Columbus, GA – Norman S. Easterbrook was named the new Executive Director of the prestigious RiverCenter for the Performing Arts. Richard B. Hare, Chairman of RiverCenter’s Board of Trustees, gave the official announcement today after a unanimous decision was made following an intensive national search. Easterbrook will join the RiverCenter team in September. He currently serves as Director of the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Mississippi. Under his eleven years of leadership, the Ford Center has developed a reputation for programming that serves both university audiences and the community at large. Some of his many achievements include: production of the European and World Premieres of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark this past May; hosting the first 2008 Presidential Debate; forming the University of Mississippi Arts Partners to fund artist residencies and audience admission for underserved communities; serving as Principal Investigator for American Music Archives, a partnership with the Library of Congress to document and preserve music history; and implementing a two phase, six year initiative to integrate modern dance into the regional arts scene. The Ford Center’s main hall seats 1,050, supports nearly 150 events per year, and serves over 70,000 patrons annually.
“We are delighted to welcome Norman to Columbus as RiverCenter’s new Executive Director” said Hare. “Norman has excelled in the Southeast and has a proven track record of success in the industry. His instincts are sharp and his influence will be transformational for the Center.”
Prior to his position in Mississippi, Easterbrook served as General Director of the historic Rylander Theatre in Americus, Georgia from 1998 to 2003. At the Rylander, he completed the final phases of restoration overseeing the specification and installation of the technical theatre components and audience seating, established the theatre volunteer program, selecting programming, and expanded educational opportunities. Notable events included: Sumter on Stage, a multicultural celebration of the arts to open the newly renovated theatre; the Alfred Hitchcock Film Festival; and Jimmy Carter’s 75th Birthday Celebration. For the seven years prior, Easterbrook served as Executive Director of the Imperial Theatre in Augusta, Georgia. Easterbrook secured the theatre’s nonprofit status and successfully increased revenue through outside booking. From 1984 to 1991 he served as Arts Administrator for the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs in Tallahassee.
“Every encounter that I have had with the staff and Board of Directors of RiverCenter has been not only positive but filled with excitement about what the future holds for RiverCenter and its role in the community” said Easterbrook. “I look forward to working with the gifted and vigorous staff and leadership of RiverCenter. I am very grateful and humbled to be given the opportunity to guide RiverCenter to the next level of cultural programming, involvement in the economic development of the Columbus community and service to area residents and visitors.” He continued, “I look forward to building on an already excellent foundation. I plan to learn from members of the community about their vision for, expectations of, and the needs that need to be met by RiverCenter, and I will establish partnerships to work together in moving RiverCenter forward.”
Easterbrook holds a Master of Science in Theatre from Florida State University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Ithaca College. He remains active in the Episcopal Church where he sings in the choir and often is a soloist for the services, and the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council. He and his wife Margo have two daughters, Matilda of Birmingham, Alabama and Lucile who is a sophomore at the University of Mississippi.
Easterbrook will succeed Dr. William Bullock, who will retire in September.
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees I’d like to thank our Search Committee for their time and thoughtful consideration of candidates throughout this process” added Hare. “We are confident that the committee has found the right performing arts executive for our facility and our market.”
The Search Committee was chaired by Susan Lawhorne, Vice Chairman of the Board, and in addition to Hare, it included five other Trustees and staff with a distinguished and diverse array of experience: Dr. Frank Brown, John Camp, Dr. Billy Kendall, Jannina McPherson, and Alex Shalishali. For the national search, RiverCenter retained Genovese, Vanderhoof & Associates from Toronto, Canada, an international arts and cultural management consulting firm.
RiverCenter hosts its own series of shows in its three theatrical halls while also providing a home and performance space for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Youth Orchestra of Greater Columbus, Columbus Ballet, Schwob School of Music, and other arts organizations. RiverCenter’s mission is to bring together a variety of artists and audiences for entertainment, education, and enrichment of the cultural life of our region. To accomplish its mission, RiverCenter has adopted the following vision statements: to be the cultural center of Columbus and the region, be a partner with other organizations to expand arts opportunities, to serve as a focal point for cultural diversity, and to participate actively in cultural education for all ages.
For more information about RiverCenter, please visit www.rivercenter.org or call 706.256.3620.