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Monday, May 23, 2011

Woodruff gets new chairman — another bigwig CEO!

The Woodruff Arts Center's high-falutin' board of trustees has a new chairman and, surprise, it's another bigwig CEO! Larry Gellerstedt III, commander of the skyscraper-building juggernaut that is Cousins Properties, has assumed the chairman's, um, chair for the next three years, taking over for Turner Broadcasting CEO Phil Kent.

A likely more significant change, however, is the creation of an 18-member governing board, composed of committee chairs from the full board, which numbers about 70. While the full board meets semi-annually, the governing board will meet monthly, which will presumably allow for a more-hands-on approach.

And perhaps even more noteworthy, the board also created the Woodruff Roundtable, a 33-member group composed of local artists, elected officials — including Mayor Kasim Reed — and folks from the business and non-profit sectors, who will act as something of an advisory board. From the press release:

While becoming acquainted with The Woodruff, Roundtable members will also have the opportunity to share their insights into the arts landscape in Atlanta, their knowledge of community perspectives and their connections to local, state and national resources and networks. The members of the Roundtable will also help The Woodruff spread the word about the multiple activities and programs offered throughout the year and will become informed community champions for the Arts and Arts in Education.

This is promising news. The one consistent complaint about the Woodruff Arts Center over the years has been that it has operated largely in its own gilded silo, with little interaction with the larger Atlanta arts community. With the notable exception of Alliance chief Susan Booth's laudable efforts to reach out to local theater groups, the Woodruff keeps largely to well-endowed itself. By creating the Roundtable, the organization has given itself a stronger connection to the outside world, which can only help the city's other arts institutions, which don't enjoy the Woodruff's bounty of resources.

Anyway, if the Gellerstedt name sounds familiar, it may be because for many years the new Woodruff chairman and his father ran the Beers construction company, which built, among many other familiar projects, the Centennial Olympic Stadium — now known as the Ted.

After something of a nervous breakdown a decade ago, after which Gellerstedt openly — and, in my opinion, courageously — discussed his struggle with depression, he rebounded to take the helm of Cousins. He's held far too many board positions to list, so suffice it to say his connections will certainly benefit the Woodruff.

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