Breckenridge names Ann Arbor Summer Festival director as new arts CEO
Ryan Summerlin November 14, 2013
A strong background, maturity, personality and vision have landed a transplant from Michigan at the helm of a new direction for the arts in Breckenridge.
Robb Woulfe, executive and artistic director of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, has been selected as the CEO of a new organization being formed around cultural arts in Breckenridge. Woulfe is expected to start his new post Jan. 6.
“I had the pleasure of passing through Breckenridge about a decade ago and I fell in love with the community,” he said. “I always thought, ‘It’d be great to get an arts job there.’ When I saw this job posting, I had to throw my name into the hat.”
The town posted the job at the start of August and left the application open for 30 days during a nationwide search. In that time, they received 100 resumes, which were narrowed down to 13 individuals. After phone interviews, three finalists were selected to come to Breckenridge for two days of interviews and tours at the beginning of November.
Town Councilman Gary Gallagher said having a CEO in place will help elevate Breckenridge’s cultural offerings.
“We really needed someone at a senior level who could spend 24/7 on the town’s assets and create a strategic vision for arts in the community,” he said.
Taking into account feedback from town staff, the senior leadership of the cultural coalition and other community interviewers, the town council made the final selection Tuesday, Nov. 5 after conducting their own interviews with the finalists as well.
“On ‘The Voice’ the coaches have a team and they have to pit one person against another in battle rounds, and after, decide which person from their own team they are sending home,” Gallagher said. “It’s a tough position and it’s exactly how we felt trying to decide between these three candidates. Which two go home and which one comes to Breck?”
The new governance model will be structured around a new cultural arts nonprofit. The town council will appoint a board of directors to oversee the development of this new entity, and the town will continue to financially support the facilities and the operations as it currently does in the budget. The job posting listed the CEO salary range as $75,807 to $107,388, depending on qualifications. Like the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, the nonprofit will function on its own, but receive a majority of funding from the town.
“We’re embarking on a cultural renaissance,” said Mayor John Warner in a prepared statement. “As far back as the 1860s, this community has embraced its artistic personality. … [W]ith Robb as the CEO and a dynamic board to spearhead the expanded programming of the town’s cultural assets, Breckenridge will be the talk in cultural circles.”
The Ann Arbor Summer Festival is an annual three-week celebration of arts, culture and community. Since 2004 Woulfe has worked to expand the festival’s scale and influence, helping it become a leading multi-arts festival in the country. In those nine years, he produced some of the most successful and highest-grossing seasons in the festival’s 30-year history.
“My job will be to come in, assess, and make recommendations to enhance and improve,” he said. “So much good exists already, I think I’ll be approaching it in tandem with all of the aspects Breckenridge already represents.”
Before moving to Michigan, Woulfe and his wife lived in Denver and said he would often pass through the High Country. Woulfe likened the Breckenridge plan to form an arts nonprofit with him in charge to many other communities with cultural trusts, which serve as the presenter, producer, landlord, community resource and more.
“In many ways that model will suit Breckenridge very well,” he said. “It’s not a new model, it’s worked successfully in major markets and smaller towns.”
Woulfe’s previous experience also includes managing director for the Music Society at the Midland Center for the Arts and programming manager for the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in Saint Paul, Minn. He also worked in New York’s commercial film and television industry and spent several years in the International Licensing Division of Jim Henson Productions, where he assisted with foreign and domestic character licensing.
“He has broken down barriers and gotten groups to work together in the past,” Gallagher said. “He has great, fresh ideas and will be able to focus on marketing and help raise the bar for individual organizations too.”
Woulfe has served on funding panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board, as well as serving on the board for the Arts Alliance, an arts and cultural advocacy organization in Ann Arbor. He frequently serves as a guest speaker and presenter on arts management-related topics, and holds a B.A. from Hamline University.
For Woulfe, the character and history of Breckenridge was key to his vision moving forward.
“It’s not necessarily about forcing an ID,” he said. “I want to pick up organically on what is already happening there. The community has a distinctive characteristic, and I want to leverage that and translate it into arts and culture.”
Woulfe and his wife, Amy, currently live in Ann Arbor with their two cats, Gigi and Delilah, and their 100-pound golden retriever, Jack Kennedy.