UT Performing Arts Center

New director running the show

As Bass Concert Hall went dark for its long renovation in 2007, the University of Texas Performing Arts Center of which it's a part lost its director; Pebbles Wadsworth, who had run the UTPAC since 1992, announced she would retire in January 2008. But no sooner did Bass' lights come on again last month than the UTPAC had a new leader. At the hall's reopening concert on Jan. 23, UT College of Fine Arts Dean Doug Dempster announced that Kathleen Panoff, executive director of the University of Richmond's Modlin Center for the Arts, had been chosen to run the complex. She takes the reins from Interim Director April Holmes Aug. 1.

The UTPAC, with six venues ranging from the 200-seat Brockett Theatre to the 3,000-seat Bass, is a serious step up from the Modlin's 600-seat concert hall and 550-seat theatre. But judging from the high marks given Panoff by colleagues, patrons, and artists alike, she seems quite capable of making that leap. University of Richmond School of Arts & Sciences Dean Andrew Newcomb told the University of Richmond newspaper that Panoff's "energy and enthusiasm have inspired the entire university" and credits her with putting Modlin "on the map." Modlin Associate Director David Howson praises Panoff's "great sense of artistic quality" and "incredible ability to get students engaged in the arts," something Panoff is already on record as making a priority in her new job. Panoff's tenure at Modlin also demonstrated a commitment to partnering with other cultural entities, especially in ways that strengthen their community.

It will be interesting to see how that last plays in the Republic of Burnt Orange, which has at times shown great sensitivity to the community beyond the 40 Acres (e.g., repeatedly postponing the Bass renovation while the Long Center was under construction so the ballet, opera, and symphony would not be stuck without a place to perform) but has just as often given Austin the cold shoulder, acting as if it couldn't be bothered with the city that surrounds it. Panoff was present at Modlin from its founding and, during her 13 years there, had a pretty free hand to shape the facility she wanted. Now, though, coming into a center with a 28-year history that precedes her, not to mention a school and a bureaucracy many times larger than her previous one, she'll have her work cut out for her. Still, Panoff is said to be very bright and a tireless worker, and she is one Virginia native who already knows her way around Texans, having spent some years teaching music in Dallas. (Also on her résumé: development officer, Cincinnati National Public Radio affiliate WGUC-FM; managing director, Cincinnati Playhouse; and president of her own consulting firm for strategic planning, marketing, and fundraising.) That suggests she is well-equipped to get things done at the UTPAC. In any case, we wish her well. Congratulations, Ms. Panoff, and welcome to Austin.

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UT Performing Arts Center, Kathleen Panoff, Doug Dempster, Pebbles Wadsworth

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