Carolina Theatre of Durham, Inc’s Board of Trustees named Chapel Hill businesswoman and artist Rebecca Newton its president and CEO at its bi-monthly board meeting on Tuesday, September 26.
A longtime advocate of the nonprofit that operates the city-owned historic arts venue, Newton is expected to replace interim CEO Dan Berman in mid-October. She will assume responsibility for all financial, operational, fundraising and programming activities.
“I’m thrilled and honored to serve the Carolina Theatre of Durham and the greater Durham community. I’ve been passionate about film and performing arts from the time I could walk. And after 25 years in the internet industry, I can’t think of a more perfect place to land than my home town of 45 years,“ Newton said. “I’m looking forward to getting my hands in the CTD arts garden and working with the board and CTD team to spread the history, culture and magic of the CTD.”
Formerly the Chief Innovation Officer at Carolina Partners in Mental HealthCare, PLLC and the Head of Trust and Community at SuperAwesome, a digital marketing platform intended to create ‘kid-safe’ online experiences, Newton brings decades of business and management experience to her role as the head of the nonprofit arts organization. A veteran of pioneering digital media companies, Newton has also held positions with Mind Candy, Sulake.com and America Online.
“Rebecca was the unanimous and enthusiastic choice of the search committee, which considered candidates from across the country,” said Michael J. Schoenfeld, chair of the Carolina Theatre Board of Trustees. “Her passion for the Carolina Theatre is palpable. Her experience as a leader and an executive is significant, wide ranging and global. Her ability to understand audiences is strong. And her connection to this diverse and inclusive community informs everything she does. Rebecca will be an effective and energetic leader, and I am excited for the theatre’s bright future with her.”
“We also owe a great debt of gratitude to interim CEO Dan Berman, who stepped in as a volunteer leader during a time of great stress and uncertainty, and who has brought both stability and confidence to the theatre, the staff and our many friends throughout the community,” added Schoenfeld. “I look forward to his service now as a member of the Board of Trustees.”
Under Berman’s direction the nonprofit erased a $1.7 million accumulated net deficit in under 18 months. The Theatre’s balance sheet now shows an accumulated net surplus of more than $200,000.
Berman says Newton is ideally suited for her new role. “Rebecca’s energy and enthusiasm is infectious. Her love of the arts and passion for building community combined with business savvy, managerial expertise and entrepreneurial spirit uniquely position her to lead the Carolina Theatre.”
A tireless supporter of many local arts organizations, Newton has served as vice chair of the board of directors of the ArtsCenter in Carrboro and as the chair of GirlsRockNC.org, a nonprofit which empowers girls, women, and folks of marginalized genders through creative expression. Newton has also served as a board member for organizations such as the Family Online Safety Institute, the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s Digital Task Force, AgeCheq.com and DitchTheLabel.org.
In addition to her business- and board-based experience, Newton has an impressive artistic history that is rare for a chief executive officer. She led Durham swing band Rebecca & the Hi-Tones for 30 years. The successful band played Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 2002. She also plays with the Americana band The Bennys and operated the Drop-D Ranch music space in Pittsboro. Drop-D partnered with the Carolina Theatre to present singer-songwriter Darrell Scott at the Blue Note Grill in Durham in September of 2016.
In 2012, Newton recorded her own ode to the Bull City “One Square Mile: A Durham Anthem,” to accompany the book “27 Views of Durham.”
Newton studied liberal arts and art history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also studied architectural art history at the University of Oxford.