Last week, seven months after the controversial departure of Consolidated Works' founding artistic director Matthew Richter, the ConWorks board of directors named out-of-towner Corey Pearlstein the organization's new artistic director. The search took much longer than expected (which only added to the widely held perception that ConWorks' future was in doubt). Pearlstein comes to ConWorks after various high-level stints at regional theaters across the country. His first day is September 26.
Why do you want to be the new leader of ConWorks?
I see a remarkable alignment between ConWorks' mission and my own passions. I see the opportunity to build on the work that has been done and create an artistic home for artists and a critical and unique cultural space for the public. A place that is dedicated to artistic risk and innovation.
Do you realize you're walking into a hornet's nest?
I don't see a hornet's nest; I see opportunity. I understand many people have a stake in the organization, and that with transition comes uncertainty. As an artist and as an artistic director, I'm interested in these moments as they are an opportunity to push vision and risk while grounding the company in a sustainable artistic and institutional process.
Your resumé doesn't show any experience with film or visual art. Do you have any experience with film or visual art?
Over the last 10 years, I have worked with visual artists, musicians, dance companies, and filmmakers as both a presenter and producer. I feel very comfortable understanding and supporting artistic process across with the curator model at ConWorks. I intend to involve strong and diverse voices from across the Seattle arts scene to bring to life each component of the mission. I see my role as assuring and supporting artistic vision throughout the company and have no doubt that the talent and leadership is here.
Will the new ConWorks devote itself primarily to theater?
No, we are fully committed to ConWorks' mission to be a multidisciplinary arts space.
The ConWorks board is made up of a lot of people from the corporate world and no one with experience running an arts organization. Since you report to them, does that worry you?
I see this board bringing in a definite commitment to the mission, working to support the organization and dedicated to its success. A third of them work in nonprofits or small, creative non-corporate organizations. Half have worked in staff, volunteer, and board positions in arts organizations and related nonprofits, including leadership positions. I think the board makeup is comparable to most other arts organizations.
The ConWorks board doesn't have a very good reputation among the leaders of other arts organizations in town. Does that worry you?
When we define and follow through on our vision, establish the quality and consistency of our work and approach, there will be no question of ConWorks' reputation as a progressive arts leader in Seattle. As for the impressions that other arts leaders may have presently, I hope they will contribute their ideas to ConWorks as we define ourselves moving forward. This is a time to support ConWorks and contribute to the realization of the company's artistic promise.
In the press release announcing your hire, board president Robb Krieg said ConWorks is growing "from its youth to its adolescence." I called him to ask specifically what he meant by that but he never called me back. What do you think he means by that?
ConWorks is a very young organization. It is simply incredible that it has grown to the size it has and made such a powerful cultural impact in Seattle in less than a decade. That is a tribute to the strength of the mission and the people who brought the company to where it is today. Now is the time for the company to look to how it may sustain its commitment to the community, its creative energy, and the authenticity of its identity while advancing the imagination and ambitions of its arts programming.
How do you plan to rebuild the community's interest and faith in ConWorks?
The community's interest is there. I think people are looking forward to Trimpin and the programs we have lined up for the fall. We will be making further announcements about programming soon.
Are there artists in Seattle you particularly admire?
I have always looked to what is happening in the arts in Seattle. I think it is one of the most vibrant and interesting cities in the country for the arts.