Flipping the switch from chemistry to art
By Lisa Barry, Contributing Writer
Northborough- “This is like dessert; after you have done all of the work, I can sit here and I can soak it all in,” Northborough resident Phil Knudsen said about his recent career change.
After a long career in research chemistry, Knudsen retired and accepted his current position as director of Amazing Things Arts Center in Framingham in January.
“I was very happy for him to have the opportunity to do something very different with the other side of his life,” his wife, Patricia, said. Recognizing that chemistry and art are far opposites, Patricia added that her husband was “sort of dual-brained,” with the ability to succeed in either field.
As the only full-time employee of the arts center, which is run primarily with volunteers, Phil works diligently to book a variety of performers at the center. Guests have included performing artists in jazz, blues, cabaret, folk, country, comedy and swing. In addition, three to four theater productions are scheduled annually.
“I love meeting all of these people,” he said, citing that as a highlight of his job. “It expands my circle of friends; everyone is so different.”
The Knudsens have been deeply involved in the music scene in Framingham and nearby towns for more than 30 years. Sharing a mutual interest and talent in performing folk music, it is through their personal local performances and volunteer services that they made many contacts in the industry.
In March 2012, the idea of taking the director position was presented to Phil for the first time.
He said the very first thing he had to do was present the idea to his wife for her opinion. Her words, he recalled, were “Let’s figure out how to make it happen.”
Patricia noticed a difference in her husband almost immediately.
“It’s a return to the Phil that I knew in the younger days. It’s refreshing to see him happier again,” she said.
“There is definitely a learning curve,” Phil noted. “It wasn’t unexpected with such a career change.”
Though he acknowledges that that there is still stress involved with his new job, he said it is a different kind of stress. He added that “all of the wonderful people” he works with on a daily basis give him such a desire to continue pushing forward with the arts center.
“He’s got different concerns now because he’s in transition, and he is learning a whole new way of structuring his life,” Patricia said.
As Framingham continues to grow with different cultural and age groups, Phil has plans to continue to evolve the arts center to accommodate for the changing demographic. Playing a supporting role to the city to promote a stronger arts scene is on the horizon for Amazing Things Arts Center if things go as he hopes they will.
“We want to see how we can be a catalyst for downtown revitalization,” he added.
As he continues to settle in to his new life, he looks forward to being an active part of a growing arts scene for years to come.
“We just celebrated 30 years of marriage at the end of January,” Patricia said. “I’m so excited to see him use his skill set and his gift to do something that is going to fulfill him for the rest of his life.”
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