The Chehalem Cultural Center has announced that it is now led by a new executive director six months after Rob Dailey announced he would be leaving the post.
The position is now filled by Jennifer Justice, who was already on the job last week and comes to Newberg with about 30 years of nonprofit and arts experience under her belt, including management of numerous cultural centers around the country, art exhibit curation and her own career in photography and fiber arts, according to a short biography.
"She rose to the top of a field – actually a remarkable field – of really well-qualified candidates," said Mark Terry, president of the center's board of directors. "So, she walks in with the ability to take our very good programs that we have and give them guidance and leadership to go to the next step."
That next step, Terry said, will deal in large part with the center's mostly idle second floor and its meeting rooms, kitchen, dance studio and 250-seat theater.
"The Chehalem Cultural Center is an incredibly vibrant organization, and has such rich programming that integrates the diversity of the community," Justice said in a statement, going on to praise the foundation and partnerships set up by the staff and board. "I look forward to developing even more collaborative efforts and to use the power of art and culture to bring people from all backgrounds together."
Justice comes most recently from the contemporary visual arts-focused Galveston Arts Center in Texas, where she served as executive director. Prior to that, she was curator for the Boise Arts Museum, program director for the Pacific Arts Center in Seattle and worked as a consultant for several performing arts organizations in Boise. She has also curated exhibitions, been selected as an artist in residence in her own right several times and has taught art classes and workshops.
Dailey announced in October that he would be leaving the position at the end of 2016 to fill a leadership role with Gales Creek Camp, a program northwest of Forest Grove designed for children with Type 1 diabetes, a disease that afflicts his daughter.
When Dailey arrived at the CCC in 2012, the center had just opened the education wing, but the center wasn't sustaining itself because there wasn't a strong enough donor base and the nonprofit was still figuring out how to convince the community it had a relevant role to play.
Since then, the nonprofit has finished its second renovation phase, bringing the ballroom to life; upgraded the Black Box Theater; completed the Cultural District plaza along Sheridan Street; and the organization has ended each of the past four years with a surplus in funds.
Even with these achievements, Terry said the center is only using about 40 percent of the building to its full potential, and a key focus will be to renovate those areas and then develop community programming for the space.
Both Terry and Justice said the center has a strong arts program and strong start in the way of music, dance and theater, but both noted plans to expand in those areas with more diverse dance performances and working to make the center and Newberg a burgeoning stop for musical artists touring the west coast.
In addition, both stressed the importance of widening the appeal of the center beyond Newberg.
"Newberg has been amazingly generous in helping us grow to the degree that we have, but I think we need to reach outside of the immediate confines … We serve more than Newberg; we're really a regional center." Terry said, noting satellite programs developed in the Yamhill-Carlton area.
"I am also excited that our outreach program is expanding to bring arts and culture to students and other audiences who cannot come to the center," Justice said. "The center has infinite potential, and what an honor it is to become a part of it."