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The Sheldon names metro-east theater leader Peter Palermo as executive director

Peter Palermo grew up in Jefferson City and Grand Island, Nebraska.
Ray Marklin Photography
Peter Palermo grew up in Jefferson City and Grand Island, Nebraska.

The Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Galleries has chosen a executive director.

Peter Palermo, who has a theater-and-music production background, comes to The Sheldon from McKendree University in Lebanon, Illinois, where, in 2006, he was founding director of McKendree’s Hettenhausen Center for the Arts.

Palermo is replacing executive director Paul Reuter, who announced his retirement in June. Reuter will stay on for several months with the title of senior executive director.

“Paul’s been there for nearly 25 years,” Palermo said. “That’s a long track record of success.”

‘People will definitely see some new things’

At the Hettenhausen, Palermo curated nearly 200 performances per year.  Before that, he worked in San Francisco, managing outdoor concerts for the Stern Grove Festival Association and even a circus troupe.

He prides himself on gently pushing the envelope to get audiences used to less traditional performances, something he’ll continue at The Sheldon.

“Over time, people will definitely see some new things,” Palermo said. “I don’t know when that will happen.”

One of Palermo’s biggest challenges will be in the area he’s least familiar with: overseeing the exhibition of visual art.

“I do have some learning to do,” he said.

As head of The Sheldon, Palermo will work on goals that include attracting more African-Americans.

“You have to go engage those people you want to be in your audience and make sure you really, truly understand both what that community needs, and what they want,” Palermo said.

Members of The Sheldon Arts Foundation’s Board of Directors are delighted to welcome Palermo, who was hired after a national search, according to board chair Anne Bannister.

“Our goal was to find someone with the right combination of management and leadership experience, along with a passion for developing innovative and approachable music and visual arts programming” Bannister said in a news release. ‘We believe we have found that in Peter and look forward to growing under his leadership.”

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.