Just north of I-275, the arts scene is thriving in the city of Hamilton, Ohio. Hamilton’s Fitton Center for Creative Arts is about to launch its upcoming season while also welcoming a new Executive Director, Ian Mackenzie-Thurley, to the team.

Originally from Sydney, Australia, Mr. Mackenzie-Thurley moved to Hamilton, Ohio, in the spring of 2013 and took on the role of executive director this past spring. He is beginning his new role at the Fitton Center with enthusiasm and exciting ideas for the future of this community arts center. We recently spoke with Mr. Mackenzie-Thurley to learn more about the Fitton Center and its mission of building community excellence through the arts and culture.

What first attracted you to the Fitton Center and the city of Hamilton?
I have been extremely fortunate to be involved in some incredible artistic endeavors during my career. But what I’ve never been a part of before is what is going on here in Hamilton, right now. Here is a city rebuilding itself, reinventing its purpose and driving itself forward in a positive way – with an energized, engaged and enthusiastic community leading the way.

For over 20 years, the Fitton Center for Creative Arts has evolved as the leading artistic hub for Hamilton and the surrounding area. It continues to be an incredible cultural resource in support of artists, community groups, families and patrons throughout southern Ohio; providing arts education and outreach, performance opportunities, family entertainment, live theater, music and special events.

The chance to take the helm of the Fitton Center at this exciting time for Hamilton is a fantastic opportunity for me personally and professionally. The Fitton has recently undergone an extensive renovation and development, including the expansion and refit of the theater. The staff at the Fitton is incredibly passionate about what they do and are constantly bringing innovative ideas and great energy to the table as we look to plan for the future.

What does the Fitton Center have to offer first time visitors who may not be familiar with its programming?
This year our theme is ‘Expect the Unexpected!’ We’re looking for people to come curious and leave inspired. At the Fitton, we offer art classes and workshops that are open to all ages as well as a range of summer camps and seasonal workshops. Our Entertainment Plus, nLIVEn and Fitton Family Friday theater and concert series offer an array of local and national performers in both our Fitton Family Theater and Carruthers’ Signature Ballroom. Or you can always take the opportunity to stroll through our remarkable art galleries over two floors.

There truly is something for everyone at the Fitton Center, and we are encouraging people to come and explore all we have to offer. On Friday, August 21, we’re hosting our 2015-2016 Season Launch from 5pm-9pm. Our new season brochure will be available, our box office will be open and attendees will have the opportunity to see classes in action, rehearsals in the theatre and talk to staff about all our programs, performances and membership opportunities. Or just come and enjoy a drink on our magnificent plaza overlooking the Great Miami River, listen to live music, and catch up with friends.

Why do you believe the arts are vital in the pursuit of building a strong, connected community?
There is something quite special about the connection made in the shared experience - be it a ballgame, a dinner party or even watching a DVD together. The arts also fit strongly into that same mold. Taking a painting class with a friend or going on a date to see a show allows you to share an event unique to that time and place. When you expand that out into the greater community it creates an opportunity for those who may not have had contact before to connect with each other and find some common ground. Whether that be sitting on a grassy bank listening to a concert or creating a mural together, it’s about finding ways to share our stories, our concerns and our passions.

We welcome Ian to our arts community and look forward to enjoying more music, theater, and art in Hamilton!