Nicolle LaFleur is the new executive director for the Nemeth Art Center.

Michael Dagen, who served as director for four years, resigned in September for other pursuits.

LaFleur, her husband and two daughters returned to live on LaFleur's family homestead, north of Snellman, in November. In December, she was hired at the Nemeth.

LaFleur's professional background is in nonprofit management.

"It was focused initially on humanitarian aid. I was doing work with UNICEF, International Red Cross and other child welfare agencies. I was going wherever there were crises," she said of the decade spent overseas and living in Beijing, China.

For the past four-and-a-half years, LaFleur worked at a regional museum and cultural center in Washington.

"Moving back to the Great White North is really fun for me because it connects me to my family heritage," LaFleur said. "I grew up coming to the lake and the woods here. I spent a lot of my summers, my holidays and my weekends trekking in the woods and swimming the lakes."

At the Nemeth, she said she's excited about engaging the community, engaging the mind and engaging the senses. "Getting people excited about not only what their local connection is, but seeing way beyond that. Because I'm a globetrotter, for me, being able to ties these things in a regional and local level is really exciting," she said.

The Nemeth is "a real asset" to the community, LaFleur said.

"What I love about the Nemeth is being able to, first of all, come back home and be immersed in the beautiful wilderness, but being able to also tie in exposure to high art, and really dive into something that is esthetic and stimulating," she said.

LaFleur plans to continue the 2nd Saturday Happenings, a live event featuring local artists, writers and musicians.

Interacting with schools and youth is another goal, involving local artists teaching hands-on art exploration to kids and centered around exhibits.

The Nemeth opens May 1.

The first exhibit, "Why Treaties Matter: Self-Government in the Dakota and Ojibwe Nations," is a is a nationally recognized, award-winning, traveling exhibit made in partnership with the Minnesota Humanities Center, Minnesota Indian Affairs Council and the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.

"So we're hoping to have involvement with the schools on that," LaFleur said.