A man who was at the grand opening of the Lied Center in September 1993 is taking the reins as its executive director.
Tim Van Leer, executive director of El Camino College Center for the Arts in Torrance, Calif., will begin his Lied Center duties July 1.
"The Lied Center has a local, state and national prominence that's matched by few in the country," Van Leer said Friday during a telephone interview.
"One of the things that excites me about this job, beyond the Lied Center, is the city of Lawrence. I really liked that the community is involved (in the arts)."
Van Leer has been an arts presenter for 27 years, the last eight at El Camino College Center for the Arts. The center is made up of Marsee Auditorium, a 2,000-seat multipurpose performance facility; the 350-seat Campus Theatre; and the 180-seat Robert Haag Recital Hall.
He also has been director of the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, Fla.; director of Mershon Auditorium at Ohio State University in Columbus; and assistant director of Gammage Center for the Performing Arts and University Activity Center at Arizona State University in Tempe.
He has served as president of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, California Presenters, Ohio Presenters and Ohio Dance.
"Tim Van Leer is the right director for the Lied Center right now," said Mary Burg, executive assistant to KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway. Burg, a past president of Friends of the Lied, served on the search committee. "He has good experience in programming and similar experience (to the KU position). He has good fund-raising abilities. He has the ability to communicate to a lot of different audiences. " Of the three candidates, I got to know him the best. He is easy to talk to and has a good sense of humor."
Van Leer said he became aware of the Lied Center years ago through his contact with Jackie Davis, who was the center's executive director from 1993 to mid-2000. Davis left to accept a position as executive director of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at the Lincoln Center in New York City.
Van Leer's attendance at the Lied Center's grand opening was "coincidental," he said. Davis had invited him to the ceremony, and the date jelled with a visit to his daughter, Melinda, then a journalism student at the University of Missouri-Columbia and now a writer for The Pampered Chef.
Van Leer and his wife, Jerrye, a fiber artist, have two other children: Jack, who lives in Los Angeles, has a degree in cinema and works for the Fox network; and Jill, a senior at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif.
Van Leer said it was too early for him to make decisions about the direction he would like to see the Lied Center go.
"I want to come and meet with the community and university (faculty and staff) and to get a feel of what they want and don't want. " It's a great organization, with a great staff, and it means a lot to the people. " So many have made the Lied Center a part of their lives. The future can only be bright."
-- Features-arts editor Jan Biles can be reached at 832-7146.