For the Kravis Center’s new CEO, rebounding from the pandemic is just the beginning
When Terence W. Dwyer sat down with Boca magazine he was a week into his new digs as CEO of the Kravis Center, and his Zoom backdrop of empty office walls reflected the transition. This would soon change, Dwyer said, as he would begin to fill the space with theatre paraphernalia from his past positions in arts leadership.
Dwyer’s ideas for the Kravis Center had been percolating since before the announcement, in December 2020, that he would be filling the shoes of founding CEO Judy Mitchell at the top of West Palm Beach’s preeminent cultural center.
A native of New Jersey with a master’s degree in directing from the University of Missouri, Dwyer built his resume at California performing-arts centers such as the Segerstrom Center, creating new programs and raising more than $140 million in a capital campaign.
Though Dwyer is inheriting the position during the most challenging crisis in its history, he hopes to lead the campus into a post-pandemic era of community expansion, with an optimism that is, can we say, infectious?
What is it about the Kravis Center that compelled you to take this position?
The opportunity here was fantastic, because this is one of the premier performing arts centers in the country. They have an artistic reputation that is exceptional, and the education and community programs are strong. And the board didn’t want to rest on its laurels. It wanted to do more. The board was really interested in figuring out how the institution can build on its successes and evolve in response to the world that’s changing around us. They wanted to move forward strongly, and with confidence.
What are the steps toward bringing back entertainers and audiences to the Center?
There are a variety of steps moving forward on parallel and related tracks, but not all at the same rate. Certainly, we are taking excellent care of the staff and the board so that the staff is ready and willing and anxious to re-launch when the timing is right.
We’ve implemented a wide range of safety protocols both for current activity and to prepare for the moment when audiences are more actively invited back to the halls. We are tracking the rollout of the vaccine … so that we can plan a specific date.We’re working closely with our Broadway partners [to] determine when they can send shows out on tour. We are doing everything we possibly can to remain connected with our community through Kravis@Home, through educational programs, classes happening online. We really want to be there for the community, and emerge from this pandemic period as partners.
Are you eyeing the 2021/2022 calendar as a return to normality?
The 21/22 season will be a season of significant activity and movement to normality…The community needs to be comfortable coming back, and we will be ready for them, no question. But the performers and unions also have to be comfortable. And the government regulators have to give approval. The runway back to normality will start in the fall.
Any changes in programming, when we’re on the other side of the pandemic?
I would say that the general high level and eclecticism of Kravis Center programming will continue. We have some ideas of how to enhance those performances with value-added experiences for the general community, and before and after the performances. We’re going to redouble our efforts to connect with every community and constituency we have throughout Palm Beach County as well as on our campus.
What have people been missing the most about the arts?
This is not the result of a scientific study, but I really think people have an urgent need to be with other people—a need for communities to come together. People really want to reconnect with humanity. I think there’s a massive pent-up demand. The Kravis Center has been serious and rigorous and disciplined in providing for the safety of our patrons. There’s a lot of variables in play, and we’re looking at all of them.