For Jim Pendergist, a 30-year-plus supporter of The Grand in Ellsworth, The Grand represents vibrancy: “I love the excitement, the atmosphere, and the ever-changing cycle of events.”
Nothing is stagnant, everything changes, Pendergist observed: “The vibrancy and diverseness of the Grand is what makes it successful.”
Since 1938, the historic art deco theater on Ellsworth’s Main Street has offered entertainment from Metropolitan Opera performances to films, from children’s workshops to live theatre.
Now, there’s a new captain at the helm of this vibrant ship—Executive Director Nick Turner. Turner comes to Ellsworth via Fort Collins, Colo., where he most recently served as a co-founder and sponsor of the Fort Collins Fringe Festival and a theatre artist-in-resident in the Integrated School of the Arts Program. In addition, he was a co-owner and managing producer of Nonesuch Theatre and served as CEO of the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, a state-of-the-art, 380-seat dinner theatre in Colorado.
“I do an astounding amount of research and preparation into anything creative I’m about to venture into,” said Turner. “Most of it pales in comparison to the imaginative impulse and inspiration I get from other people.”
You could say The Grand’s new executive director brings a “new performance” to the stage: “I do a little teaching, a little directing, a little writing, and a little acting,” he said, “and I focus on joy above all else.”
The Grand relies on money from programming, memberships, grants, donations and fundraising to operate. In Turner, The Grand’s board of directors saw someone with the the experience and mindset to help the theater grow.
“Nick has experience with for-profit theaters. He understands how to set and manage budgets and how to attract sponsors,” said Carla Haskell, president of the The Grand’s board of directors. “We really liked this aspect of his background, and it set him apart.”
Haskell said having Turner as a new team member to work with the board will position The Grand “as an exciting, vibrant place for art, education and entertainment in a big way.”
Turner acknowledged the task at hand.
“It’s my responsibility to give patrons a reason to come through the doors and a reason to be proud of what they see,” he said. “My ‘talent’ for engaging and encouraging creatives and being inspired to pursue joy in what we create together is what I see for The Grand. I firmly believe everyone is creative and has the potential for genius.”
Ellsworth native Teri Sargent grew up a patron of The Grand.
“Saturday afternoons were spent watching movies at The Grand,” she said. “I remember bringing my children to the Nutcracker Ballet, seeing live performances, a magician or a puppeteer. All are held fondly in my heart.”
Sargent said when The Grand holds an event today, the downtown comes alive with patrons dining and shopping.
“It’s a magical experience for both young and old,” she said.