The Milton Artists’ Guild has hired its fifth employee, Jessie Swétel, to take the reins as executive director.

“We chose her because she has demonstrated leadership skills,” MAG president Gisela Alpert said. “She’s a great people person.”

The interview process was a lengthy one, according to Alpert. The position attracted applicants from across the U.S., but MAG board members selected Swétel, a Miltonian who has chaired the guild’s workshop committee for a year.

“Knowing her so well … she’s proven we can count on her,” Alpert said.

Swétel’s position will see her engaging the community and marketing the guild to reach untapped markets. She’ll help with fundraising efforts and programming as well. Her main task will be growing the nonprofit which currently has 200 members and about 100 exhibiting artists.

“It’s still kind of feeling a little surreal,” Swétel said. “But it’s sinking in that this is a real thing that’s happening.”

Swétel, a Vermont native with a bachelor’s degree in animal science from the University of Vermont, left the state after graduation to pursue an internship with the Columbus Zoo. Her father’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease brought her back home to help her parents run their trophy and engraving shop. While Swétel envisioned lending a hand for one year, she stayed in the shop for eight.

“While I love it, I have other passions I wanted to follow,” she said, adding she applied for the executive director position with her mother’s blessing.

Swétel brings with her experience creating art using various media. She likes to think of herself as an “artistic dabbler and tinkerer.”

Additionally, her years in the trophy shop as well as experience with the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce and Women Business Owners’ Network Board of Directors have taught her business savoir faire.

While Swétel will have an office at the guild’s gallery, she envisions herself spending considerable time in the community fostering connections like those the organization has made with Milton Community Youth Coalition and the town’s recreation department.

Her biggest priority is helping people understand the guild’s mission. Many Miltonians either don’t know the gallery exists or believe it’s only open to members, Swétel said. She’s hoping to change this and welcome more local art enthusiasts into the space.

“This is a really cool organization that fills a really important niche,” Swétel said. “Having access to affordable [art] workshops and classes … in the community is a really cool benefit and important.”

The job, she said, will echo the creativity of art. Swétel said it’s exciting to get involved with the MAG when it’s looking to grow: “I know I’m in a place where creative thinking is highly valued and common,” she said.

Swétel is confident her science background and art acumen will help her approach challenges in a unique way and make positive changes at the MAG.

“I’ve always tested a very dual brained person,” she said. “I love finding the random connections in the pile of stuff.”

According to Alpert, the MAG wants to create more public art this year and is also investigating the possibility of adding a café to its gallery space.

“This art center and gallery is essential for the economic growth of Milton,” she said. “We really would like to focus on growing it to a higher level and making sure that people know that we’re here.”

Alpert looks forward to seeing Swétel become the “face of the MAG” and devoting her time to improving the space for artists and Miltonians alike.

“If we can achieve everything I’m going to try to [achieve], we’ll see a lot of differences and a lot of changes coming to this place,” Swétel said.

A celebratory meet-and-greet will be held for Swétel on Thursday, Feb. 21 from 5 to 6 p.m. at the MAG center.