Jon Wilner is retiring as executive director of The ArtsCenter in Carrboro effective June 30.
Wilner, 63, will stay on as interim director through Sept. 30 while the board seeks a replacement and has agreed to work as the center's community relations person after that for $1 a year.
"It's really what I wanted," Wilner said this morning. He said he has lost the energy The ArtsCenter needs after illness struck his wife, he underwent open heart surgery and his mother died, all within the past two years.
"I love the people I work with," Wilner said. "I don't think I am able to lead them in the way they need to be led."
Wilner joined The ArtsCenter in 2002 as an instructor in acting and directing for the camera. In 2003 he became director of children's and family programming and less than three months after that was named interim executive director.
He took the ArtsCenter from a $600,000 annual budget to about $1.5 million, creating several new programs including a youth performing arts conservatory.
Wilner also pushedhard to make Chapel Hill-Carrboro and UNC an arts destination. He spoke often of Bucks Fever, a multi-month arts festival in Pennsylvania where he came from that he said could boost tourism and visitor spending. The effort never panned out, in part, he says, because it relied on volunteers. He said without having to lead the ArtsCenter, that is a job he would be willing to take on if the community wanted.
This is a critical time for The Artscenter. The agency struggles along with all nonprofits in the recession. Wilner recently had to let go a part time community outreach person. The East Main Street shopping center the ArtsCenter is located in is slated for redevelopment, and the ArtsCenter, which owns its space, is planning a major fundraising campaign for a new building.
If anything, that big project gave Wilner more reason to step down now. "Some people don't know whne to get off the bus," he said. "I do."