After more than a year, the Chilliwack Cultural Centre finally has a new executive director.
Jean-Louis (‘JL’) Bleau will take on the position starting Sept. 1, the Chilliwack Arts and Cultural Centre Society announced in a press release on Aug. 5.
“We are privileged to have the Chilliwack Culture Centre as a special gathering place for creative expression, discovery, imagination, and inspiration in our community,” said Janet Carroll, president of the board of directors for the society. “As our new executive director, JL will be leading a stellar team to steward the centre forward so that it meets the evolving cultural interests of Chilliwack’s increasingly diverse population.”
Bleau was hired after the board fired previous executive director Michael Cade at the end of June 2021. Cade held the position for 11 years and on June 28, 2021 he said the society was “going in a different direction.”
The Chilliwack Cultural Centre has been under interim leadership since June 2021 as the search was underway.
Bleau is relocating to Chilliwack from Calgary where he has been providing creative and administrative leadership to the Mount Royal University Conservatory in various roles since 2015, most recently as interim director. The MRU Conservatory is Western Canada’s largest performing arts institution, offering a unique intersection of arts and education at the world-class Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts facility.
In addition to his administrative role, Bleau served as the artistic director of choral programs at Mount Royal University and was both the founding director of Mount Royal Artio and the director of the University of Calgary Chamber Choir. He also teaches courses on artistic creativity and interdisciplinary performance practice at UCalgary.
“The Chilliwack Cultural Centre is one of the most impressive performing arts facilities I have ever seen,” he said after a recent visit. “It’s clear to me that this community values a broad range of artistic and cultural expression, and I can’t wait to contribute what I can to help it grow.”
Originally from Medicine Hat, Bleau has built a career characterized by interdisciplinary productions that create positive, impactful audience experiences, the Chilliwack Arts and Cultural Centre Society stated. His inventive approach has yielded many immersive performance experiences, some delivered in the mountains, around a lake, in a planetarium, parking garages, an industrial shop, and even a swimming pool. He has collaborated on programming with a variety of musicians, ensembles, choreographers, dancers, synchronized swimmers, aerial gymnasts, as well as First Nations elders and artists. In 2014, Bleau was recognized as a Top 40 Under 40 in Calgary.
“His collaborative approach, engaging and positive nature, and creative spirit represent the ideal combination of skills and expertise that the Board has been seeking for this important leadership role,” Carroll said. “We are fortunate to have attracted such an outstanding arts leader to this position.”
The society stated that over the past year, the board led an extensive hiring process that involved gathering community input to inform the search, vetting nearly 100 interested candidates from around the region, the country, and beyond.
The executive director reports to the board and has responsibility for all centre operations.