Six months ago, Nechie Hall understood the challenge she was accepting.
She had been involved with the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center since the 1990s, and she had been committed to making this city a better place for more than four decades.
After a successful career as a local advertising/marketing executive, then enduring the unexpected loss of her husband and life/business partner Jim Hall, who died of pancreatic cancer in late 2012, Nechie saw a new short-term challenge and went for it.
Rest assured, she didn’t take over as interim president and CEO of the Fine Arts Center simply to be a caretaker. Anybody who has ever known the dynamic Nechie Hall would have confirmed that. She wasn’t content just to make sure the programs kept going as planned and the bills were paid.
This was Hall’s chance to make her indelible mark on the FAC, an organization she had supported and helped lead from the volunteer side.
She knew that if she served six to eight months without having an impact, that would make life far more difficult when her permanent replacement took over. In the world of performing-arts facilities and fine-art museums, treading water for that long would have cost the FAC dearly, creating a void that might have taken years to overcome.
Instead, Hall has attacked her post-retirement encore as if it were her first important job — with her career hanging in the balance.
As she told the Independent in an interview in December, two weeks before she officially assumed the interim position: “I want to make sure that we are providing … the kind of dialogue that’s necessary to ensure that Colorado Springs maintains an attractive quality of life for primary employers. I think that’s critical, and you can’t do that without a robust, eclectic arts scene. It’s critical to the health of our city; it provides the soul to a city.”
Hall also wanted to help set the stage for the next CEO. She saw the need for changes in the organizational structure, so she tackled that tedious work instead of leaving it for someone else. She realized key decisions had to be made, so she made them, such as luring FAC board member Erin Hannan away from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to assume a new role as the FAC’s executive director for advancement and external affairs.
Hall also knew the FAC’s membership ranks had been eroding, so she implemented a new drive that already has added 200-plus members. Having shows like the upcoming Colorado premiere of “Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky” (June 12-29), on the heels of the hugely popular “Forever Plaid,” has helped rekindle interest. And then, of course, there’s the “Chihuly Rediscovered” museum show through September, along with other appealing exhibits.
That’s just the start. Hall saw how previous FAC executives handled their community presence, from the easygoing David Turner (1995-2002) to the flamboyant and successful Michael De Marsche (2003-07) and then the more low-key Sam Gappmayer (2008-13).
As the first woman to head the FAC, and long before that the city’s first woman honored as Business Citizen of the Year, Hall has chosen the aggressive route, building on her countless relationships with civic and business leaders. That’s what the FAC needed — an injection of ideas and enthusiasm, not just for the staff and board, but also for the community to see.
Over a lunch conversation this week, Hall talked about the message she’s been sharing with everyone who will listen: We should recognize the Fine Arts Center, and the local arts scene as a whole, as the “heartbeat of the city” and a valuable asset in uplifting the region as well as enhancing tourism and economic development.
Though her days as interim CEO are running short, with the board in the final stages of determining her successor, Nechie Hall hasn’t thought of downshifting.
She talks about working on new programs, building new partnerships, pursuing ambitious new initiatives — not goals to pass on, but major announcements to come before she departs.
As De Marsche (now overseeing the Catalina Island Museum) showed in his eventful tenure, which produced the pivotal building renovation, the FAC’s top leader should rank among Colorado Springs’ most influential people.
In her own way, by turning around and singlehandedly rejuvenating the organization, Nechie Hall has restored that stature to the position.
She’ll obviously be a tough act to follow, both as a leader and a visionary. But she already has given her replacement a much better chance to excel, in part because of the revamped and empowered executive team she’ll leave behind, not to mention a re-energized operation.
And that’s worth a standing ovation from all of us.