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Have You Met?

When you meet Natalie Rekstad-Lynn, her exquisite style and vibrant personality just shines through. Natalie is the founder of Denver’s premier art event, Salon d’Arts, a fine art exhibition and sale that has strengthened the cultural development and climate of our city. Salon is about to be produced for its fourth year at the Colorado History Museum.

Natalie has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Even as a child, she organized fairs and events in her neighborhood. “I’d call the local grocery stores to talk them into donating soda for the fairs. I’d charge a nickel a soda, showed the neighborhood kids a great time, and turned a nice profit that I donated to charity.” Natalie laughs.

Natalie is a self-made woman. She grew up humbly as one of five children of a single mother. Times weren’t easy, but Natalie always had an enthusiastic zest for life and an appreciation of the type of society and country we live in that allows us the freedom of expression. Natalie knew early on that with sincerity, hard-work, and doing what she loved the most, she could make magical things happen.

Salon d’ Art is magic in motion. Through the last four years, Natalie Rekstad-Lynn has created something of substance and value for the city of Denver, the art world, and many non-profit organizations. Natalie proudly says, “It is a pleasure to produce an exhibition of this magnitude.”

Natalie also is grateful for and thanks the generous artists, sponsors, and patrons of Salon. “It is a thrill to be a part of the solution to eradicate life-threatening illnesses and open doors for these extraordinary children.”

You grew up – and spent most of your life - in Washington, D.C., how did you end up making Colorado your home? I came to Colorado one winter to ski, and due to bad weather, my flight was cancelled. I’m not one to sit still, so I ventured out to check out the cultural sites of Denver. After visiting the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, I fell even more in love with the arts than I already was after seeing all that was available in Denver. I made a decision to relocate to Denver from D.C.

Tell us more about Salon d’Arts? Salon d’Arts is a fine art exhibition and sale of some of the most notable representational artists living today. It is designed in the tradition of the great European art salons of the late nineteenth century and serves as a public forum to experience nationally recognized artists’ work.

Salon has two distinct personas. One is the after-hours, "exclusive" side of Salon, with its patron reception, gala, and artwork sale featuring the work of museum held artists. While this aspect of Salon is important to attracting funding and artwork sales revenue, a large part of our identity is our work in the community. Over a three-week period, the exhibition is open to the public free of charge during regular museum hours, and is consistently full of visitors, and humming with activities like group tours, educational programs, bi-lingual programs, tactile tours for the visually impaired, children's programs, and more. It is this persona that is the heart of Salon d'Arts.

How do you choose the nonprofit organizations that will benefit from the money raised by Salon? It helps if the causes are close to my heart, as in the case of Colorado UpLIFT. There was a point in my life when I was considered “at risk” socially and economically, so UpLIFT’s mission really lands for me. For over 20 years, UpLIFT has empowered urban youth to lead successful lives emphasizing character, education, and attitude. They are working with over 3,000 youth in areas where the population is primarily comprised of single parent families living in low-income housing.

Another factor is participation by the beneficiaries. I want them to not only benefit from Salon financially, but to engage in its programs and events, which makes it more successful for all. By pooling the resources of three non-profits, we can achieve more than any of us could achieve on our own. For example, Webb-Waring Institute for Cancer, Aging, and Antioxidant Research doesn’t have an annual gala, so working with Salon is a great way to reach a new audience, and raise money for their groundbreaking research into treatment options for devastating diseases like cancer, diabetes, and HIV.

There are so many talented artists, how do you decide whose work will be shown at Salon? I solicit the input of an Artist Advisory Committee comprised of noteworthy international artists. They provide recommendations of their contemporaries, and I reserve final selection rights so that I can ensure a balanced exhibition. Foremost, artists are chosen based upon on long-term artistic significance and merit. Salon artists have work in major national collections, including Smithsonian National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian National Portrait Museum, Butler Institute, Denver Art Museum, and Philadelphia Art Museum.

What’s the best advice you have for an aspiring young, talented artist who would love for their work to be shown at Salon? There is a Salon exhibition called “Le Jeune Salon” (The Young Salon) that is curated by Ann Benson Reidy. This exhibition features artwork that is priced $1500 and under, so it is accessible to the beginning collector. Her experience in the art world is admirable, and I trust her sensibilities. From last year’s Le Jeune Salon I discovered Mark Nelson, a wonderful Denver-based young artist who is in this year’s main Salon exhibition.

What will we find you doing on one of your days off – if you ever get one? I have a seven-month old daughter, Sophie, so my time away from work is primarily spent with her doing all of the things babies and mommies love, like playing peek-a-boo, bathing, practicing her walking, and so on. My husband and I make a point of “date” night a couple of times a week so he and I will go out to dinner, a party, a concert, or the theatre. When the 2005 Salon winds down, and before the 2006 Exhibition ramps up, I will carve out more time for travel, which will hopefully include my beloved Paris.

