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Beverly Arts Center names alumna as executive director

Beverly Arts Center names alumna as executive director

Heather Ireland Robinson, 44, has been named executive director of Beverly Arts Center, according to Barbara K. O’Malley, president of the not-for-profit organization’s Board of Directors.

“Heather brings nearly 20 years of proven experience in theater and arts management. She has developed appealing programs and classes for all generations as well as successfully raised funds to support the organizations where she has worked,” states O’Malley, who announced Robinson starts on Monday, Feb. 24. “We believe that Heather brings a new energy that will help expand Beverly Arts Center’s reach to new audiences and build excitement for our loyal members.”

A Chicago native, Robinson has held management and production roles including interim regional director and program operations manager for After School Matters, as well as program director for Gallery 37 with the Chicago Park District, Marwen arts center and The Jazz Institute of Chicago. Working in schools, she developed curricula for Elev8, an enrichment program for elementary school students, as well as theater, storytelling, poetry and music programs for organizations ranging from the Common Ground Foundation to Columbia College.

Most recently, Robinson served as the executive director of the South Side Community Art Center, established in 1940 as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. In that position, Robinson increased the Center’s programming, visibility and partnerships, and created and implemented a successful plan for capital improvements and sustainability.

“In September 2013, we initiated a national search in which Heather competed with other arts community professionals from across the country,” says Judee Olechno, Beverly Arts Center board vice president and search committee chair. “Based on her previous successes as well as her first-hand knowledge of the Chicago metro area, our board is confident that we selected the finest candidate.”

“Heather’s skills and talents are essential to leveraging our community’s very generous response to the challenge from Fifth Third Bank that makes it possible for us reduce or eliminate the center’s $4.5 million mortgage debt,” adds Matt O’Shea, Beverly Arts Center Board member and Alderman of the 19th Ward where the not-for-profit organization is located.

In September 2013, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and O’Shea announced a challenge that will reduce the Center’s debt by $4 for every $1 raised up to $500,000. “The response has been phenomenal and soon Beverly Arts Center will be able to meet this first challenge that reduces the center’s debt by $2.5 million,” explains O’Shea. “Our plan is to continue to take advantage of additional incentives to make the Center debt-free by September of this year.” Beverly Arts Center reported total revenue of more than $1.5 million for its fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2013.

“With the opportunity to lead Beverly Arts Center at a critical time in its growth and development, my life has come full circle,” says Robinson, who attended elementary school at Morgan Park Academy less than a mile from the arts center. “There and at Whitney Young High School, I learned that the arts foster a broader education and a greater appreciation of an individual’s talents.” Robinson earned her bachelor’s degree in advertising at the University of Illinois at Urbana and master of fine arts degree in acting at DePaul University.

She initially pursued an acting career and counts among her credits performances at Goodman Theatre, MPAACT, Redmoon, and on the NBC TV’s series “ER.” Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, Robinson caught the bug for acting as a member of the Pitt Players, a children’s theatrical program at Beverly Arts Center.
“I believe that forming partnerships with myriad other successful arts organizations will increase and elevate the experience of the arts that we can offer at Beverly Arts Center,” she adds. “Our goal is to become a valued resource for the entire southwest sector of metro Chicago.”

As an artist, Robinson has written plays that were produced at University of Chicago Theatre Camp, Chicago Dramatists, Chicago Cultural Center and DuSable Museum. She is founder of the People’s Jazz Theatre for young artists and served on the Steppenwolf Theater Company Education Committee in 2007.

She and her husband, Claude Robinson, live on the South Side with their two sons, Dorian, 13, and Damani, 3.

Founded in 1968, the Beverly Arts Center is a not-for-profit organization that provides multi-disciplinary fine arts education including more than 100 classes each in four annual sessions for people of all ages, as well as entertaining programs throughout the year.

Beverly Arts Center is is located at 2407 West 111th Street in Chicago. Learn more at www.beverlyartscenter.org.

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