Tautvydas stepping down at Wheeler | AspenTimes.com

Tautvydas stepping down at Wheeler

Janet Urquhart
Nida Tautvydas, executive director of the Wheeler Opera House, has resigned her post, effective in July.

Nida Tautvydas resigned Wednesday as executive director of Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House, calling it time to move on, though she will remain at the theater’s helm until July 22.”It definitely is a big decision,” said Tautvydas, who succeeded Bob Murray as the Wheeler’s director seven years ago. “I’ve been thinking about it on and off for probably about a year.”Definitely for the time that I’ve been here, it has been a time of great change, great growth – not only for the Wheeler, but for the community,” she said. “For me professionally and what I would like to accomplish, it’s probably the right time to move on.”Ron Erickson, chairman of the Wheeler board, expressed surprise yesterday when he was told of the announcement.”She’s done a terrific job for seven years,” he said.

Tautvydas was the acting executive director of Center East, a performing arts center in Chicago, before taking over at the Wheeler.Her job, along with others among the Wheeler staff, will be the focus of an “organizational assessment,” according to Randy Ready, assistant city manager. The city has hired a performing arts consulting firm to analyze the organizational structure of the staff and review employee job descriptions. The duties of some staffers, including the director’s, are daunting, Tautvydas conceded.”If you look at her job description, the only thing she doesn’t have to do is perform Mass on Sundays at the Vatican,” Erickson said. “The board has always felt the Wheeler has been understaffed and we needed to make some changes there.”With the consultant’s review of the staff, Tautvydas said her departure will leave the Wheeler with “an open slate” if some restructuring needs to occur.At least one former longtime employee of the Wheeler hopes to see the venue regain something that he said was lost under Tautvydas’ charge.

“Under the latest leadership, I saw the Wheeler slip away from its great potential,” said Gordon Wilder, who began working at the opera house in 1992 and left his post as assistant to the production manager last June.”I left because I was no longer satisfied working there,” he said.”At one time in the Wheeler, the culture was we were artists supporting other artists,” Wilder said. “Our goal was to provide the tools and atmosphere to help artists put on the best performance of their lives.”That feel had slipped away, according to Wilder, one of three full-time employees who departed last year. Various part-timers have left, as well, he said.During Tautvydas’ tenure, the Wheeler established an endowment fund to ensure its future financial well-being, expanded its programming and is close to hiring an outside firm to help market the Wheeler – a city directive.The opera house was the focus of a failed ballot proposal in 2003, put forward by the city, to purchase the Mother Lode restaurant for future expansion of the Wheeler. Planning to expand into the vacant lot immediately adjacent to the building continues, albeit slowly, Tautvydas said.

Among the other challenges facing the Wheeler, noted by Wheeler board members in a January discussion with the City Council, is making the opera house more approachable for local groups that don’t currently use the venue.”The board felt we needed to reorganize management to be more user friendly, especially with the community,” Erickson said.Tautvydas, 40, said she and her husband, Keith Hunter, haven’t decided yet whether they will remain in the area.”I’ve got a few things that I’m considering, but nothing is confirmed yet,” she said. “I would say it’s time for me to explore other opportunities.”The salary range for the Wheeler director’s post is $62,000 to $86,000, according to Ready. Tautvydas earns about $80,000, he said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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