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HomeArts & EntertainmentDirector of Great Lakes Center for the arts to retire

Director of Great Lakes Center for the arts to retire

BAY HARBOR – The Great Lakes Center for the Arts announced today that Executive Director Jill O’Neill will retire in May 2022 to enjoy time with her family.

O’Neill has served in leadership roles with the Center since its formation in 2013, and was appointed Executive Director in 2016. Under her direction, the construction of the venue in Bay Harbor was completed on time in July 2018 with more than $28 million raised for capital costs. 

Over the past five seasons, she has helped the Center present exceptional performing arts events and educational programming year-round featuring world-class performers while positioning the Great Lakes Center for the Arts as a social and cultural hub in Northern Michigan. Her resourcefulness helped the Center weather the pandemic by securing financial support for operations in 2020 and 2021. 

Jill O'Neill

“It has been a privilege to invest blood, sweat, and tears on behalf of the Center. I am incredibly proud of what we have all accomplished together and the Center’s mission will always remain important to me,” said O’Neill.“As much as I would like to play an integral role in the Center’s 2022 successes, I want even more to dedicate the time to my family. I’m becoming a full-time mom for the first time in my life, and the reason I’ve chosen now is because the Center is in a good place. I will still be here in the community, enjoying performances and events, and cheering on the Center’s next chapter.”

A national search for the Center’s new Executive Director is currently underway. Board Chair Kathleen Oswald, a veteran HR professional with 40 years of experience across several industries, is leading the search committee. The opportunity to serve the Great Lakes Center for the Arts in this capacity has garnered significant interest from experienced arts professionals from across the country. The Center expects to finalize the search process in early summer 2022.

Additional support for the search, as well as interim leadership is being provided by the DeVos Institute of Arts Management, which has provided consultation to more than 1,000 organizations from over 80 countries since its founding in 2001 by Michael M. Kaiser. Mr. Kaiser, the Center’s Artistic Director, has served as a strategic consulting partner to the Center since 2015.

“Jill’s impact can be seen in every corner of the venue. Her values can be felt in every department of the organization. Jill’s leadership since the Center’s infancy has helped it grow from an idea into a state-of-the-art venue fostering world-class performing arts opportunities in a community where it otherwise wouldn’t have been available. She got the job done at every turn, helping us raise millions to build the Center and keeping us financially operable when the pandemic hit just two years into our existence. While she will be missed dearly, we are so thankful for her service and wish her well as she pursues more time with her family, and look forward to welcoming her as a patron,” said Board Chair Kathleen Oswald.

community day

Since the curtain rose on July 7 in 2018, the Center is proud to have had an impact that has rippled through Michigan and beyond by:

  • Welcoming more than 75,000 visitors, including 15,000 K-12 students.
  • Hosting notable artists including Gladys Knight, Canadian Brass, Judy Collins, LeAnn Rimes, Vanessa Williams, Vienna Boys Choir, Chris Thile, the Joffrey Ballet, Michael Feinstein, Pink Martini, Bob Saget, and more. 
  • Collaborating with notable MIchigan arts organizations including the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Grand Rapids Symphony, the Sphinx Organization, University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and Interlochen Center for the Arts.  
  • Celebrating 5 Seasons with an incredible event lineup this summer and fall. World-renowned artists including Joshua Bell, Marty Stuart, and Trombone Shorty will grace Center Stage, while patrons finally get to experience highly-anticipated covid-reschuled events like Lyle Lovett and Chris Botti. Subscription packages are on sale now with single ticket sales beginning May 1. 
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