Skill set should assist with next steps for Center
by Mark Reaman
The Crested Butte Center for the Arts has hired a new full-time executive director. Scott Palmer, who will be leaving the Sun Valley, Idaho Center for the Arts, will start the new job in Crested Butte on September 8.
“Having found what we think is a good fit, we feel aligned with what Scott wants to accomplish and where we want to go,” explained Center for the Arts board president Joel Benisch. “We got lucky. This has the potential to be a real inflection point for the Center in this town.”
Palmer is one of three executive leaders at the Sun Valley non-profit. He has been there since 2018 and previously was the founding artistic director for a theater and production company in Hillsboro, Oregon.
The search for a new executive director in Crested Butte has gone on for about a year, since the coronavirus crisis threw a wrench into the process last spring. Benisch said “many, many dozens” of people had applied for the position and the board used a consultant to help with the search.
“From our perspective, [Palmer is] highly experienced in the arts, arts management and is a successful fundraiser, which is important here,” said Benisch. “He’ll bring in a new perspective to a local organization that’s been run by locals for most of its life. He’s a professional in the non-profit arts profession. He’s trained for this situation.”
The situation is improving, according to Benisch, who related that the evolution of the new building is continuing. “We’ve been operating on a restricted budget situation since March,” he explained. “We are getting positive responses from new and current donors and we have money in the bank.
“The Center is being used pretty heavily right now,” Benisch continued. “With the building layout, we have little cells within the new building and we have worked to rent out certain zones under current county public health regulations. So the building is generating rental revenue. It is being used for dance, martial arts, yoga classes. We are slowly returning to hosting some of the old uses and trying to find ways to leverage the space to expand the local uses. We are finding we are as much a landlord as a purveyor of our own events.”
Palmer visited Crested Butte in July to meet with the board and get a feel for the place. “Within a few moments of arriving in Crested Butte, I knew it was something special. But, the second I walked into the stunning new Center for the Arts, I decided instantly I wanted to be a part of this remarkable organization,” Palmer said. “I am humbled by the faith the board has placed in me, and cannot wait to get to work alongside them and the staff to help build a strong, financially secure and creative future for this organization.”
According to Benisch, Palmer is “an organizational guy,” which will be different from previous executive directors, who had other talents. “It’s a different ball game from when we pretty much just had a theater,” Benisch said. “We can leverage the benefits of the new building for the community. We recognize we are stewards of that building and want it used by local groups. A big part of the job now is spent managing relationships with our rental customers. One thing to remember is that ticket sales and rental income account for just 40 percent of the operating costs. The other 60 percent has to come through things like donations and grants. We think we have someone with the skill set to make this next step a real success.”
The winter season is being worked on at the moment and Benisch said the focus would likely be on local artists, due to the COVID-19 situation.
Benisch also said Palmer will work with the current interim director, Melissa Mason, during a transition period that is still to be determined.