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Bob Cilman to retire from Northampton Arts Council

  • Bob Cilman, executive director of the Northampton Arts Council, holds a poster from his first show in March 1992 amid posters from other shows Monday in his office at Memorial Hall. He is retiring his position.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Bob Cilman, executive director of the Northampton Arts Council, holds a poster from his first show in March 1992 amid posters from other shows Monday in his office at Memorial Hall. He is retiring his position.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bob Cilman, executive director of the Northampton Arts Council, Monday in his office at Memorial Hall. He is retiring his position.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Bob Cilman, executive director of the Northampton Arts Council, Monday in his office at Memorial Hall. He is retiring his position.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bob Cilman, executive director of the Northampton Arts Council, Monday in his office at Memorial Hall. He is retiring his position.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Bob Cilman, executive director of the Northampton Arts Council, Monday in his office at Memorial Hall. He is retiring his position.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bob Cilman, executive director of the Northampton Arts Council, holds a poster from his first show in March 1992 amid posters from other shows Monday in his office at Memorial Hall. He is retiring his position.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Bob Cilman, executive director of the Northampton Arts Council, Monday in his office at Memorial Hall. He is retiring his position.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Bob Cilman, executive director of the Northampton Arts Council, Monday in his office at Memorial Hall. He is retiring his position.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

Cilman, who will turn 60 this June, said he’ll be devoting all his time after that to directing the Young@Heart Chorus, the acclaimed group of elderly Valley singers that he founded in 1982 and which he has continued to lead during the time he’s also headed the arts council.

“It feels like I’ve been working two jobs for a long time — a lot of 60-hour weeks,” Cilman said Monday. “It’s been a great experience working for the Arts Council, but I think we’re in a good place now for someone else to step up and take over.”

As the Arts Council’s executive director, Cilman has been the visionary behind— and overseen — many of the city’s efforts to support the arts by securing grants for artists, funding special school programs and staging popular shows like the annual Transperformance concert at Look Park and the Four Sundays in February concerts at the Academy of Music.

During Cilman’s tenure, those latter programs have raised over $300,000 for grants for area artists and some $150,000 for cultural programming in city elementary schools. Last month’s Four Sundays in February shows were the most successful ones yet, Cilman noted, grossing about $84,000, of which roughly $50,000 will go to local arts funding.

“I think we did a pretty good job turning lemons into lemonade,” he joked, noting that last month’s shows took place despite the major snowstorm of Feb. 8-9 and a structural problem with fire escapes at the Academy of Music that forced one of the shows to move to John M. Greene Hall at Smith College.

Cilman said he’d been thinking of stepping down from the Arts Council for the last year or two, in part because his workload with the Young@Heart Chorus has increased over time as the group’s visibility and popularity — with overseas concert tours, album recordings and the issuing of a documentary DVD — have grown.

“It’s been a wonderful opportunity to work with the city and the artists, making the Arts Council into an organization that really serves the arts community,” said Cilman. “But I think now I’ll be able to have some more flexibility in my schedule, a way to control my hours.”

Cilman said he also feels the time is right for someone from the “new generation” of artists to take the helm of the Arts Council. He notes that the council’s arts administrator, Brian Foote, has brought a number of technological improvements to the organization, such as online ticket sales, and built connections to younger artists in the area.

He said he believes the Arts Council “would benefit from someone with new ways of looking at things.”

The Arts Council board of directors will meet with Mayor David Narkewicz to begin looking for a replacement.

Cilman says he’ll also begin looking for an office for the Young@Heart Chorus once he steps down from the council.

But he added that he’ll be staying on board through September’s Transperformance concert, despite the yearly challenge of coming up with a theme for the show, now in its 23rd year.

“That’s not why I’m resigning,” he said with a laugh.

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