New leadership will take centre stage on Mission’s arts scene for the foreseeable future.
After the retirement of Clarke Theatre manager Bronwen Sutherland after more than 20 years in the role, her duties have branched into two positions. George Davidson takes over as the new manager of the theatre and Mark Haney takes the reins as Mission’s manager of arts and culture.
Haney is settling into a brand new role for the city. He says it’s the first time there’s been someone at the city whose full-time portfolio is arts and culture.
“It’s a really interesting opportunity to have,” Haney said. “There’s kind of a blank slate and a lot of room to develop and bring people together. It’s a pretty exciting challenge.”
Haney’s background is almost exclusively in the arts. He is a composer and double bassist best known for “Aim for the Roses.” Since 2011, he served as managing artistic director for The Little Chamber Music Series That Could.
“I don’t come from government at all,” Haney said. “My work has been all about public spaces, creating new events, and integrating different kinds of art forms to create these free public events. I think that’s what interested [the city] in me.”
He hopes the new position can be a hub for the arts and culture community to have more collaboration.
“It’s all kind of being defined as we go,” Haney said. “Right now, it’s all about meeting as many people as I can who are doing work in Mission. There’s no shortage of really cool artistic people doing interesting stuff, so I’m trying to meet as many of them as possible.”
Haney says the greatest artistic asset Mission has at its disposal is the people.
“There seems to be a lot of resiliency, a lot of people making things happen with maybe not a lot of resources,” he said. “A lot of events are really happening because of the drive and vision of small groups of people and that’s very exciting. If I can figure out a way to offer a little more support or resources, then these little pockets can strengthen and grow.”
Meanwhile, George Davidson takes over as manager of the Clarke Theatre with a wealth of experience. Davidson was the technician at the theatre since its inception over 25 years ago. He says the new role was a natural next step and he hopes to return the theatre to its pre-pandemic peaks.
“It’s exciting, I’m just happy to get going,” Davidson said. “We’re still recovering from COVID, so it’s about building back up.”
Like most of the entertainment industry, the theatre was slowed for two years due to the pandemic. With restrictions largely lifted, Davidson is looking forward to filling up the seats in the new year.
“We’re probably at about 70 to 80 per cent of where we used to be with attendance,” Davidson said. “We’ve missed a lot of people but it was great to have the Carol Festival and the Ukrainian Festival come back and all of our regular customers.”
Next up for the Clarke Theatre is the Relive the Music 50s & 60s Rock n Roll Show on Feb. 4 and a performance from award-winning musician Colin James on Feb. 7.
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