Arts and Entertainment Editor

Like other departments at Keene State College, the Redfern Arts Center has been in a period of transition following the recent round of faculty buyouts. 

This week, the Redfern Arts Center found its new artistic directors- Music Department Chair Dr. Sandra Howard, Dance Professor Cynthia McLaughlin and Music Professor Dr. Christina Wright-Ivanova. They will be replacing former faculty members Christopher Swist and Jeannie-Marie Brown, who served as co-artistic directors last year.

Swist, who assumed the artistic director position last year, departed from the college after accepting a buyout, the Keene Sentinel reported. 

Swist did not respond to The Equinox’s request for comment.

Brown wrote in an email to The Equinox that, as of August 6, she is no longer contracted with the college.

Howard will serve as an interim artistic director until Wright-Ivanova permanently takes over the position in the spring. This will be in addition to Howard’s current role as chair of the music department. Even with the added responsibility of balancing both positions, Howard is excited to be part of the process of bringing guest performers to Keene State.

“It’s a little bit of a perfect storm right now, but it’s great that we have the ability to bring guest artists to campus, so I wouldn’t trade that,” Howard said.

After a reorganization of the Redfern Arts Center’s values statement last year, the job of the artistic director was established to bring guest artists to the Keene State campus who will add an extra layer of educational value to the different arts curriculums, Howard said.

“There’s been a long tradition in the Redfern to engage the guest artists with our students, and faculty, staff and ourgreater community, and so this effort was just to strengthen that even more,” Howard said. “We do some of these administrative tasks together to make sure we’re bringing in artists that really help enhance our curriculum and expand the artistic possibilities on campus.”

This year’s season of performances, although curated the previous year by Swist and Brown, will be carried out by the new set of artistic directors. A series of guest artists will be visiting throughout the fall semester, including a residency by the New Hampshire-based Apple Hill String Quartet in October. “They’ll be working with our string students, presenting with our music students and then having a full evening event,” Howard said.

Also visiting the Keene State campus this semester will be the Reggie Wilson Fist and Heel Performance Group, a Brooklyn-based dance company. 

Alongside McLaughlin, Wright-Ivanova hopes to fulfill the new values statement through her work when she returns to campus in the spring. “I want the Redfern programs and the curriculum to be intrinsically linked so that we can provide the best artistic experiences for our students,” Wright-Ivanova said. “We really want to help empower the next generation of artists to be super engaged, and well-rounded thinkers and doers.”

Howard shares similar views as she enters her new position, “Ultimately, everything we do on campus, I hope is for the betterment of our students to promote their learning and growth and their experience, whether they’re a music or theater and dance major or not… We want to continue the tradition that Keene State has a rich performing arts tradition that’s engaging and exciting.”

In addition to the transition of artistic directors, the Redfern Arts Center staff is starting a search for a new marketing and grants specialist, a position formerly held by faculty member Sharon Fantl

“I will be chairing that search committee and we will be looking nationally for the right person for this role,” Dean of Arts, Education and Humanities Kirsti Sandy said. “Sharon Fantl was an incredible asset to the college in this position and an outstanding advocate for the performing arts. Her shoes will be hard to fill.”

Sandy added, “We are in a good place to move forward and have a number of exciting events coming up this year.” 

Caitlin Howard can be contacted at

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