The board of the Averitt Center for the Arts has three finalists to choose from in the search for the Statesboro-based arts organization’s second-ever permanent executive director.
They are Jamie Grady of New York City, Bruce Marquis of Ashland, Kentucky, and Dawn Oliver of Statesboro.
Tim Chapman, the center’s executive director from its debut in 2004, oversaw the opening of the Emma Kelly Theater and adjacent main gallery on East Main Street, followed by the center’s growth as a centerpiece of Statesboro’s cultural life. He led on through the grand openings of the Center for Performing Arts on West Main Street in 2015 and the Roxie Remley Center for Fine Arts near City Hall in September 2016.
So Chapman’s departure last fall to become manager of the Carrollton Cultural Arts Center in Carrollton left the Averitt Center with a recently expanded footprint, along with a busy schedule of programs and classes and with studios available to working artists. But a capital fundraising campaign directed at the future was put on hold.
Last to visit
Grady, who introduced himself and took questions Tuesday afternoon inside the Emma Kelly Theater, was the last of the three finalists to visit Statesboro over the past two weeks. When talking to local people throughout the day, he tried not to make assumptions when asked what he would do in his first year, but some things had become pretty clear, he said.
“My first task is to get here, get out into the community, talk to as many stakeholders as possible, understand the partnerships that do exist, understand the partnerships that should exist perhaps, and to really look for the populations that aren't being served right now,” Grady said.
Since 2000, Grady has worked a consultant to various arts organizations. In 2016 he began serving as administrative leader for the Long Island Youth Orchestra. As a consultant to the New Jersey Ballet in 2014-15, he developed a fundraising plan and the organization’s first donor membership program.
He was executive director of the Mercyhurst University’s Institute for Arts and Culture in Pennsylvania from 2012 to 2014. In Ithaca, New York, from 1999 until 2005, Grady first served as managing director of a performance theater and then co-founded a nonprofit theatrical group. In 2011-2012, he worked in New Zealand, doing national fundraising for a political party and for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
His previous experience in the South was as managing director of Actor’s Express in Atlanta from 1995 to 1997 and development director of The Little Theatre of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 1997-1999.
His current consulting work leaves him wanting to devote his efforts to a single organization, such as the Averitt Center, he said.
“I want to get back to an organization that I can thing long-term about rather than just kind of solving problems,” Grady said.
He has a master’s degree in arts administration from Lesley College, a bachelor’s in business management from Bentley College and a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University.
The Statesboro Herald did not cover the other two finalists’ forums, but they returned phone calls.
On his interview visit, Marquis was impressed with the community and observed that both Statesboro and Georgia Southern University are growing, he said.
“I’m very impressed with not only where the Averitt Center is now, but also its potential to revisit its programs and services to be even more meaningful to the broad population it serves, including all of the young adults at the university,” Marquis said.
Marquis has been working as a consultant to arts and cultural organizations since 2009, the latest phase of his 30 years in arts management. He served as interim executive director of the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, Kentucky, 2013-14.
Also as a consultant, he led planning and launched the Gaillard Performance Hall Foundation in Charleston, South Carolina, 2011-12. The foundation raised money for the transformation of Charleston’s old civic auditorium into the new Galliard, with its performance and exhibition places.
From 2002 until 2009, Marquis was employed by the city of Bloomington, Illinois, as executive director of the Bloomington Cultural Districts, helping to establish its 1,200 seat theater, ballroom, park, outdoor stage and arts education center.
Earlier, he was director of performing arts centers at the University of Northern Iowa, 1997-2001, and the University of Nebraska, 1994-95, and arts programming director for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1985-94. He said he has a record of finding new revenue streams and delivering balanced budgets.
His degrees are a Master of Fine Arts with a concentration in nonprofit arts management and a Bachelor of Fine Arts, both from Ohio University.
Oliver was a member of the Statesboro Arts Council board, 2005-11, now known simply as the Averitt Center’s board, and served as board president for 2009-10.
“I’ve been involved with the Averitt Center since almost the very beginning as a volunteer and board member and president of the board, so I have a real love for the art center,” she said.
Professionally, she is assistant director of donor relations at Georgia Southern University. In this position, which she has held since August 2013, she manages Georgia Southern Foundation Scholarships, plans an annual scholarship banquet for all of the university’s colleges and provides support for other donor events.
Previously, Oliver served as development officer for the university’s College of Education from the spring of 2011 to the summer of 2013.
She was previously a member of the Georgia Southern Botanical Garden’s board and the Statesboro Service League, where she was also involved in fundraising. Her degree is a Bachelor of Business Administration from Georgia Southern.
“The Averitt Center has wonderful programming. I think we’ve come a long way with some of the programming, but I will be taking a strong look at that to see if what we are doing is feasible,” Oliver said. “Also, we need more influx of cash flow, so I’ll be looking at ways to bring that to fruition.”
Oliver would want to hear ideas from staff “because they are the ones who have been in the trenches all these years,” and thinks that getting the capital campaign going again would be a priority, she said.
Carol Thompson, previously retired as director the Performing Arts Center at Georgia Southern, continues as the Averitt Center’s interim executive director, but said she wants to be back in retirement May 31.
The finalists were selected from about 24 applicants, seven of whom were interviewed by the search committee.
“We are excited to have gotten to know these three people,” Laura Wheaton, president of the Averitt Center board, said in an email Thursday. “The board will meet next week to make the decision on to whom to make the initial offer.”
The applicants were “from here and all over the country,” she noted.
“Tim did a wonderful job of taking the organization from its beginnings to the multifaceted arts organization it is today,” Wheaton said. “We are confident that our next director will take us the next step to becoming a regional arts institution for southeast Georgia.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.