WINTER HARBOR — The longtime arts and cultural institution Schoodic Arts for All (SAFA) has hired a new executive director to take over for Mary Laury, who is retiring after this summer’s Schoodic Arts Festival. She has held the position for two decades.
The organization’s board of directors chose Colt Neidhardt to take the helm.
“The board unanimously thought he was the perfect choice,” board member Cynthia Thayer told The American.
Neidhardt’s personality and qualifications stuck out among a competitive crowd of 60 applicants. The hiring process was intensive and lasted about three months.
“There were a lot of well qualified people who applied,” Thayer said, noting that most applicants were from outside the state.
She thought that the pandemic, including the fact that many out-of-staters looked to move to Maine within the last year, influenced the hiring pool.
“We had a large number of performers [apply], which we figured [was] because performers aren’t being hired,” Thayer said.
Neidhardt is an accomplished actor who was born in North Dakota. He grew up in western Nebraska, getting his name, Colt, from growing up on a horse farm.
He will be leaving his post at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, where he has taught acting, directing and theater history, as well as being a mentor to students.
Neidhardt has a Master of Fine Arts degree in acting from Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, a master’s in theater from University of Nebraska at Omaha and a bachelor’s in theater from Chadron State College.
His performances have ranged from Shakespeare to modern works in a pages-long resume, Thayer said.
Thayer said that Neidhardt is interested in all aspects of the arts, from theater to music to writing. He also has a background in visual arts.
He told the board that he plans to connect the arts with relevant issues, including food insecurity, combining events such as potlucks and performance.
Neidhardt pointed to the role arts can play in a community.
“One of the most important impacts of an organization like SAFA … it has a great ability to effect change in positive areas,” he said. “[An] arts-based mission can intersect with other areas of community needs.”
He said future programming could include feeding large groups of people, helping families with school lunch bills and taking an active role in a post-COVID-19 economic recovery.
“We were very, very impressed with that presentation,” Thayer said.
Thayer called Neidhardt outgoing, easy to get along with and sure of his ideas, “but willing to listen to the board and people, perhaps, who have more experience with Schoodic Arts than he has.”
She said that he could wear a red flannel shirt during the day and a tuxedo at night and “look at home in both.”
Neidhardt will start by July 28, Thayer said, and will get to experience the organization’s flagship summer festival that features workshops, classes and performances.
Neidhardt said he is eager to live and work in Hancock County, reflecting on his own rural roots.
“My position is not to come in and prescribe,” he said, but to hear from the community around him.
“I’m excited to get into the community and meet everyone,” he said.