Katie Wengert
Katie Wengert

Tell me about yourself.

I grew up in Des Moines. My parents are very civic-minded; my mom in particular has been really involved in the arts. She founded Des Moines Ballet in the late 1970s and was really involved with the restoration of the Capitol. So I guess it’s all a process of becoming my mother: to do things that I feel that I’m giving back to the community and making credible contributions in particular to culture and the arts. I hope I can increase the awareness for this beautiful facility.

So you’re fitting in well?

I think it was a good fit for Salisbury in that I’ve lived here for most of my life, though I hopscotched around the country with my husband for quite a few years. This is the neighborhood that I grew up in, and my son goes to school a couple of blocks away. I actually live in Clive. When we were looking for a new house, we looked in this neighborhood, but it was back when housing was still at its peak. So we waved the white flag and moved further into the suburbs. It’s been a good choice for us for a lot of reasons.

Tell me about your experience with Sticks Inc.

We saw it in Providence, R.I., and Newport and New York and Boston, and when I came back, that’s how I actually stumbled into my position at Sticks. I worked there for 7 1/2 years and just had a great experience, made a lot of friends. It was really hard to leave because it became like my family … but it was time for me to kind of take a pause. My little boy was getting ready to start kindergarten in the fall, so if nothing else, I just wanted to take the summer and be a mom.

Are you an artist?

No; I took art in high school. My mom is an artist. And my sister who passed away when I was growing up, she was an art major at Iowa State. Actually, there is a scholarship in my sister’s name at Iowa State. I believe in art just because of my connection with my sister and my mom and feel really fortunate to have worked with such creative people at Sticks, too.

Have you set any goals for the year?

I would like to further awareness of the Salisbury House & Gardens. I’ve walked by this house on endless occasions. But walking through it, I was truly amazed at what’s inside these four walls. And I didn’t know the story of Carl Weeks, so I’d really like to make sure people know who Carl Weeks was and what he accomplished.

Tell me a story about Carl Weeks.

I actually worked in the buying office for cosmetics at Younkers for a couple of off seasons when my husband was still playing baseball, and I did not know that Carl Weeks was the person who brought cold cream and face powder to the United States, right here in Des Moines. We are known as the insurance capital. Actually, the origins of cosmetics come back to Des Moines as well. … I definitely would love to see families come and bring their kids here to tour the museum or for their child’s birthday party, so that families know that this is a place where they can get involved and get engaged. Having gone to the Science Center (of Iowa) for preschool, I think that is why I was involved with them later in life. Or having danced when I was a child, I think that is part of why I was involved with (Ballet Des Moines) later in life. So I think it’s really important for kids to get engaged with these kinds of places when they’re young, because I think it gives them a lifelong relationship with museums and culture.

What do you do for fun?

I love going on walks, I love going to movies and I spend a ton of time with family.

Does the Salisbury House have a bat cave?

There is an underground tunnel, and the first day they were walking me through, Kerry Johnson, who takes care of the building and the grounds, said, “Hey, have you ever seen a red-fanged bat?” And I said, “No, I’m going to go ahead and take a pass; I’ll look at the tunnel another day.” So they actually had to have someone come out and set him free. It goes from underneath the terrace into the basement.