The Rural We: Tambra Dillon
On New Year’s Day, Tambra Dillon takes the helm as Hudson Hall’s new executive director, having served as co-director for the past four years. Replacing the retiring Gary Schiro, who’s been leading the historic opera house’s revitalization for more than 20 years, is no small feat — but neither is shepherding the Hall’s major renovation project and reopening the fully restored performance hall, as she did earlier this year, with Schiro and their small, passionate staff.
Dillon has a long track record with esteemed nonprofit arts organizations. She worked at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with Harvey Lichtenstein and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and was the executive director of the Bard Fisher Center. She says through her career she’s been focused on the idea that the arts can transform communities.
I had started volunteering for Gary when I was finishing my work with the dance company and he asked me to come on to work with him about four years ago. Since then it’s been just one amazing whirlwind. It’s been incredible.
It was time to talk about completing the vision for the building. Gary had secured two large grants that were going to expire so the question became: do we phase the project over time or do we just push really hard to raise the remainder to get to open? We decided to push. I wrote the ESD grant that got $1.3 million and we found out about the USDA financing. It was a fairly risky proposition. We were managing the risk but we were incurring a lot of debt over the long haul. But we knew it was a risk worth taking. Thankfully it ended up turning out really wonderfully.
Since reopening we’ve just been going from one thing to another. The building got bigger, the programming got bigger, but the staff hasn’t gotten any bigger. It’s a small enough staff that everyone does everything. It’s been a labor of love on everybody’s part to be able to accomplish so much.
This has always been the city’s town hall and we are interested to see what it means to continue to be the town hall. We are doing local community workshops and working with local artists to create things like “The Mother of Us All.” It’s about the people and the artists living in the community and responding to what’s happening in the region. This whole idea of local food, local art, local people, everything combines together to create a sense of place.
When I started working here I was really blown away by the community. Hudson is its own universe. It’s the most engaged community I’ve ever been in. People are vocal and have personalities. What’s great about Hudson is there’s room to be yourself and be a personality and be a little quirky. It’s like a family and I think the arts are a great equalizer when it comes to bringing people together.
As for what’s next, we are announcing the inaugural Hudson Jazz Festival. It’s a three-day festival in February that we intentionally scheduled over the Presidents’ Day weekend to try and address the off-season market. Armen Donelian is curating. We are really excited to share this with everyone. It’s going to be great.