Walton Arts Center announces new leadership and initiatives

During a brief press conference on the stage of Baum Walker Hall this morning, it was announced that Peter B. Lane has been hired as President/CEO of Walton Arts Center effective May 1, 2009.

A new leader

Mr. Lane most recently served as CEO for the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, a $100 million arts facility located on the original 1969 Woodstock Festival site. His job there was geared towards expanding arts programming which is exactly what he’s been tasked with here in Northwest Arkansas.

“Our goal was to find leadership in the CEO position to move Walton Arts Center in a direction of growth,” said Jeff Schomburger, Chair of the Executive Search Committee. “We are delighted that we found that leader in Mr. Lane.”

Newly hired CEO Peter B. Lane

During the year-long search, the committee reviewed over 40 applicants before deciding on Lane, whose ties to the arts are stronger than just serving as a previous facility CEO.

Mr. Lane began his career as a professional musician where he played double bass with the San Francisco Opera before moving into management positions and later serving as Executive Director of the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall for ten years.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of Walton Arts Center and this community,” said Lane after taking the podium. One of the things he says that impressed he and his wife the most about Northwest Arkansas are the people here. “The friendliness and humble sense of pride and passion for this community are unparalleled,” said Lane.

Lane replaces Terri M. Trotter, who has served as Interim President/CEO since March 2008 and as Vice President of External Affairs since 2005.

“I’m honored and pleased that she has agreed to stay,” said Lane.

The future of WAC

After the initial announcement, the room began to fill with an urgent sense of “yeah but what else?” After all, yesterday’s announcement of the press conference also mentioned future initiatives for the 17-year-old arts center. And then the news came … well, sorta.

After stressing the opportunities that Lane believes the center has in place terms of building a national profile and transforming itself into a larger, more influential organization, the new CEO announced that Walton Arts Center is currently “near its capacity” and that a new facility would indeed be built. The next words out of his mouth, however, were “And no, we don’t have a location in mind yet.”

Although it doesn’t answer the most burning question of whether or not Walton Arts Center will stay in Fayetteville, it’s clear that the Board foresees an expanded role for the organization in the area.

“We’re dreaming big,” said Lane. “We want to develop a new arts engagement strategy that touches every person in Northwest Arkansas. I envision expanding our initiatives in the schools, serving more people with our programs, and continuing to elevate the arts to a higher level of importance in our community and the region.”