Centrum boss MacElwee resigns; final day Nov. 30

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — The executive director of the Port Townsend-based arts organization Centrum is stepping down.

John MacElwee, who served nearly four years in the position, will leave the organization to resume his private consultant business, Centrum announced Tuesday.

His last day at Centrum will be Nov. 30.

“This is the right time to do this,” said MacElwee, 54, who said he made the decision to resign several months ago.

“It's better to do this now rather than at the end of December because it gives the board time to find a replacement.”

The Centrum board will select an interim director before beginning a nationwide search for a permanent replacement, according to a statement.

The timetable for the search has not yet been established.

“We greatly appreciate John's service to Centrum, and we will be seeking a new director as we approach our 40th anniversary season,” said Centrum board President Cynthia McBride in the statement.

“We expect the transition to be smooth and appreciate the continued support of the board, staff, donors and local community during this interim period.”

MacElwee, who was hired in February 2009 from Sonoma, Calif., was selected from a field of 45 applicants from throughout the country.

Prior to Centrum, he had worked as a consultant to arts agencies across the country, a process he expects to resume after leaving the current position.

He expects to live in Port Townsend for the foreseeable future but eventually may move to the San Francisco area, he said.

During MacElwee's tenure, the organization saw growth in its workshops, specifically its singing workshop, Voice Works — which is now offered annually — and the expansion of the Port Townsend Writers' Conference to two weeks in addition to capacity registrations for the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival, Jazz Port Townsend and the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, Centrum said.

He also oversaw the hiring of four of the five current artistic directors, including Daryl Davis (blues), Suzy Thompson (Fiddle Tunes), Erin Belieu (writing) and Lucinda Carver (chamber music).

In addition, the Seattle Symphony gave its first performance at McCurdy Pavilion in 2011 after nearly a decade absence.

This past September, Centrum inaugurated its Reverberations Festival, utilizing Fort Worden's historic gun batteries with composer Wayne Horvitz's musical installation 55: Music and Dance in Concrete.

“I had four good seasons here, and I was able to work with some fantastic people,” MacElwee said.

MacElwee said Port Townsend in general and Centrum in particular represent an artistic diversity unmatched in any other location

“I don't know of another place in the country where you have this kind of variety,” he said.

“For our students, this is more than a music program; it's a cultural experience.”

For more information about Centrum, visit www.centrum.org.

Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 20. 2012 6:34PM
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