It’s almost like musical chairs at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre, where the board is preparing to hire its fourth executive director, even though the facility is only five years old.
Suzanne Haines left her position in September, a little more than one year after she was hired. Haines was previously general manager of Gateway Theatre, a $2.4-million operation in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond, B.C.
Brenda Heatherington, the BPAC’s first executive director,
left in June of 2013 to spend more time with her family. That was less than two years after the centre opened. Heatherington came to Burlington from The Arden Theatre in St. Albert, Alta. in May of 2010.
Brian McCurdy, Heatherington’s successor, resigned in May of 2015. A Montreal native, McCurdy came to Burlington from Kingston in 2013. He had been Kingston’s cultural director for five years.
The BPAC board thought it had a good deal because, when he arrived in Burlington he said he was looking forward to seeing more of his extended family in the area and was planning to stay for some time, perhaps seven years, before taking retirement.
Ilene Elkaim, chair of BPAC’s board of directors, said Haines left to pursue other opportunities.
“With each of the three directors there were different personal circumstances,” Elkaim said. “We anticipated their staying longer, but circumstances change.”
She said she is not permitted to discuss whether or not Haines received a severance.
While McCurdy was here, the number of performances at the centre went up from 50 to 80 in 2014-15, then again to 100 in 2015-16.
Councillor Paul Sharman, the City’s representative on the board of directors, also said a lot of personal issues were involved in all three departures.
“But it has nothing to do with the board,” he said. “I believe we have a fabulous performing arts centre and its completely reasonable to expect we’ll get a very decent new manager.”
Although Elkaim declined to comment on the subject, Sharman said Haines did not receive a severance when she left.
In September the BPAC also advertised for a new marketing and public relations manager with a salary range of $60,000 to $70,000.
A national compensation study by the firm of Deloitte Touche, released in 2009, showed that the average voluntary turnover rate is high for the arts sector at 20 per cent, well above the 12 per cent for the not-for-profit sector in general and an average of just under 10 per cent for comparative industries.
The study predicted small and mid-sized arts organizations will continue to have a difficult time attracting and retaining director/management and administrative personnel because of limited ability to offer competitive salaries and benefits.
An increasing number of managers were leaving the sector, the study said, because of retirement, workload “burnout” or better
money offered in other sectors.
The performing arts centre celebrated its fifth anniversary on Saturday, Oct. 1, with a concert by Royal Wood, the same entertainer who opened it five years earlier. This time, however, one member of the audience became agitated when Wood started to ramble on about some of his personal experiences.
It prompted the man to shout out a suggestion that Wood just shut up and start playing the next song.
Speaking before the anniversary concert, Mayor Rick Goldring recalled the day (Dec. 3, 2011) then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper and he both played the piano as part of an open house at the performing arts centre.
Meanwhile, programming appears to be well received by the community, but ticket prices and extra charges are a bone of contention.
Patrons are charged an extra fee on tickets, even if they drive downtown, pay for parking and walk right up to the box office.
Elkaim said it is standard practice to have a handling fee.
“All theatres do it,” she said. “It is not unique to the BPAC.”
She said accumulated handling fees go into the centre’s capital investment fund.
Written by: Denis Gibbons