Brian Rogers

Brian Rogers

Brian Rogers

The new executive director of the Oregon Arts Commission and the Oregon Cultural Trust will be Brian Rogers, deputy director of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts for 16 years before moving on to consulting work in 2013, the agencies have announced.

“We’re delighted by this appointment,” said Julie Vigeland, chair of the Arts Commission, and Bob Speltz, chair of the Cultural Trust board of directors. “Brian is an experienced leader and arts administrator who is clearly adept at systems and strategy. We believe he will be a persuasive and compelling advocate for the arts, heritage and humanities.

Business Oregon Director Sean Robbins actually made the hire, and Rogers will report to Robbins in the bureaucratic chain of command in Salem.

Rogers’ performance at the candidates’ community forum in Portland on Monday was very impressive. His demeanor is quiet and calming; his answers to questions were considered; and he has encountered many of the problems Oregon’s arts agencies face already. Pennsylvania has the same rural-urban divide, a polarized political environment, and the problems in fairness that large arts organizations competing with smaller ones produce. And he’s worked on administrative problems, designing an eGrant for Pennsylvania in 1995(!) with Carnegie Mellon University, for example, peer review protocols, technical assistance programs, and outreach programs that tripled the number of applicants for Arts Council grants in Pennsylvania.

Perhaps even more important, his philosophical approach seemed a good fit for Oregon. Asked about “cultural literacy,” his assumption was that the term means different things in different places and approaching people “where they are” is critical for arts agencies, rather than having a cultural canon to push. Asked about what arguments in support of the arts he’d bring to the table when talking to the governor or the legislature he said, “Rule one is never argue with the governor.”

When ArtsWatch gets the chance, we’ll have a sit-down with Rogers to talk it ALL over. The other finalists included Greg Netzer, former ED of Portland’s Wordstock festival, and Joyce Bonomini. Rogers will begin in July.

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