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Meet BlackRock’s New Executive Director

Krista Rimple Bradley says she wants to make the arts venue more accessible, more visible

Some of what Krista Rimple Bradley hopes to accomplish as BlackRock’s new executive director involves recreating a 1970s theater experience, how she felt seeing Ben Vereen perform in “Pippin” at The Kennedy Center.

“Magic” was the word she used to describe it.

“I am the first person to say I love TV. I watch ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and I'm totally into pop culture,” Bradley said. “But you can’t reproduce being in the dark, seeing magic happen and sharing it with people who you might not even know. There is something really powerful about that shared experience of seeing live performance.

“I don't think that power changes over time.”

Bradley officially began her duties as the executive director of BlackRock Center for the Arts on Monday.

“When we talked to [Bradley] about what she sees for the next 10 years, her ideas were very much in line with what the board’s ideas were,” said Jean Casey, BlackRock’s board chairwoman.

“We have an intimate performance theater and we have some limitations in terms of space,” Casey said. “So using that to its advantage, getting the right performers in that space so that the audience a can have an experience they can't have in other venues, she [Bradley] clearly understands that.”

Located in Germantown Town Center, BlackRock has a $1.37 million operating budget for 2013 and employs 13 people, 8 full-time and 5 part-time.

The nonprofit, multipurpose arts venue is already a considered cultural focal point for Upcounty residents.

Tuition from educational programs alone make up 60 percent of BlackRock’s earned revenue, according to marketing director Laurie Levy-Page, while ticket revenue and facility rentals only accounted for 20 percent a piece.

Bradly said she would like to expand BlackRock’s visibility on a countywide scale.

All of the Montgomery County’s bona fide Arts & Entertainment districts are south of Germantown — in Bethesda, Silver Spring and Wheaton, according to Pamela Dunne, program director of Arts & Entertainment District programs for the Maryland State Arts Council, which designates such districts.

Bradly said she sees opportunities for growth, like having better synergy between what happens in the classroom and what happens on stage. Artistic residencies and master classes led by BlackRock performers were a couple of some examples she gave as ways to bridge the gap.

“The distance between being a person who's learning how to do something or following an avocation, and being a professional shouldn't be so far apart,” Bradley said. “You should have opportunities to interact with someone who's doing it for a living.”

Bradley, who lives in Silver Spring, plays piano, sings and has a background in modern dance. She grew up in Bethesda and said her childhood memories include going to hear the National Symphony Orchestra, catching shows at Arena Stage and Cabin John Park.

She comes to BlackRock from the MidAtlantic Arts Foundation, where she was the program officer of performing arts since 2005.

She picks up where Charlotte Sommers left off.

Sommers was BlackRock’s executive director for four years. Casey said the departure was unexpected — her husband took a job out-of-state.

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