Former educator and Red Wing Arts Association Executive Director Dan Guida, known for his active involvement throughout the community, died Wednesday at the age of 71.
RWAA Board Chair Chap Achen said in an emailed statement that without question, Guida's legacy has touched the lives of countless individuals in Red Wing and beyond.
"His dedication and passion for the arts, along with his compassion and unrelenting service to the community of Red Wing will be deeply missed," Achen said. "Dan was a friend to all and an advocate for many."
Raised on a dairy farm in Tyler, Minn., Guida served in the U.S. Army in South Korea during the Vietnam War before relocating to Red Wing in 1970 with his wife, Sandy. He began his long tenure with the Red Wing School District teaching geography at Twin Bluff Middle School. Guida earned a counseling degree and became one of the district's first deans in the late 1980s. He spent time at the Alternative High School and ultimately ended up in the district office writing grants and curriculum, retiring in 2003.
Guida enjoyed a short retirement before being recruited for the RWAA Board. When a vacancy arose in the executive director position, Guida stepped in under a temporary basis as the board searched for suitable candidates. Ultimately, Guida's status became permanent and under his direction the RWAA flourished.
"Dan Guida was a key figure in the blossoming of Red Wing as an arts community. He seemed to have an endless supply of ideas involving not only visual arts, but also music and theater," said retired Republican Eagle reporter Ruth Nerhaugen, who covered Guida in both of his careers. "Dan was able to bring together people and organizations to make those ideas reality. He helped make Red Wing a wonderful place to live as well as an attractive destination for visitors. We will miss his warm smile and unfailing good humor."
Guida stepped down as executive director in February after suffering a "brain bleed" stroke. As Guida recovered from the stroke, doctors determined its cause was a brain tumor. His daughter, Emily Foos, and her family relocated from Georgia back home to help Sandy with caregiving and assist the RWAA operations. Guida's son Eric, of Seattle, was also by his side in his final days.
"He was a kind and gentle man who has given so much of time, talent and caring to the people of Red Wing, particularly to our youth, the underserved and those in need," said Art Kenyon, a close friend of the Guida family. "Whether it was his family, the arts, PFLAG, diversity within the community or just reaching out to help a former student, Dan was always there for those who needed him. He was a humble, hard-working man who made beating the hardest of circumstances seem possible."
Guida's presence and influence will certainly be missed, but his legacy will remain visible through many projects for which he was an instrumental voice, including the Plein Air Art Festival, Veteran Arts Project sculpture in Levee Park, bringing Bill Habedank's carved pumpkin display to the Depot and his last project, the pollinator park and sculpture on the corner of Broad Street and Highway 61.
"Dan and I worked for many years together on the board of the Visitors and Convention Bureau, on projects involving the Red Wing Arts Association and the Sheldon Theatre, during his time on the Board of the Friends of the Sheldon, as colleagues laboring joyfully on numerous projects, and as friends," said Mayor Sean Dowse, who led the Sheldon Theatre for many years. "Dan helped make this city and my life richer in many ways: in tolerance, in understanding, in knowledge, in art, in friendship, in goodness, and in making this place on the river a home for all its citizens."