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New leader at Arts United

New leader at Arts United
Sparrow was formerly development director at the organization.
By Carol Tannehill

Jim Sparrow has been named the new executive director of Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne.

Sparrow — who was development director for the community arts organization and, more recently, interim director — replaces Geoff Gephart, who left the post July 31 to pursue other career options.

Sparrow was “a skilled, creative, energetic development director,” said Steve Hazelrigg, chairman of Arts United’s board.

“He’s a good guy who has moved up through the organization and who has been applauded for the job he’s done.”

The fact that Sparrow was Arts United’s development director underscores the importance of Arts United’s fundraising function, Hazelrigg said. Arts United raises money to support operations and programming for about 70 northeast Indiana arts groups.

Sparrow, 39, joined Arts United in 1998 as an education specialist. He also served as a program manager and development associate before becoming the organization’s development director.

A professional clarinetist, he came to Fort Wayne to join the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. He remained with the orchestra for 10 years.

Sparrow accepted the executive director’s job because Arts United is stable and solid, but “there is also tremendous opportunity for a new conversation with the community about the value of the arts,” he said.

Fort Wayne has a great tradition of supporting the arts — Arts United is Indiana’s second-largest arts council and the third-oldest in the United States — but its challenge now is to look toward the future instead of the past, Sparrow said.

Although Sparrow was a strong candidate for the post from the beginning, the board hired H.C. Smith Ltd., a Cleveland-based executive-search firm specializing in the arts-funding industry, to oversee a nationwide search.

“We wanted to keep an open mind,” Hazelrigg said.

“Because (Arts United) lives off other people’s money, we wanted to show fiduciary responsibility and due diligence in finding someone to lead.”

The search firm recommended Sparrow for the position.

“They told us we couldn’t do any better than Jim,” Hazelrigg said. “That was vindication for us that we weren’t letting our emotions get in the way of choosing the right candidate.”

In the near future, Sparrow plans to focus on cultivating corporate support for the arts and building community awareness of Arts United.

He may add to the development staff, although his former position might be redefined.

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News Sentinel | 08/19/2005 | New leader at Arts United: "New leader at Arts United"

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