New Bowlus director named

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Local News

September 11, 2018 - 11:37 AM

The next director of the Bowlus Fine Arts Center says he wants to respect the center’s history as a cultural staple of southeast Kansas, while bringing back big-name acts and capitalizing on economic development efforts in the region.
Daniel Kays of San Jose, Calif., was announced as the new executive director for the Bowlus at Monday night’s meeting of the USD 257 Board of Education, which oversees the center. Kays succeeds Susan Raines, who retired this summer after 14 years as director.
“I’m ready to take the reins and move it forward, hopefully with a new vision,” Kays said in a phone interview Monday night. “Coming in with an outside perspective, maybe I’ll bring different ideas but with the heart of the community and the history in mind.”
Kays said in his research of the Bowlus he was impressed by the community’s commitment to honor Thomas H. Bowlus’s vision to bring the arts to families and children in southeast Kansas. He sees opportunities to tie the Bowlus to economic development efforts underway in Allen County.
“It’s a magnet for new companies, coming in knowing there’s a cultural part of their investments. They’ll bring their families here, knowing the Bowlus offers a quality of life that no other place has,” Kays said.
His goal is to bring big-name acts back to the Bowlus, while keeping ticket prices affordable for families. That will require greater investment through grants, trusts and donations.
“After the recession, all venues played it safe because of the risk that’s involved with bringing in higher names. I’d like to see us stretch our wings again,” he said. “When you go for higher value and more risk, you have to balance out the other side. That means we need to work harder on the contribution side.”
Kays interviewed for the position first via Skype and traveled to Iola in late August for an in-person interview and tour of the building. Diana Asher, president of the Friends of the Bowlus, said the group was impressed by his knowledge, experience and enthusiasm. Bowlus staff also threw their support behind Kays, telling Asher they were impressed and felt comfortable with him.
“That was one of the most important things to me. When they said that, I knew we were on the right track,” Asher said. “We had a lot of good applicants but he stood out. He’s very personable and had some good ideas. Enthusiasm goes a long way.”
Kays is expected to start at the Bowlus Oct. 8, just a couple of weeks before the new season of performances begins.
Kays, originally from Aurora, Colo., currently works for the city of Mountain View, Calif., as operations manager for the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. He previously worked as the longtime managing director for Moonlight Stage Productions, a production arts program for the city of Vista, Calif. His background includes roles as equity stage manager and production manager for tours across the United States and Europe. Types of productions he’s been involved with include comedies, operettas, dance companies for ballet and flamenco, cabaret and musical theater. He’s also worked with such artists as Julie Jones, daughter of Quincy Jones; Marietta Hartley, Glynis Johns, Tim Curry and the Cassidy brothers, among others.  
He does have some knowledge of the Midwest. Most of his family lives in South and North Dakota.
Still, moving to Iola could come as a bit of a culture shock for Kays and his family, who come from large metropolitan areas in California including 16 years in San Diego County. He’ll bring with him wife Laura; sons Maxwell, age 17, and Nicholas, age 13; dog Butler and parrotlet Mirabel. The couple’s oldest son, Andrew, age 19, attends college in New Hampshire.
“We really look forward to investing our family and putting down roots,” Kays said.
He also means that literally. He’s looking forward to having property where he can start a garden. “I want to grow things. You can’t do that in the concrete city.”

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