Gregory Ruffer, an arts administrator and educator with a deep background in vocal music, has been named president and CEO of the Boston Center for the Arts, whose South End campus provides performance, studio, and exhibition space to artists and arts groups of all stripes.
Ruffer, who currently serves as president and CEO of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in Milwaukee, replaces Veronique Le Melle, who left the BCA at the beginning of the year. Ruffer will formally assume his duties Aug. 1.
“I’m thrilled,” said Ruffer, 50, when reached by phone. “When I started talking with the people at the BCA, I realized their mission is in line with what I’ve been doing my entire life: helping to support people creating art.”
Michael Armstrong, chairman of the BCA’s board of directors, said Ruffer’s selection came at a “critical juncture” for the 46-year-old organization, which has a staff of 19 and an annual operating budget of roughly $2.8 million.
“The Board of Directors unanimously believes that Gregory will bring incredible vision, energy, and skill to our organization,” Armstrong said in a statement. He added that he hoped Ruffer would help “lead the BCA to even greater levels of local, regional, and national prominence.”
The independent nonprofit oversees a complex of buildings, providing artist residencies and studio space as well as housing the Mills Gallery, the Cyclorama, and theaters for small and mid-sized troupes. Also housed on the BCA campus is the Calderwood Pavilion, which is managed by the Huntington Theatre Company.
Ruffer, who was in town over the weekend to attend the inaugural BCA Ball at the Cyclorama, spoke of the need for the city to support and retain living artists. He added that as president he hoped to raise the BCA’s profile, making it a magnet for both artists and arts patrons.
“There are such fantastic institutions in Boston creating artists at the college level; they don’t have to leave if there’s a place available to them to nurture their art,” he said. “I know there are possibilities for additional places for artists to do work, as well as to find places to live. I’m looking forward to continuing to explore that and being a part of whatever that solution happens to be.”
Prior to his tenure at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, Ruffer served as the music department chair at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. He also founded the Orlando Chorale, where he served as music director for nearly a decade. Through it all, he said, he has focused on contemporary artists.
“Sometimes new voices get lost a little bit because places are doing “Swan Lakes” and Shostakovich,” he said. “And while those are wonderful . . . it’s the new things that are allowing us to push the envelope and really explore the fullness of the arts.”
Ruffer, who said he plans to do a lot of listening in his first few months at the BCA, is looking forward to calling Boston home for another reason as well: His husband, Peter Stark, serves as both the head of the men’s program for the Boston Ballet and the associate director of Boston Ballet II.
“We’ve been 3½ years in different cities,” Ruffer said. “So it’s about time.”