Oxford Performing Arts Center director resigns
by Eddie Burkhalter
Aug 08, 2013 | 7888 views |  0 comments | 101 101 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Calhoun County native Rani Welch has resigned as director of Oxford’s new performing arts center. (File photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Calhoun County native Rani Welch has resigned as director of Oxford’s new performing arts center. (File photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
The director of the Oxford Performing Arts Center has resigned five months after city officials hired her to run the new $10.4 million facility.

Rani Welch resigned July 31, saying by phone Thursday that she wants to spend more time with her 9-month-old son and at her Oxford dance studio, Freddy Jet.

Welch was hired as director in February. The Calhoun County native helped the Oxford Arts Council put on the 1,210-seat theater’s first show May 18, a performance by the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.

Welch, a dancer who owned a theater in Manhattan before moving back to Alabama, also expressed that she found that working as the center’s director conflicted with her own desires.

“I like to actually have something to do with the arts,” Welch said. “Not just the business of art.”

As director, Welch had to work with the Oxford City Council, Oxford Arts Council, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department — which oversees the center — and handle all the daily operations at the center, including contract negotiations with performers and managing the performances themselves.

“You are the middleman, and it’s not always fun,” Welch said. “I think they need a bigger staff, to be honest. One person cannot do that job.”

Welch said her resignation came with some regret, and that any new theater like Oxford’s takes time to develop into a major venue.

“They’ve got some kinks to work out, and they will. It’s a great facility. It’s a great city. They have the money to do whatever needs to be done to make sure it runs properly, and they will. It takes time,” Welch said.

Parks and Recreation Director Don Hudson echoed Welch’s comments, saying directing the center is a big job, and that, “You’ve got people pulling you in every direction.”

Hudson said interviews are being scheduled from a roster of applicants for the civil service job.

Shortly after Welch’s hire, Oxford’s finance director, Alton Craft, told The Star Welch’s annual salary as director was slightly more than $40,000.

Jennifer McCormick is filling in as interim director at the center. McCormick also works at Oxford’s Friendship Community Center.

McCormick said that the center’s grand opening, which had been planned for this week, will be rescheduled. Two upcoming concerts will go on as planned, however, she said.

The Ricky Nelson Remembered concert, featuring Ricky Nelson’s twin sons, Matthew and Gunnar, will take place Saturday, Aug. 24, at 7 p.m.

The jazz-rock musical group “Blood, Sweat and Tears” is scheduled to perform at the center Sept. 19 at 7 p.m..

“I hated to do it. It could be a really great job for someone,” Welch said. “They’ll be OK, and I’ll be OK. I wish them the best.”

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.

Editor's note: This story has been changed to correct the date of the Blood, Sweat and Tears concert. The concert is Sept. 19.
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