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Hancher hires new programming head

BY EMILY MELVOLD | JUNE 25, 2009 7:21 AM

When Jacob Yarrow, the executive director of the Garth Newel Music Center in Bath County, Va., came to Iowa City last week, he asked local waiters and cashiers what they thought of Hancher.

Unaware of his new title — Hancher programming director — they gave candid responses full of pride and love for the organization.

It is one reason he applied for the job, even though the program has no building to move into.

“It is neat to hear everyone’s high regard for Hancher, and not only in Iowa City, but in the national art community, too,” said Yarrow. He applied in January, responding to an ad for the position. At the UI, a committee of six was formed to pore over 100 applications from across the country.

Hancher Executive Director Charles Swanson led the group, which selected five finalists to tour the campus and interview last month. The committee members made the final decision, which Swanson approved, UI spokesman Tom Moore said.

Just before Memorial Day weekend, as Yarrow was trekking up the hill from his house to his office, he received the news that he had received the job.

A longtime friend of Swanson, the 37-year-old said he is anxious to move to Iowa and work. He will be responsible for programming the season — selecting the artists, venues, and dates — and overseeing the marketing and education programs.

But he will face certain challenges. Hancher Artistic Director Judith Hurtig, who is set to retire at the end of June, noted the lack of a home base for the organization.

“Hancher doesn’t have a facility, and it is difficult to present a program in half a dozen venues — none of which meet the technical specifications that we need,” said Hurtig, who has worked more than 23 years for Hancher.

For example, she said, keeping Hancher visible and building relationships in the community will be difficult without an auditorium.

“Finding things that are wonderful, exciting, and innovative, and making the best use of what he has available — that is going to be a challenge for him,” Hurtig said.

However, Yarrow, who will be paid $75,000, is not exactly her replacement. Hurtig’s current salary is $109,500. Hancher is changing its leadership model to a more traditional approach, leaving the two administrative positions with different responsibilities.

Hurtig — who became assistant director in 1999 — said she didn’t decide to retire because of the flood. She made the decision before losing the facility.

“It’s been a great career for me,” she said. “I’ll definitely miss it.”

While Hurtig is wrapping up her final month, Yarrow is tying up ends in Virginia. He said he’s been studying previous Hancher programs, trying to get a feel for the Iowa City culture, purchasing a house, looking into schools for his 5- and 7-year-old daughters, and checking into football tickets.

“I’ve been chewing up as much info as possible,” he said.

His experience from his job in Bath County will help him bring together the community and the arts, he said, though he’s more accustomed to a rural and touristy location.

“It’s hard to dive in from afar,” Yarrow said. “I’m looking forward to getting in there, plunging in, learning, and being involved in something great that is a part of Iowa City, the university, and the state.”


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