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Movers & Shakers: Seen and Heard

Written by Jeanne Cooper | Illustrations by Olivia Wise

Whether it’s an eye for the perfect image, an ear for the right note or a nose for benefactors, these new leaders in the Bay Area’s vibrant arts scene rely on keenly honed senses to keep their organizations at the top of their game.

Allie Haeusslein

After celebrating its 10th anniversary on the Embarcadero via the retrospective exhibition Looking Back, Pier 24 Photography and its recently promoted codirector are now focused on the future. Looking Forward, which opens in June, will showcase works collected by Andrew and Mary Pilara’s Pilara Foundation since its appointment-based museum opened to the public in 2010. “I am looking forward to developing future exhibitions and new kinds of publishing projects with our tight-knit team,” says Haeusslein, who began working with codirector Chris McCall in 2012. A fourth-generation San Franciscan, she notes that retrospectives of Eva Hesse, Diane Arbus and Richard Tuttle at SFMOMA in the early 2000s “helped as I started cultivating a visual vocabulary.” Haeusslein also has “fond memories” from the Legion of Honor, telling the Gazette, “I remember taping the brochure from the 2001 exhibition Acquisition of an Archive: The Graphic Work of Ed Ruscha to the bathroom mirror at home until it faded!”

Danielle St.Germain

In nine months as interim executive director of San Francisco Ballet, which ended with her accepting the permanent position in March, St.Germain aided its return to in-person performances, created a chief diversity officer, helped start a fellowship for Black musicians and backed the hiring of Tamara Rojo to succeed Helgi Tomasson as artistic director later this year. But even with several years as chief development officer at the ballet, and similar positions at major theater companies in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., the Boston native says, “Impostor syndrome is real. I took solace in knowing that no one hops into the world as an executive director — everyone is new at it once.” Married last month to real estate executive Steve Kulinski, and the mother of two children ages 24 and 19, St.Germain notes that “I personally believe when people have a full rich life of family, children, pets and partners, it only makes them more effective in the workplace.”

John Keene

With experience guiding opera choruses through nearly 100 titles, “it’s an interesting scenario to rehearse a new piece to me and not to the ensemble,” says San Francisco Opera’s newest chorus director. But that’s what Keene, chorus master with Seattle Opera before he succeeded Ian Robertson in January, is doing for next month’s revival of Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber, which premiered in San Francisco in 2016. “It’s helped us to bond together and collaborate in finding our way together, which is the biggest challenge,” says Keene. A gifted cellist as a child, he recalls his passion for opera igniting as a teenager in Dallas, when he watched Renata Scotto conclude Anna Bolena with an impressively staged fall down a flight of stairs. “It was a really seminal moment in my life … combined with the great music and singing she’d done all night, I couldn’t believe human beings could achieve that.”

Christopher Bedford

The new Helen and Charles Schwab Director of SFMOMA, who takes up his post in late June, comes from a nearly six-year stint at the helm of the Baltimore Museum of Art, where he made headlines for committing to buying and exhibiting art by women, people of color and those who identify as LGBTQ+. Bedford also garnered attention for honoring the request of John Waters, who donated a collection to the Baltimore museum, to name one of its bathrooms after the filmmaker. SFMOMA’s announcement of his hiring hailed Scotland-born Bedford for “strong leadership skills, clear vision and an ability to generate change,” noting that his appointment represents “a moment to be bold, rethink old practices and fully realize the great potential the museum offers.”

Shawna Lucey

Trained in Russia and Santa Fe, the new general director of Opera San José says moving from New York to Silicon Valley last month was like coming home to her native Houston. “There’s this major industry and so much vibrant immigration because of that industry — all these different cultures and ethnic groups in this one location — and it’s very exciting,” Lucey shares. “There’s that feeling of possibility, change and innovation.” An Irish dancer in her youth, and a puppet theater designer while pursuing graduate studies in Moscow, Lucey has built a résumé of innovative opera directing that includes San Francisco Opera’s 2018 production of Tosca, which she reprised for the opening of its 2021 season. Although Lucey will return to San Francisco this fall with La Traviata, her 2018 production for Opera San José that featured a contemporary perspective, her primary focus will be “stewarding an incredible group” in Silicon Valley’s “gem of an opera company.”

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