The RiverPark Center’s board of directors has named Rich John, a St. Louis, Missouri native, as its new RiverPark Center executive director.

Jorn, who will start on Nov. 4, most recently served as the artistic director for the Effingham Performance Center in Effingham, Illinois. He is taking over the position following Roxi Witt’s retirement earlier this year.

Jorn said he is “absolutely thrilled” to take the helm at the RPC. One thing he said he was impressed with is the center’s well-attended Broadway series, but he also enjoys the city of Owensboro and all of its offerings, from Smothers Park to the educational systems.

“I’m very honored to be appointed to this position, and I look forward to fulfilling the mission of the RiverPark Center, but also expanding what we do and kind of putting the foot on the gas pedal and making it go forward,” Jorn said.

“I’m looking forward to serving the community with fantastic entertainment so that people will think about the RiverPark Center first when they say ‘What are we going to do this weekend?’ ” he said. 

Jorn comes from a theater background, with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in theater from Arkansas State University, and has worked several positions within the performing arts.

“Pretty much any job that happens in a theater has been my responsibility at some point in my career,” he said. 

He and his wife, Libbie, have four children, Xavier, Izzy, Jackson and Alexandria. 

Jeff Ebelhar, RPC’s current acting executive director and board chair, said Jorn’s great personality, listening skills, and the fact that he’s a midwesterner make him a good fit for the Owensboro market. With Jorn’s background and experience, it is Ebelhar’s hope that new programming opportunities will help bring more people from outside the region to Owensboro for shows. 

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Jorn has a varied background, Ebelhar said, from children’s educational programming to all the technical aspects of theater.

“He’s been a director, he’s been in community plays, he’s been involved in a lot of different aspects of theater and every aspect of what we have going on at RiverPark Center,” Ebelhar said. 

Jorn fits in well with the RiverPark’s current mission, but he also has the ability with his contacts and connections to bring in programming not currently offered at the center, like music shows, he said.

“Our hope is that with Rich’s help and background and experience and connections that we are able to offer additional programming through the RiverPark Center that we haven’t been able to offer before,” Ebelhar said. “I can’t wait for him to get started. I think he’s going to be a great fit for us and hopefully help us through our next 25 years that we’ve enjoyed at RiverPark Center.”

In May, the RiverPark Center’s board of directors hired a Toronto firm, Genovese, Vanderhoof & Associates, described as “a North American arts consulting partnership with extensive experience in both performing and visual arts management,” to conduct the search for a new executive director.

Margaret Genovese, a senior partner with GVA, was in charge of the search process.

Doug Field, co-chair for the search task force, said the task force received 17 applications and had telephone interviews with eight of the applicants. From that point, they invited four to Owensboro to complete a two-day, in-person interview process.  

He said the search task force originally projected to name the new executive director by September, but due to complications working with a number of individuals’ schedules, the process slowed. 

“We felt it was necessary to let the process be thorough and complete and not rush it,” he said. “We think the results will justify the five-week delay.”

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315.

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