Spoleto Festival USA has appointed a new general director.
Mena Mark Hanna comes to Charleston from Berlin’s Barenboim-Said Akademie, where he served as founding dean and professor of musicology and composition, Spoleto said in a news release. Hanna has more than 10 years’ experience working within the performing arts field both as a leader and an educator.
His appointment follows a 10-month international search by a Spoleto Festival USA committee that included board members and staff. The new general director will follow in the footsteps of Nigel Ridden, who announced that he will retire in October after 35 years. The cancellation of the 2020 festival and the pandemic’s enforced isolation factored into his decision, he said in a previous release.
Alicia Gregory, president of the board of Spoleto Festival USA, said in the news release that the board is “unanimous” in its decision to appoint Hanna and is confident in his leadership.
“At a time when creating access to and opportunities for meaningful representation is crucially important — in the cultural sector and across society — the next leader of the Festival must understand the power of art in promoting civic pride and effecting social change,” Gregory said in the release.
She believes Hanna’s “energy, collaborative instincts and empathetic leadership” will help him excel in his new role.
Hanna said it has been a dream of his to lead a multi-disciplinary festival, and for him, Spoleto is the pinnacle with its cutting-edge work showcasing and celebrating such an expanse of artistic expression.
“What really excites me most about Spoleto is the opportunity to promote robust engagement with these art forms and a deeper understanding of what it means to be human and how we can use the arts to bridge our differences,” he said in the release. “Spoleto is both international in scope, introducing new voices and commissioning new work, and, at the same time, has a deep, year-round commitment to the Charleston artistic community and youth. I look forward to joining such a dynamic community.”
In his new role, Hanna will advance Spoleto’s commitment to “produce and present innovative and world-class artistic programming across performing arts disciplines; provide a platform for young and established artists; feature the rich cultural diversity and creative community of Charleston; and promote the Festival’s hometown as an international arts destination,” the release said.
Spoleto, now in its 45th year, runs for 17 days each spring and attracts spectators from all over the world.
Ridden said he is confident that Spoleto will thrive under Hanna’s direction.
“Spoleto reflects the dynamism, creativity and passion of the local community, and I know that under Mena’s leadership, the Festival will continue to have a profoundly positive impact in supporting, inspiring and nurturing young performers, artists and creatives who practice between and beyond genres,” Ridden said in the release.