Terrence W. Dwyer, who served as president of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts for 13 years, has found a new position as chief executive officer of the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The announcement was made late last week by the Kravis Center, where Dwyer will begin his job on Jan. 11, 2021.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Kravis Center as its new CEO,” Dwyer said in a statement. “The excellence of the center’s artistic and community programs, and the strength of the organization developed under Judy (Mitchell)’s leadership, is widely acknowledged. There is an undeniable hunger in these challenging times for the entertainment, inspiration and community connections provided by those programs. I am excited for the opportunity to help ensure the Kravis Center’s continued artistic success and ever-increasing impact throughout its diverse county.”

The Kravis Center’s current CEO, Judith Mitchell, will retire from the position at the end of the calendar year. She was the center’s first and only CEO since its founding in 1992, and served as CEO for nearly 30 years.

“When our beloved Judy Mitchell announced her retirement, we knew that her successor would need to be a person with extraordinary vision, experience and ability to lead us into the future, and we found that person in Terry,” said Jeff Stoops, chairman of the board of Kravis Center, in a statement.

The Kravis Center is similar to the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa, offering a range of performances and programs, such as Broadway, symphonies, jazz, cabaret, dance, opera and community events.

The Kravis Center has three performance spaces, the largest one, Dreyfoos Hall, seating about 2,195. The Segerstrom Center’s largest hall, Segerstrom Hall, seats about 3,000.

The Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida, where Terrence W. Dwyer will be the next CEO.

The nonprofit database GuideStar lists the Kravis Center’s current budget at $19.26 million. According to its 2017 990 tax returns, the most recent available, the Kravis Center had total revenues of $39.88 million in 2017, and total assets of $159.61 million.

The center’s CEO Mitchell made $446,738 in 2017, plus $50,000 in bonus and incentive compensation and $12,250 in retirement and deferred compensation.

The Segerstrom Center’s 2018 990s (also the most recent available) list total revenues at $77.34 million, and total assets at $457.56 million. So the Segerstrom is a larger entity in terms of scale, revenue and assets.

Dwyer said in an interview that the Kravis Center is “one of the more prominent performing arts centers in the country.”

“There are a number of them that program at a high level,” he said. The Kravis Center “really tries to move things forward — it has the capacity to do that. It has also been led by someone for a long time, and exceptionally well. Its record of artistic achievement and community engagement is really superb.”

Dwyer said he does not anticipate implementing brand-new initiatives once he gets to the Kravis Center, especially during this time of pandemic.

One has to be “taking good care of your staff. It’s tough on everyone,” he said. “We’ll make sure we have very tight control on expenses. We will identify resources. It’s not a time when one is launching new initiatives. We will be having the conversations about new initiatives to come.”

Dwyer said the events of 2020 are having a major impact on his leadership strategy. Online programming will certainly continue and probably grow, he said.

“How does the organization want to evolve, because the world has changed because of the pandemic, and racial unrest,” he said. “I want to start those conversations, and build upon the rather significant community engagement that the Kravis Center already has. The board, staff and community are really deeply committed. (The center) is not resting on its laurels. It wants to reach out into the community.”

Inside the Alexander W. Dreyfoos Concert Hall at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts.

West Palm Beach city has a population of 111,955, according to July 2019 estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s in the larger county of Palm Beach, which has a population of 1.497 million.

The non-Hispanic white population in West Palm Beach is 37.7%, while Blacks or African Americans comprise 34.3%, Hispanics or Latinos are 24%, and Asians are 2.8% of the population, according to July 2019 census estimates.

In Palm Beach County, non-Hispanic whites make up 53.5% of the population, Hispanics or Latinos are 23.4%, Blacks or African Americans are 19.8%, and Asians comprise 2.9% of the population.

In comparison, Orange County has an overall population of 3.176 million, according to July 2019 U.S. Census estimates. Non-Hispanic whites are 39.8% of the O.C. population, Hispanics or Latinos are 34%, Asians are 21.7% and Blacks or African Americans are 2.1% of the population.

Palm Beach is “relatively similar to Orange County,” Dwyer said. “It’s a very diverse county, and that’s what makes it vital and exciting. The population is smaller, but it’s equally diverse. There’s a vibrant business community, and a wide range of economic levels.”

A Stable Tenure at OCPAC/Segerstrom

Dwyer was 50 when he started as president of the then-named Orange County Performing Arts Center in April 2006. He took the helm just five months before the opening of the $240 million Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, which was and continues to be a major performing venue and a pretty huge deal.

Over his 13 years as president, Dwyer led a stable ship at OCPAC, which would rename itself the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in January 2011.

There were a couple of hiccups during his tenure: In August 2007, the center sued its architect and construction company to the tune of $33 million, due to cost overruns for the new concert hall.

The center experienced a budget shortfall of $13 million during the 2007-08 fiscal year, mainly due to a bond-financing scheme that did not work out in the nonprofit organization’s favor, and other financial woes tied to the Great Recession.

But the center also experienced some very good years, expanding its dance programming, strengthening ties to various O.C. communities and becoming the venue to see “Hamilton,” “Wicked,” the Bolshoi Ballet, Wagner’s Ring Cycle and hundreds of other performances. The center raised more than $140 million for its capital and endowment campaigns during Dwyer’s time, according to a news release issued by the Kravis Center.

Under Dwyer’s leadership, the Segerstrom Center opened the outdoor Julianne and George Argyros Plaza; established the Center Without Boundaries — featuring art-based community partnerships throughout Orange County; started the School of Dance and Music for Children with Disabilities — now known as Studio D; and opened the American Ballet Theatre/William J. Gillespie School of Ballet.

In addition, Dwyer oversaw some boundary-expanding programs, such as the Off-Center Festival and free movies on the plaza. Free and low-cost programs on the plaza have had a democratizing effect for the center, which apparently was one of Dwyer’s goals.

Despite all of his achievements, Dwyer abruptly left the center under mysterious circumstances in February 2019. A terse email on a Friday afternoon was the only public announcement. It didn’t offer an explanation or reason, it didn’t include any quotes by Dwyer, and it only said that he would “pursue other opportunities.”

During his interview with Voice of OC, Dwyer declined to comment about his departure from Segerstrom Center.

“I can’t speak to what’s in their minds,” he said. “These kind of changes happen. Life is good. I did everything I could to support Segerstrom Center, and I’m proud of what the whole team accomplished.”

Dwyer wound up getting a job as CEO and president of the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, Riverside County, in August 2019. He replaced Mitch Garfield, who retired after 20 years.

But that gig turned out to be brief. By December 2019, he was out as CEO. Harold Matzner, the chairman of the board of trustees for the McCallum Theatre, told the Desert Sun in January that “we were just not a good fit with Terry …. His background was a little different than what we want to be. I’m sure Terry will be successful somewhere else.”

Dwyer admitted that “it was a short engagement. It’s a really good theater. They are in very good shape financially. It was a good place to be for a while. It wouldn’t have been a good fit long term.”

After Palm Desert, Dwyer drove cross-country with his wife and relocated to a sublet in Brooklyn, New York, where he’ll spend the holidays. During the week before he starts his new job in Florida, he will officially move to Palm Beach County.

Dwyer said he’s “very excited about this opportunity,” and he “couldn’t be happier.”

He wanted to share with friends and colleagues in Orange County that he’s “proud of what we accomplished at Segerstrom Center” and he still cares “deeply about the people of Orange County.”

Richard Chang is senior editor for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. He can be reached at rchang@voiceofoc.org.

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