Farewell from Opera House Arts co-founder

By Linda Nelson

Many of you have heard me say, from the Opera House stage, “I have the best job in the world.” No truer words were ever spoken. My job is filled with gratitude; with putting my shoulder to the wheel with others to continuously improve our communities; with inspiration and creativity; magic and mayhem, with loving our island and being surrounded by imaginative communities.

I am truly lucky and blessed to have such good work.

With Opera House Arts — the organization I and three others founded — in wonderful shape, now is a perfect time for me to say farewell. OHA has a deep and talented staff and a dedicated board; a track record of creating new work and a slate of vibrant programming; an engaged community of excellent performing artists; loyal and generous donors; solid financials and a strong pool of candidates to become our next producing artistic director.

I have accepted the position of assistant director of the Maine Arts Commission, and will start there in May.

As a founder and entrepreneur, I believe it is crucial for leaders to know when to step aside and feel strongly that now is the time for new leadership to take OHA to its next required levels of maturity and institutionalization.

I am very pleased and honored to have secured my new position with the Arts Commission, as it will allow me to keep my roots planted in Maine, and to extend my creative investigations to furthering arts and culture as a crucial part of Maine’s future. I look forward to arriving at the commission as it releases a new Strategic Plan, and to working with Executive Director Julie Richard and the excellent MAC staff to continue to strengthen Maine through the arts.

And of course, as a Stonington (Conn.) High School graduate and a homeowner on Deer Isle, my heart will always be with the island! I will miss my daily relationship with the large and generous extended family the OHA boards, staff and communities have become for me.

After 17 years, who will I be when not the producing artistic director of OHA?! It is a scary, exciting, magical and wistful moment. I owe many thanks to people whose gifts are larger than one can imagine or hope for in one’s life.

Neither I nor any of OHA’s founders ever wanted the organization to be identified primarily with us. This is at times tough in a small community, in which everything can be seen to rest on the shoulders of individuals.

The 1912 Stonington Opera House, on the National Register of Historic Places, is a community treasure. We have done our best to invest our hearts and souls into returning this theater — our “magic box,” as I always call it, in which we can do anything — to its original and central role at the heart of island culture and life.

By inciting a theater community, we are proud to have succeeded in creating a true ensemble — a creative organization, more and stronger than the sum of its individual parts, that will thrive beyond its founders for future generations.

With my gratitude for the past 17 years, and looking forward to our collective futures.

 Opera House Arts’ producing artistic director, Linda Nelson, last week announced her resignation in this letter to staff and board members. She will go to work as the Maine Arts Commission’s assistant director starting May 1.

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