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ArtCenter Manatee hires new director

BRADENTON — After a 2 1/2-month search, ArtCenter Manatee has hired KC Bitterman to fill the role of executive director.

Her new job begins today.

The painter and photographer comes from Santa Fe, N.M., where she spent two years as the development director for the Southwestern Association of Indian Arts. The organization presents the annual Santa Fe Indian Market, known as the largest Native arts event in the world.

It was Bradenton’s love of the arts that initially drew Bitterman to apply for the position, as well as the art center’s “killer exhibitions,” she said.

“Bradenton is a big arts community,” Bitterman said. “And the great part about that is it shows an immense amount of foresight, planning and commitment.”

Nearly 100 candidates applied for the position, open since Diane Shelly resigned in June after five years.

Bitterman has spent the past decade involved in fundraising and development for various arts organizations in New Mexico and California. She served as development director of the Santa Fe Art Institute and the city’s 18th Street Art Center. She has also been an arts consultant for the College of Santa Fe, the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, Calif., and the Viver Brasil Dance Company in Los Angeles.

Bitterman’s strong support for the arts has rallied others to her cause. Accomplishing that has been perhaps the biggest challenge of her career.

“There’s a perception that arts are a condiment rather than a main dish,” she said. “It’s the forefront of my thinking to change this. ... I want to make sure we are reaching as many people in the community as we can and create new partnerships.”

Bitterman has helped keep the arts thriving on the west coast by securing more than $4 million in programming and operating support through major donors such as the National Endowment for the Arts. “Her background and her energy absolutely won the board over,” said Sam Hershfield, ArtCenter Manatee’s board president.

The board specifically sought someone to help carry out the center’s long-term goals of increasing organizational and financial stability while doubling the size of the art center facility within the next five years.

Bitterman said the art center will continue to be a place where people can express artistry. “And that’s an awesome thing in this economic climate,” she said.

January Holmes, features writer, can be reached at 745-7057.

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