SANDPOINT — After 26 years of leading the Panida Theater, Karen Bowers is retiring in September.
Almost as much a community institution as the historic theater itself, Bowers has put a huge amount of time and energy into making the downtown staple the institution it is today. However, she’s ready to focus on discovering more of the world as she moves into retirement.
“This has been the perfect job for me, but I want to see what else is out there,” Bowers said.
According to Panida board president Steve Garvan, it’s a transition they’ve been working toward for some time. Last year, Bowers informed the board she wanted to dial back her responsibilities to begin the transition toward retirement. As a result, her responsibilities were dialed back to the role of artistic director, while Maureen Tillberg came on board to handle the other half of the work as development manager. This gave the Panida board a big enough window to prepare for the transition to a new executive director.
It’s the end of a long road and a huge part of Bowers’ life. She took up the mantle of executive director 26 years ago, only two years after she and other community activists ran a successful campaign to save the historic structure.
Over the course of her management, the theater has gone through multiple restoration projects, including replacement seating, theater curtains, a new marquee and the acquisition of the Little Theater.
The acquisition of a $450,000 grant from the Sandpoint Urban Renewal Agency in 2011 and the launch of the Panida Forever awareness and fundraising campaign should keep those improvements coming in for the near future, Bowers said.
“Hopefully, (the theater) will continue being the gem of the downtown for everyone,” Bowers said.
As for her intentions after retirement, Bowers said she’s keeping detailed arrangements to a minimum on purpose. She knows she wants to travel, but she’s not in a rush to form other plans. However, Bowers said she is proud of the work she and community members have accomplished with the theater over the past couple decades.
“It’s community-owned, so everyone can feel the pride I feel about it,” she said.
The search is now on for a new executive director of the Panida Theater. Board members are looking for an individual with at least five years in management and staff supervision, a bachelor’s degree in a related field, experience with fundraising and grants, a knowledge of regional arts and nonprofits and an enthusiasm for culture.
“This is a really exciting opportunity,” Garvan said.
“We’re looking for someone to take this theater into the next era.”