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BAY HARBOR — A LinkedIn job posting recently confirmed the departure of the Great Lakes Center for the Arts executive director.
Jill O’Neill, the now outgoing executive director, confirmed she was leaving, but for good reason.
“It’s just been so busy with our upcoming season announcements and our youth programs we just started but I am retiring in May,” she said.
“The driving force for retirement is that the center is in a really wonderful and strong place and I feel it has so much to offer to someone who may want to take the baton next,” she said.
O’Neill — in her 30th year as an arts professional and 26th year with Bay Harbor — added that she is also stepping down to “… spend more time with and be with my son, who is going to be a senior in high school this year and to take a breath and enjoy being a full-time mom.”
Throughout O’Neill’s tenure with Bay Harbor she worked as an assistant controller, controller and eventually became its chief financial officer before becoming the first director of the Great Lakes Center for the Arts.
Through her window she was able to see its conception and construction take place and watch the area’s newest social hub come to life.
The curtains first rose with its grand opening in July of 2018 and has, even through the pandemic, offered year-round programming covering all spectrums of the arts world with music, dance, theater and more.
“Throughout my time here it has always been exciting to build and grow and I am personally grateful for the opportunities I’ve had over the last 26 years here in the community and five with the center,” said O’Neill.
“My time with the center has always and will always be meaningful to me because of the opportunities we are also providing young people to experience the performing arts and to be involved in something right here in their backyard,” he said.
O’Neill said she resonates so much with education and sharing the arts as she is an instrumentalist and musician herself.
Through high school she would have to travel an hour and a half to play in an orchestra or have flute lessons.
“That was on a weekly basis, but to be able to have this center serve Emmet, Charlevoix, Antrim (counties) and some other surrounding areas is so meaningful in that we have and will continue to expand on arts opportunities in a rural area, “she said.
“You just never know what might spark a young person to fall in love with an instrument or performing on a stage.”
O’Neill’s retirement, although not formally announced by the center, does also come directly following the center’s five-year-celebration programming, with her departure set about the time it all kicks off with Cory Wong’s show on May 29.
More:Great Lakes Center for the Arts celebrates 5 year anniversary, announces summer lineup
The center’s board of directors is currently conducting a national search and has a search committee led by board chair Kathy Oswald who, as told by O’Neill, is an industry professional with over 40 years of human resource experience.
“We’ve hired a firm to help us do the search and are doing a nationwide search,” Oswald confirmed.
“I don’t want to say that Jill is leaving or retiring because she isn’t going anywhere else for the time being and we know we will see her around. We do love her and wish her the best,” she said.
The executive director job posting has since been taken down and is no longer taking applications, so an announcement about O’Neill’s successor may be forthcoming. However, the center and its board have not confirmed the hiring of a new director at the time of the News-Review’s print deadline on Friday.
Tickets for the center’s upcoming season will be released in waves with single tickets opening for the center’s first three larger shows at noon on Sunday, May 1. Tickets will then be rolled out in waves with the next bunch released on Wednesday, June 1 and the last on Friday, July 1.
Those not wanting to wait also currently have the option of purchasing a subscription, which allows a person to purchase four or more tickets and secure their seats in advance. More information about subscriptions can be found on the center’s website.
More information about the center’s upcoming fifth summer season and celebrations can also be found online alongside information on other performance based and educational programming at www.greatlakescfa.org.
Contact reporter Sean Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @seanmillerpnrand Instagram, @sean_everest.