With its 10th anniversary just around the corner, the Wildling Art Museum in Los Olivos is welcoming a new executive director just in time for the celebration.

Stacey Otte, who has been the executive director of the Catalina Island Museum for 10 years, has been hired as the new executive director of the Wildling starting in February. “I love the combination of fine art and preserving the wilderness,” Otte said. “Plus, I’m excited to be part of such a neat community.”

Penny Knowles has been the executive director of the Wildling for the past nine years and will continue to work with art at the museum. The Wildling specializes in environmental and wilderness art.

Otte grew up in Missouri and received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Arizona State University, where she focused on museum studies. But it wasn’t until she interned with the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., that she realized it was a possible career path. “I fell in love and thought, ‘This is it,’” she said.

After getting her master’s degree in museum studies from Cooperstown Graduate Program in Cooperstown, N.Y. and after serving internships at other art centers and museums, Otte began specializing in collections.

“I loved being able to directly handle and work with both art and history that represent the past and culture of that area,” she said. Otte was originally the manager of collections at the Catalina Island Museum, which focuses on the history and culture of Catalina Island. While there, she also organized art exhibits such as the annual Catalina Pottery and Tile Extravaganza and the Plein Air Art exhibition.

Otte has also held positions at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo., the Leicestershire Museums in Leicester, England, and the Temple Historical Museum in Tempe, Ariz.

Now Otte prefers the administrative side of museum work such as fundraising and communications. And as the new executive director of the Wildling, she will be looking for new marketing partnerships and expanding museum visitation, she said. Patti Jacquemain, president of the Wildling’s board of directors and the founder of the museum, is excited to introduce Otte to the community upon her arrival in February.

“With her experience and enthusiasm, we think she will take the museum to a new level,” Jacquemain said. Besides being excited about her new position, Otte also can’t wait to be part of the community.

“When I visited in June, I fell in love with the area,” she said. “Combining horse country and wine country is very exciting for me.”

She currently is looking for housing in the Valley, where she plans to move with her cats and rescued greyhound, Romey. You may even spot her at the Solvang Greyhound Fest in February, she said.