Hall successor expected to stay preservation course
By Rebecca Keister PBN Staff Writer
When the Providence Preservation Society’s board of directors four years ago decided it was time for serious introspection on the future of the almost 60-year-old nonprofit, an emphasis was put on finding the right executive director to strengthen programming, advocacy and fundraising.
Now, at the end of the tenure of James Hall, who became the executive director the board was looking for in July 2010, the society is putting a check next to each goal.
“James has put in a great foundation for all of us to build on,” said Lucie Searle, board president. “We will be looking for someone who can … take us to new levels.”
That includes continued fundraising and work on the potential creation of a Thayer Street historic district.
Hall announced in early February that he would be leaving the society next month to become deputy director of the Norton Art Museum in Palm Beach, Fla.
The decision, said Hall, who still lives in the North Providence home in which he grew up, was not easy and ultimately came down to being unable to pass up what he called the opportunity of his lifetime.
“I’m not a pick-up-and-move-someplace [person]. I just thought, if I don’t try this now, I’m never going to,” Hall said. “I’m sort of a throwback to a previous time where people stayed in the same job or location for a long time. I think it’s increasingly not as desirable from the point of view of employers.”
But Hall, 52, who spent 26 years at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art and was assistant director there before joining PPS, said the move is not geared toward “padding” his resume.
“This required an enormous amount of introspection,” Hall said. “One of the things I’ll be overseeing is some preservation issues of some properties [the Norton Museum] owns, so it sort of brings my interest and studies and love of art and preservation together in a nice, little package.”
Under Hall’s leadership, the society was awarded a $341,000 grant from the Champlain Foundations to purchase the 1769 brick schoolhouse where its office is located and it long has rented from the city.
The new executive director, who Searle said will be hired sometime this year, will be charged with helping to run a capital fundraising campaign for renovations and building improvements.