Best of the CRANDIC Spotlight: Andre Perry takes a graceful bow

Andre Perry, outgoing Englert Theatre executive director, at Prairie Lights Books, November 2021. — Jason Smith/Little Village
Best of the CRANDIC winner: Best Nonprofit Director (The Englert Theatre)

When Best Nonprofit Director Andre Perry announced his departure from the Englert Theatre this August, the general consensus in the community was that, although his shoes would be hard to fill, his greatest strength as a leader was in raising up everyone around him to fill them. His leadership style inspires confidence and competence in all he encounters.

Now he brings those skills to his new role as University of Iowa Director of Arts, Engagement and Inclusion and Senior Advisor. And he’s not leaving behind the top-tier programming he was known for at the Englert, either, as he continues to prepare for Mission Creek 2022 and brings Iowa City opportunities to BIPOC and international artists under the banner of Black Clapton Presents.

What lessons from your time at Englert will you bring over to the UI?

I think so much of the work we did at the theater, so much of the work I’m already doing at the university. It’s all about trust. In order to build strong communities we have to trust each other. It [requires] being dedicated to long-term and ongoing empathetic conversations with everyone involved.

Click to read a review of Andre Perry’s 2019 book of essays

What are you proudest of in your time at the Englert?

I’m really happy that the Englert, along with other partners, that we’re able to collectively build a bigger creative community here. There are more jobs in the creative sector than there were before; to me that’s important. And I don’t take credit for that … but to be part of that means something to me, and I remain committed to that in all of my future roles.

In what ways do you feel you “grew up” as an artist and an arts activist in your time at the Englert?

I feel I grew a lot. I didn’t know much — I had a lot of assumptions when I showed up. I grew in my capacity for empathy; I grew in what it means to build projects in a way that results in more equity across the community. I feel like I went for school for 10 years! And that was just opening it up. I feel like that was undergrad, and now I’m in grad school.

What are you most excited about in your new role?

I love having a deeper commitment to students at this level … I’m super stoked about how we can continue to lead an interconnected artistic community, and I think we all know the university can be part of that. To really focus that work through the lens of equity and building more inclusive communities — that’s where it’s at for me.

Andre Perry’s farewell marquee. — Jason Smith / Little Village

What can we expect from Black Clapton Presents?

Some cool shit. We’re going to be another layer of the programmatic fabric of this community. I’m probably going to be more focused [than at the Englert] … getting out of some lanes to make room for new people.

I want to express my gratitude for being considered for this honor. Receiving any type of honor from Little Village is special to me.

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Little Village Best of the CRANDIC is presented by City of Iowa City.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 301.