Ballet Arkansas Names New Executive Director

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Mar. 10, 2014 10:26 am  

Lauren Strother

Lauren Strother is leaving as executive director of Ballet Arkansas, and Karen Shinn Bassett, president of Ballet Arkansas' board of directors, will replace Strother, the nonprofit announced Monday.

Strother will leave at the end of April to spend more time with her family, a news release said.

Bassett, who is retiring as chief deputy director of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, will take over as executive director on May 1.

Strother will continue to serve as executive director through the company's performance season, which still includes "Turning Pointe," the April 4 gala honoring Kaki Hockersmith, and "Momentum," which runs from April 25-27 at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

"Under Lauren’s leadership, Ballet Arkansas has experienced stable growth, and the board is confident in Karen's ability to build upon it," Artistic Director Michael Bearden said in the release. "She is familiar with our organization's mission and brings a wealth of experience in management to Ballet Arkansas."

The nonprofit noted that Bassett has 13 years of executive level experience gained in her jobs with ADEQ and with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

During Strother's time heading Ballet Arkansas, the company has doubled the number of its professional dancers and signed an agreement "to be a prominent part of Little Rock's emerging arts district on Main Street," Ballet Arkansas said. The company will join the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and the Arkansas Repertory Theatre on Main. 

Ballet Arkansas announced in June that it was raising $200,000 to secure rehearsal and office space on Main. Bearden said at the time that the new location would give the organization visibility within the community — something he said it had lacked in the past.

"I am so honored to be following Lauren into this position and so excited to be given the opportunity to work with Michael Bearden and the amazing dancers in Ballet Arkansas's company," Bassett said in Monday's announcement. "Through their hard work, talent and vision, Ballet Arkansas is poised to go as high as the support of the people and businesses of Arkansas want to take us."

"This is an exciting time in Ballet Arkansas's history, and it has been immensely rewarding to be in the director's chair for the past three years," Strother said. In that time, the company has doubled its stable of professional dancers and inked a deal to be a prominent part of Little Rock’s emerging arts district on Main Street. "The company is on solid footing, and soon, my one-year-old will be on his feet too. For me personally, this is the right time to make this move, and because of Karen, I can do so with confidence in Ballet Arkansas' future."



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