Longtime arts festival director steps down, search ongoing

Festival-goers browse the Children and Youth Sidewalk Sale at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts on Wednesday, July 13, 2022. Photo by Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com

After decades of service, Rick Bryant, longtime director of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, plans to retire next year.

Bryant will officially retire from the organization at the end of January, he announcement this week. He said in a statement that he was confident the organization’s next leader would continue the festival’s legacy in central Pennsylvania.

“I love my job, but now it’s time to let someone else run the show,” Bryant wrote. “We have an excellent team of paid staff and volunteers, so there is a solid base on which my successor can build.

A volunteer from the mid-1980s, Bryant joined the festival’s paid staff in 1999 and became executive director of Arts Fest in 2005. In a statement, leaders of the organization said Bryant’s impact was well beyond an annual festival.

“Rick has been the driving force, the connector, and the head of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts and First Night for 18 years,” said Renata Engel, chair of the board of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. “The joy, music and art he brought to this community has been a pillar and a point of pride. We are grateful for his commitment and the foundation he established on which we will continue to build.

Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts executive director Rick Bryant talks with Town&Gown founder Mimi Barash Coppersmith in 2017. Photo by Darren Andrew Weimert | City and Dress

The festival board is currently working on a national search to find Bryant’s successor. Plans are for the next chief executive to begin work this winter.

The Executive Director of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts is responsible for planning and executing the organization’s namesake summer festival, as well as its New Year’s Eve celebration, First Night State College. The ideal candidate, according to the organization, is someone who has strong organizational and leadership skills and who has served in a major voluntary or community organization.

A full job description, including specific job qualifications, is available on the organization’s website. Applicants should send a resume and list of references to [email protected]. The organization will begin reviewing applications in November, according to the job posting.

“The next festival director has a solid foundation to build on,” Bryant wrote in a blog post. “If you (or someone you know) are passionate about the community, the arts, don’t mind hard work and enjoy throwing a party, you should consider applying. It’s a great gig.

When reflecting while directing the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, Bryant recalled fond memories of the annual festival over the years. What started as casual community service turned into a career he never thought possible, he said. But now, with decades of service under his belt, Bryant says he’s finally ready to enjoy the festival from the other side.

“I look forward to being part of the Festival audience next July to see – and hear – the wonderful things the new team has in store for us,” Bryant wrote. “I hope that you too!”

Arts Festival came back in person this summer for the first time since 2019. The 56-year-old festival brings hundreds of artists from across the country to State College each summer for a four-day celebration of art and music.

For more information on the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts and its search for a new Executive Director, visit the organization’s website.

Amanda J. Marsh