It's big news when the artistic visionary of the state's largest performing arts center decides to call it a career. According to a press release issued by the Flynn today, Arnie Malina will retire at the end of January 2012.
"He's been there 15 years, 50 percent of the time the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts has existed," said executive director John Killacky by phone shortly after the announcement. "He's planning next season, and we've written our grants, so a lot is already in play for next year," he added.
Malina spent many years running the Myrna Loy Center for the Performing and Media Arts in Helena, Mont., before arriving at the Flynn in 1997. During his tenure — and that of prior ED Andrea Rogers — a successful capital campaign transformed the Flynn from a "theater" to a "center," renovated and restored the art-deco facility, added the smaller FlynnSpace, and generally raised the profile of the organization.
Malina's passion for popular, experimental and international arts translated to a huge variety of shows coming to Burlington, putting the relatively small city on a much broader cultural map.
Vermonters have benefited, too, from a number of residencies at the Flynn, enabling locals to interact with, study, listen to and watch artists in the act of creation. This kind of connection apparently gives Malina a particular thrill.
"Seeing new work come alive and supporting artists in the creative process, that is a glorious process," he said.
Of course, it has probably been pretty gratifying bringing to the Flynn such artists as Sonny Rollins, David Byrne, Marie Choinard, Ornette Coleman and any number of cirques, dance troupes and Broadway productions.
Malina is also artistic director of the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, which the Flynn produces, and so his departure will be felt there, too.
Killacky revealed that Malina had mentioned the possibility of retiring when Killacky came on board last year, replacing Rogers. "We knew it was coming, but not exactly when," Killacky said. "The board was told last night, the staff today."