What fundraising activities are you involved in at this time? Aside from Salon d’Arts, I just joined a steering committee for Denver Art Museum’s young philanthropy group. We are creating a level of giving for the younger-set that is generous, but provides a great deal of art-based education, travel, and social engagements for those of us who are already art enthusiasts, but want to learn more and do more with our passion in a compelling way. I’m happy that my efforts there will raise funds for DAM because it is a place where Baby Sophie will be spending a lot of time!

Who is your hero, and why? My husband Scott because he is a great husband, father and leader. I also admire my mother for raising five kids on her own. She is an inspiration also because now that she is retired, she is learning how to teach yoga to children and the elderly. I hope I remain a student my entire life also.

When you were a little girl, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up? I didn’t have anything in mind really, but the precursor to my current occupation of curator was in first grade. It was when I could get your very own library card, and our local library had art reproductions that could be checked out. We had a rotating art collection at home! I also held backyard fairs that raised money for starving children in Africa. After a 17-year detour into Corporate America, I find it interesting that my first passions for philanthropy and fine art have come together with the founding of Salon.

What is a moment in your life you will never forget? Walking the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival with my best friend, Susan. It was surreal -- our images overhead on a big screen, and the paparazzi shouting to get our attention for photographs. I was a little worried about those stairs into the Palais at the end of the red carpet, but I managed not to trip. It is a wonderful memory because I was with a dear friend of 20 years, and it was on one of our birthday trips that we take annually.

What do you most value in your friends? Humor, intelligence, integrity, discretion, and occasional bawdiness.

What is one thing nobody knows about you? A little known fact is that my spiritual beliefs are based in eastern philosophies.

What do you like most about yourself? My perseverance and resourcefulness. I have a lot of confidence in my ability to make things happen that are “impossible.”

What do you like least about yourself? I have workaholic tendencies. Baby Sophie is teaching me about balance.

What makes you laugh? Baby Sophie makes me laugh when she is “playing” her little pink piano -- she bangs on it while squealing and kicking her legs while sitting on the tiny little stool. My friend Joy gave the piano to her along with a pink feather boa, and she is quite a sight. All she needs now are pink rhinestone sunglasses, and the picture will be complete.

What makes you cry? Hearing about abuse to children or animals.

What is your greatest indulgence? Acquiring fine art.

What do you consider your proudest achievements? A happy marriage, amazing friends, and Salon d’Arts, particularly its community outreach component.

What is your advice for a happy marriage? Admit when you screwed up, and apologize. Do things to make each other feel special and loved.

Which of your projects have you found particularly challenging? I’ve been a “big sister” to an at-risk youth since 1996. While it has been a wonderful experience overall, her early teenage years were difficult. She has now blossomed into a terrific young lady.

What is your favorite clothing store? Galeries Lafayette in Paris because they have everything from the best designer labels to street-level stuff, but the amazing part is the interior architecture – a Tiffany stained glass ceiling hovering over ornately railed floors ascending the atrium. I bought my wedding dress there the day after Scott proposed!

Which one word describes you best? Tenacious.

If your life were a movie, what actress would best play you? Cate Blanchett -- she is a great actress and attractive in a non-Hollywood way.

Who is the most interesting celebrity you’ve ever met? Pope John Paul II. He radiated intelligence and love, but there was also a hint of mischievousness.

What is your most treasured possession? Material possession? Richard Schmid painted my portrait – it is powerful. He is basically the John Singer Sargent of our day. Sitting for the portrait and interacting with him is also a treasured memory.

What is your personal motto - or favorite quote? “The impossible just takes a little longer.”

What is the best advice your Mom/Dad ever gave you? My mother told me that if you snoop, you will never find anything that will make you happy.

If you could go back in time and do something differently, what would it be? I would have lived in Europe in my early twenties. The first time I went was until the money ran out, which was only five weeks. I wish I had taken a job I was offered and lived there for at least a year.

Aside from your family, tell me what you love the most? Art of course! And my dog Singer. She’s a black German Shepherd and is named after John Singer Sargent.

What is your current state of mind? Sleep deprived but happy.

Is there somewhere other than Denver you would like to live? Maybe someday? Paris is my favorite city in the world. It would be wonderful to spend a serious block of time there some day.

What is something you would still like to learn to do – like play an instrument, learn a certain language? I would love to take acting classes this summer or fall. I think it would be fun to be involved in community theatre someday.

What would you like to leave behind for future generations, or what would you like to be remembered for? I would like to be remembered for making a difference in the lives of children through art, and for inspiring “at risk” kids with my story, and encouraging them to rise above their circumstances.