The board of directors of the Averitt Center for the Arts named Rahn Hutcheson interim executive director of the Statesboro-based, nonprofit arts organization upon the resignation last week of Executive Director Jamie Grady.
Previously the Averitt Center’s deputy director, a role Grady promoted him to in 2017, Hutcheson has extensive experience in fundraising, marketing and public relations. But he was more closely associated with schools, sports and journalism before he was hired by the Averitt Center as its director of development in 2016.
“It’s been really, really different from the things that I’ve done in the past, athletics and education and things of that nature, but I’ve always had an artsy-type flair,” Hutcheson said Friday. “Maybe never a very strong artsy flair,” he added with a laugh, “but I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve enjoyed my involvement with the Averitt Center for many years.”
The Averitt Center, which operates the Emma Kelly Theater and Main Gallery on East Main Street, the Roxie Remley Center for Fine Arts on Vine Street and the Center for Performing Arts on West Main Street, was in another transitional period when Hutcheson joined the staff nearly three years ago. At that time, Carol Thompson was interim executive director following the September 2016 departure of Tim Chapman, who had served nearly 12 years as the Averitt’s first executive director.
After a national search, the board hired Grady as executive director, effective May 1, 2017. He came to Statesboro from New York City, where he operated as an independent arts management consultant.
As such, he had served as administrative leader for the Long Island Youth Orchestra and developed plans for the New Jersey Ballet. Before that, Grady was executive director of the Mercyhurst Institute for Arts and Culture in Erie, Pennsylvania, and earlier in his career was managing director for theater groups in Ithaca, New York, and in Atlanta.
But effective last Tuesday, Grady resigned as the Averitt Center’s executive director, and the center’s board of directors issued a brief media release announcing Hutcheson’s selection as interim executive director, plus two promotions of other Averitt staff members.
“The board is very excited that Rahn has agreed to serve as our interim director, and that could be a permanent position in the future,” Trish Tootle, the Averitt Center’s board president, said in a phone call Friday. “We’ve got a great season. We’re excited about everything that’s coming up at the Averitt.”
She said she did not know what Grady’s long-term plans are. But both Hutcheson and Tootle said that Grady moved to Savannah about three months ago, after being a Statesboro resident earlier in his time with the Averitt.
“So we’re just moving on, and of course we wish Jamie all the best,” Tootle said. “He is already living in Savannah. He moved to Savannah a few months ago, and we wish him the best.”
The media release Tuesday (evening)) had stated: “The Board is appreciative of the contributions made by Jamie during his tenure.”
Hutcheson said he intends to be a candidate if there is a search for a permanent executive director. Tootle said the board had not talked yet about whether there will be a search.
“That’s something we’ll look at, but right now we’re excited that Rahn’s the one filling that role and, again, that could be a permanent role,” she said.
Before being hired by the Averitt Center, Hutcheson served as director of institutional development for Bulloch Academy, the largest private school in Statesboro, for almost 20 years, beginning in 1996. In the late 1980s and early 90s, he was public relations director for Bulloch County’s public school system.
Hutcheson has also been affiliated with the Statesboro Herald, as a contributor and at times a staff member, for more than 30 years. After starting work for the newspaper while in college, he worked as its regional news director for several years and continued reporting on sports, especially high school sports, while employed by the schools.
He also has an almost 30-year side career as an official with the Southern Eagle Baseball and Softball Officials Association, and is a member of its board of directors.
Now 56, Hutcheson is a 1981 graduate of Portal High School and in 1985 received his bachelor’s degree, in communication arts with an emphasis in public relations, from Georgia Southern College, before it became a university.
Building effective relationships with members, vendors, volunteers, visitors and donors was part of his written job description as the Averitt’s deputy director. He had done fundraising, public relations had marketing as development director, and became more involved in day-to-day operations in the deputy director role, but the executive director job has other aspects, he said.
“I’m very honored and humbled that the board elevated me to this interim position,” Hutcheson said. “There’s a lot more to an executive director job than what a lot of people would think. You know, you have to deal with budgets and contracts and more employees and insurance and things like that. So I’ll be relying a lot on the board with some of their expertise.”
Cottle and Faller
The board also announced the promotion Tuesday of Robert Cottle to executive artistic associate and Robert Faller to production manager/technical director.
“We’re glad to announce both promotions,” Tootle said. “We have some great talent with our employees there, and what we want is for our employees to shine and really have a career in our community. We don’t want them to go to other communities, we want them to be successful and shine in Statesboro, Georgia.”
A professional musician, Cottle helps book shows for the theater, runs auditions and is very involved on the music side with community performances, Hutcheson said. Cottle was musical director on the recently successful run of “Mary Poppins.” He also works with the Art Adventures after-school program, which opened Thursday with the start of school.
Faller, who was already technical director but now has “production manager” as part of his title, is one of the Averitt’s longest-serving employees. So far, he has been with the organization 13 of its 15 years.
“He far outdates me, and his expertise in theater, in set design, lighting, sound, goes a long way. He is boss in the Emma Kelly Theater. It is his theater,” Hutcheson said.
Hutcheson said he wants to reach out to some people in the community who contributed their talents and support to the Averitt in earlier years but have drifted away.
“We want the Averitt Center to always be a place where local folks can come and get top-quality entertainment – local entertainment, regional entertainment,” he said. “We want to bring that history back to the Averitt Center.”
He noted that the Averitt recently wrapped up its nine weeks of summer day camps with more than 750 children and teens participating, a record for the organization.
For upcoming performances and events in the fall season, visit www.averittcenterforthearts.org.