were one of the first five that went to the Mass Cultural Council to get the designation,” she recalls. Building on this momentum, Luchini says Lynn is well on its way to riding a crest in arts development. “It’s been amazing to see the changes in the district, the evolution of downtown Lynn,” she says.
Even before high school, Luchini had wanted to be an artist. Her single mother had other ideas. She had worked her way through law school while Luchini and her brother were in school, and she wanted her only daughter to be more practical. “She was an incredible role model,” Luchini says. “She wanted me to have a secure future.” (Her mother, Anne Gugino-Carrigan, practices law in Lynn.) So after high school, Luchini headed to the University of Chicago as a student of International Relations. After she tapped out the roster of art classes at the prestigious university, she was stonewalled; her mother encouraged her to transfer. En route to the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she got her BA in sculpture, Luchini worked in Santa Fe with an American Indian metalworker and blacksmith. “I was lucky to have a lot of opportunity,” she says.
Today, Luchini works as an artist at a studio she shares with her business partner, Tim Hansen, in the Lydia Pinkham building, where she creates enamel jewelry and housewares—work that keeps her in touch with her artistic spirit.
Before Lynn began its arts revitalization, things were bumpy for the city. At the turn of the 20th century, it was the shoe capital of the world and home to General Electric. But the city has struggled over the last few decades, Luchini says. Now, she feels it’s starting to turn around. “We’re right on the ocean, we have a 2,200-acre woods reservation, beautiful architecture, a train. It’s poised with all these assets. You feel the momentum.”