Former Cal Performances Chief Named New City Arts Commissioner

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday December 03, 2009 - 08:49:00 AM

Former Cal Performances head Robert W. Cole joined the Berkeley Civic Arts Commission Tuesday. 

Cole, who recently retired after 23 years as director of Cal Performances, previously served as the executive director of the Brooklyn Center for Performing Arts at Brooklyn College and as executive director of the Bardavon 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie, New York.  

Cole’s appointer, Berkeley Councilmember Kriss Worthington, called his nomination the “most exciting news for the Berkeley Arts Commission in a decade.”  

“Under Robert’s leadership Cal Performances became a phenomenon,” Worthington said. “He is very talented in getting in touch with a wide range of different cultures. We are hopeful he can bring that same magic to the city of Berkeley’s Arts Commission.” 

A conductor and instrumentalist by training, Cole turned Cal Performances into a venue on a par with international arts centers, boasting a $14 million annual budget. 

In a 2005 interview with KQED, Cole said: “I had the idea to make [Berkeley] more like a London, New York or Paris where the greatest artists come from all over the world.” 

“With his decades of experience working with an immense diversity of talented artists, Robert is a great addition to the Arts Commission,” said Bonnie Hughes, who organizes the Berkeley Arts Festival, in a statement.