Sidelined Indianapolis Opera hires new leader

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The troubled Indianapolis Opera—which hasn’t produced a show since March 2014—has hired Kevin Patterson as its new leader.

An Indianapolis native and Indiana University graduate, Patterson served as general director of the Austin Lyric Opera and executive director of the Anchorage Opera before returning to his hometown as an arts consultant.

He takes on the newly created position of general director for Indianapolis Opera, whose future was in question after the resignations of artistic director James Caraher in 2014 and executive director John Pickett in 2013.

After the cancellation of the final production of its 2013-14 season, IO skipped the 2014-15 season entirely.

Patterson, 46, told IBJ there are some advantages to joining the organization after a production-free, fallow period.

“Unlike other opera companies that are in bad financial shape and still producing, we essentially have a clean slate,” he said. “We aren’t hemmed in by an artistic model and labor contracts and other restrictions. We have the flexibility to do things differently.”

While specifics have not yet been set, Patterson said continued production at Clowes Hall is unlikely and that the Basile Opera Center, which had been used for smaller productions, “won’t be a regular fixture of programming.”

Instead, he’s looking at the Schrott Center, Pike Performing Arts Center, the Scottish Rite Cathedral’s theater, and other venues.

“The piece,” he said, “has to match the venue.”

As to a timeframe, Patterson said he would like to mount an Indianapolis Opera production later in 2015.

He noted the company will spend February “in an intense analysis of the programming we would like to do, finding the business model that’s best for the community, getting the quality we need on the dollars we have.”

During a seven-month assessment supported by Lilly Endowment and the Arts Council of Indianapolis, Arnold C. Hanish, Opera board president, said in a statement that the company “looked at our product, marketing, audience base, fan experience and business model. We gathered input from the community, visited other opera companies in the Midwest, addressed several governance issues and righted our financial ship. The Opera is out of debt and has money in the bank to assist us in moving forward.”

The result of the assessment is a three-year plan to grow partnerships, build education and outreach programming and return opera to Indianapolis.

“I’m not going to wave a magic wand,” Hanish said. “We’re going to build this company and build it to last.”

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