Six Questions for the New Director of the Lebanon Opera House
Plainfield's Joe Clifford starts work on March 20
Joe Clifford, a resident of Plainfield, NH, will take the helm of the Lebanon Opera House on March 20. For the past 17 years, he's worked at the Hopkins Center—most recently as the audience engagement director. Before that Clifford spent ten years running the Hop’s Outreach and Arts Education programs. Clifford is a board member (and immediate past president) of the Arts Presenters of Northern New England consortium and recently completed a two-year fellowship offered by the Arts Leadership Program at the University of Southern California. He is a founding member and past chair of the NH/VT Upper Valley Arts Alliance.
The Observer: How do you describe the work you've done in the arts?
Joe Clifford: I consider myself a cultural matchmaker and it’s a role in which I thrive —whether connecting artists and audiences in the Upper Valley, or opening the doors to unbridled creativity at an Ivy League institution, my professional career has allowed me to share my passion for the arts and culture with those around me. It’s a conversation I’m eager to continue with Lebanon Opera House’s patrons, supporters and community partners.
The Observer: What are the duties of the executive director of the LOH?
Clifford: As Executive Director of LOH, my primary responsibilities include programming, fundraising, community engagement and marketing. I’m also asked to be a good steward of a beautiful theater and to provide a home for community arts groups to build work and hone their craft alongside world-class artists from around the world.
The Observer: What niche does the LOH fill in the Upper Valley arts scene?
Clifford: I’m a longtime fan of LOH. I’ve seen some incredible dance, theater and spoken word performances there, but I most identify LOH with high-quality blues, rock and Americana programming. It’s this type of programming that makes LOH a vital component of the Upper Valley’s arts ecology.
The Observer: What are your personal ambitions for the organization?
Clifford: In recent years, the visiting artist programming has nicely complemented what’s on stage at other venues and my goal is to expand upon those successes.
The Observer: What's your artistic passion?
Clifford: I’m always looking to discover—and share—new music. My personal listening habits tend toward rock, hip hop, electronica and alt-whatever so my cultural omnivorous-ness will definitely play a role in my programming.
The Observer: You've spent 17 years in the Upper Valley arts scene. Have you connected with an artist who made a lasting impact on you?
Clifford: I consider myself a professional appreciator of the arts. Long ago I realized I was best suited to play a supporting role—be it publicist, DJ or ‘zine writer—for the creative work I voraciously consumed. One of the things I love about living in the Upper Valley is the concentration of art and culture within our reach. I’ve seen some incredible work on stages across this region and have had the good fortune to bring so many artists into contact and conversation with patrons of all ages. There’s nothing quite like seeing an artist at the top of their game. I’ve been able to spend quiet, reflective time with legends like composer Philip Glass, choreographer Merce Cunningham and singer Bobby McFerrin. I’ve been a fan-boy in the presence of folks like Steve Martin, Andrew Bird, Taylor Mac and Yo-Yo Ma. Those are the feelings and experiences I’m hoping to share with my community. Amazing gifts, courtesy of the arts.