The Richmond arts community is losing a star.
Kathy Panoff, the first and only director of the Modlin Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Richmond, has accepted a post as director and associate dean of the Performing Arts Center at the University of Texas.
Panoff guided the Modlin Center from rough-sketched concept in 1996 to a place of international prominence as a performing arts program.
News of her departure went out to university faculty in an e-mail Jan. 22 sent by Andrew Newcomb, dean of UR's School of Arts and Sciences.
Panoff was recruited to the university more than 13 years ago by its then-president, Richard Morrill, who envisioned an integrated “arts village in the center of campus.”
“I have to really say that was always a strategic goal,” Panoff says — “that if we didn't present them at Modlin, they wouldn't otherwise come to Richmond.”
Fifteen years and more than 350 programs later, Panoff can boast of bringing such wide-ranging artists as cellist Yo-Yo Ma and exiled revolutionary Zimbabwean singer Thomas Mapfumo to Richmond.
“I'm proud of everything that we've done here,” Panoff says. “Richmond, it's quite a cosmopolitan community, with people from all over the world. I think Modlin is a reflection of that. I think this community has really embraced what we've tried to do.”
Part of what she's tried to do is stay true to the center's initial mission, the integration of academic arts programs with the needs of the broader Richmond community.
The university plans to appoint an interim director before conducting a nationwide search to fill the position, Newcomb says.
“I think the big thing people have to realize is that losing Kathy is a tremendous loss, but it doesn't mean we're gong to quit doing what we're doing,” Newcomb says. “That's what we're going to be looking for in her replacement, someone who can sustain and grow.”