The Austin Chronicle

Culture Flash!

By Robert Faires, July 22, 2011, Arts

• Apparently, the Long Center's hunt for a new executive director covered not only the nation but the whole continent, for the performing arts presenter's choice to succeed Cliff Redd hails from our neighbor to the north, Canada. Jamie Grant, who steps into the job Sept. 19, has spent the past 13 years as general manager of Centre in the Square, a 30-year-old cultural facility in Kitchener, Ontario, with a 2,047-seat theatre/concert hall, a flexible studio theatre that seats up to 240, and an art gallery – in short, a venue very like the Long Center. He also counts among his accomplishments helping to found the Magnetic North Theatre Festival and eyeGO to the Arts, a discount ticket program aimed at teens, and being one of his homeland's early advocates for the arts as a tool for economic development. On Grant's arrival, Paul Beutel will relinquish the role of interim executive director, which he's held since last July, and resume his previous role as managing director.

• From the If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It Department: Ballet Austin, enjoying its highest-grossing season ever on top of a decade of extraordinary growth, has decided to dance with who brung 'em for another 10 years. The professional company has extended the contracts for Executive Director Cookie Ruiz and Artistic Director Stephen Mills through 2021. That's quite the show of faith, but then, given what the pair has accomplished during their lengthy tenures – Ruiz has been in her position 13 years and Mills in his for 10, plus a year as interim artistic director – it's well-placed: tripling the annual budget from $2 million to $6 million, quintupling the attendance for its community school classes, completing a $10.3 million capital campaign for its Downtown Butler Dance Education Center, establishing a national choreographic competition, and taking the company to perform in Washington, D.C.; New York City; and Europe. Who wouldn't want another decade like that? The icing on the cake: The BA board has named one dance center rehearsal space the Mills/Ruiz Legacy Studio.

• The Paramount and State theatres' Literacy to Life program scored the 2011 Culture Community Partner grant from Impact Austin – a big award in more ways than one. Every grant from this coalition of philanthropic women who pool their resources to get more bang for their bucks (each contributes $1,000 a year) exceeds $100,000. But as the group awards just five grants each year, competition is tough. Literacy to Life now joins Badgerdog, Ballet East, Rude Mechanicals, and Southwest Key Programs in the select group of recipients of Impact Austin's cultural grants. The program uses storytelling, drama, and writing exercises to develop the imaginations and writing skills of third- and fourth-grade students. Through eight-week workshops, students create works that are then performed by professional actors for their schools. For more information, visit

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