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Board Room Is the Stage for New Director of Rep

Ten years ago, Adrian Stewart looked like a guy who would end up running an oil company. He had earned degrees in mechanical engineering and business from Edinburgh University, he had taken advanced courses in financial and business management at the prestigious London School of Economics and he had settled into his job as the supplies and administration manager for the United Africa Co., a division of the conglomerate Unilever.

So, how did this 33-year-old Scottish native end up as the general director of the San Diego Rep? How did he go from rising executive of a multinational company to manager of a U. S. regional theater company?

“I’m not a frustrated actor,” Stewart said, discounting the most likely assumption. “I don’t want to see myself on stage. This is my forum--a board room. This is where I focus my energies.”

Stewart had always been interested in art, but he said his avocation as a watercolor artist wasn’t sufficiently scratching his creative itch. In 1981, at the age of 26, Stewart resigned from the business world “to get closer to the cultural environment.” It was a surprise to his employer, the Illinois manufacturer of kidney dialysis machines that he had gone to work for after his stint in Africa.

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“They had trouble understanding why I would go off into the struggling nonprofit world,” he said. “I had the opportunity to assess all the benefits of a good business career, and yet felt something was missing for me. I can handle the logical analysis. I really can excel in pure logic.”

But neither his chosen career nor his landscape painting made enough demands on his intuitive and creative skills. He entered the arts management program at Indiana University Graduate School of Business in 1981 and has since built an arts management career that rivals his earlier career.

In fact, Stewart’s track record as an arts administrator knocked the socks off the members of the Rep’s search committee, who doubted they could lure him to San Diego.

“We didn’t think we could get anyone that established, who apparently was being groomed to succeed the managing director of the Dallas Theater Center,” said Michael Alpert, an attorney who is president of San Diego Rep’s board of trustees. “Although we had looked at exceptional people, nobody was as exceptional as Adrian.”

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Stewart had served two years as general manager of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, reversing a deficit trend. Before taking over as Dallas’ development and marketing director, responsible for generating $3.6 million in earned and contributed income, he spent a brief time with the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco directing the theater’s administrative, marketing and fund-raising activities near the tumultuous end of its artistic director’s reign.

The tall, ebullient Scot--he was born in Rhu, Scotland--has an infectious enthusiasm for the Rep, where on opening nights he turns up wearing his heraldic kilt. Stewart sees his role as “the next stage booster rocket.” Stewart’s task here is to institute a program of planned growth and to provide the financial resources to allow for artistic research and development.

“There’s an aspect of entrepreneurial management in arts organizations,” he said in an accent more English than Scottish. “We have minimal resources. We don’t have huge ad budgets. We are always looking for creative solutions.”

That’s the kind of challenge that motivates him. “The concept of doing a budget analysis on ‘Red Noses,'--that sums it up,” Stewart said of the Rep’s recent production of a comedy about the Black Plague. “I can do the budget analysis. I also understand the play.”

FESTIVAL UPDATE. Mayor Maureen O’Connor and her aides have been busy after last week’s City Council approval of a $3-million city grant for her proposed 1989 Soviet arts festival. O’Connor flew to New York for some festival palaver with the son of Faberge egg collector Malcolm Forbes.

Meanwhile, Bruce Herring, the festival’s administrative coordinator, is putting in the paper work to establish a nonprofit corporation to run the festival. The mayor has not yet announced the names of the advisory board members who will make the key recommendations.

Herring is also busy scheduling meetings to cull ideas from artists, arts leaders, the heads of university arts departments and some school district officials about festival programs for children.

“We’re meeting basically with anyone who wants to meet with us at this point,” Herring said.

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Remember the California Arts Council’s new fellowship program, which granted $5,000 no-string awards to state artists? What does an artist use the money for?

San Diego video artist Louis Hock called the money “beneficial,” while acknowledging that the amount doesn’t compare with the kind of substantial fellowships that Massachusetts and New York offer artists.

Hock is using the $5,000 to support three projects dealing with “relationships between the individual and the popular media.” One of the pieces he is doing is about the difference between the way events are reported and how people remember them.


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