By Kimberly Nicoletti
Kate Hudnut was nominated by her peers and received our annual 2018 Woman Who Rock the Rockies award!
In 1994, Kate Hudnut seemed an unlikely candidate to fall in love with mountain life —much less become such an integral part of the nonprofit, and for-profit, workings of Summit County. She lived a cosmopolitan city life in Paris for four years, with John Hudnut, the artist she met in another bustling city, at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Then, one September day in 1994, John — her boyfriend at the time — accepted a job as a glass blower at a gallery in Breckenridge. She gave the living-in-a-relatively-remote-mountain-town gig one month — she just didn’t believe she’d find work in her career as a graphic designer, and plus, her heart wasn’t in the mountain culture — yet.
“I’m a city girl,” she says, “but I found kindred spirits here.”
Kate arrived in Summit County found a job at Kinkopf Gallery in Breckenridge and then moved on to Keystone for a position as a graphic designer where she moved up to Senior Designer/Creative Services Senior Manager at Vail Resorts. Kate not only found a job her field of work, but also established roots in Summit County’s nonprofit world, which she continues to deepen.
A mountain career woman
At Keystone, she discovered she loved both the artistic aspect of marketing and figuring out how to attract more visitors and seeing “real deliverables that affect the bottom line,” she says. She remained with the ski area through its ownership transition from Ralston to Vail Resorts.
In 2004, she began her own graphic design business. By then, she specialized in branding and large-scale projects. She thrived on “big picture thinking,” which enabled a variety of businesses to expand. In her 25 years as a graphic designer, she never showed her resume; she grew her business through word-of-mouth and building relationships.
“I really preferred working in the local market — finding what resonates with our community and what our community needs — and seeing how things tied back to the greater good of the community,” she says.
She also provided marketing for the GatherHouse Inc., which John opened in 2003 to create his unique glasswork.
Volunteerism: the heart of action
She and John married in 1997, and while they solidified their life together and she advanced her career, she also placed a great emphasis on volunteering.
“Volunteering was part of my upbringing,” she says. “My parents were always involved as volunteers in their community, so I got involved here from the beginning. For me, it’s giving back to the community that’s been so good to us.”
She began with organizations like Summit County Arts Council and also served on the Town of Breckenridge Public Art Commission (BPAC).. After she and John had a daughter, she became more involved in schools, from Little’ Red Schoolhouse to nearly every committee at Dillon Valley Elementary, to, currently, being a board member of the Summit School District. In-between, she volunteered for the Family Intercultural Resource Center (FIRC) by sitting on the board, organizing the Adopt an Angel program and working as a consultant.
“On the board of directors, I loved the conversations, and at FIRC it was all about supporting families,” she says.
Kate feels passionate about expanding dual-language learning in the district. Through her involvement with FIRC and dual-language, she hopes “to help bring a voice for the underserved community, (particularly) on the north end of Summit County, that doesn’t have a voice.”
As of February 2018, when FIRC hired her to manage their Dillon and Breckenridge thrift stores — which provide a quarter of FIRC’s funding — she has spent 30 hours a week improving guests’ retail and customer service experience, as well as increasing profit without raising prices (and in many cases, lowering prices).
“I haven’t left my graphic design business, but I am investing time in an organization that I’m really passionate about,” she says. For the past three years Kate has worked closely with Robb Woulfe at Breckenridge Creative Arts to assist them in building their brand and continues to be passionate about that project.
She knows how the thrift stores provide a community outlet for seniors seeking social interaction, for newcomers searching for housing and for people to generally come together.
“It’s a hub, especially in the Latino community,” she says. “It’s the heart and soul of the FIRC.
“I feel that people who live in Summit County are more connected — a lot of us live here without families, so we somehow lean in more and support each other. There’s this sense of closeness; shared challenges bring us closer. We support each other. We’re kind of hardy souls.”
She admits she has a propensity to overcommit herself, but her community work — nonprofit or not — is part of her fiber, she says.
Rejuvenation and Inspiration
Hailing from Kate’s city-girl yearnings, Kate, John and their daughter Charlotte (12), have made travelling a priority, primarily because it fuels their souls. They thrive on emerging themselves in different cultures. Note the photo taken of Kate by her daughter Charlotte in Paris!
“Those are things we need to seek out to nurture our creative inspiration,” she says.
Through her dedication to nonprofits, her great talent as a graphic designer, and involvement in outdoor activities from cross-country skiing to hiking, Kate has assimilated into a mountain community that satisfies her just as much as city life. Meanwhile, Summit County has greatly benefitted from her work.