WENATCHEE — Matt Cadman, who stepped away from his high school teaching career six years ago to accept the job as executive director of what is now the Numerica Performing Arts Center, will retire March 15.
The announcement was made in a posting on the PAC’s Facebook page Friday and on the website Saturday.
“My tenure as executive director at the Numerica PAC has been one of the great privileges of my life,” he said on the post. “The past six years have been transformational and I wouldn’t have traded them for the world.”
The feeling seems to be mutual.
“Matt Cadman has personified the vision and mission of the Numerica Performing Arts Center of building community and celebrating the arts,” said Numerica PAC Board President Jake Purdom. “His name will forever be associated with igniting the spark that reawakened the excitement, energy and involvement that should be part of a regional performing arts venue, a building block of a thriving community and cultural scene. We owe Matt a debt of gratitude and sincere thanks for his years of dedication and service to this fantastic organization.”
Cadman, a third-generation local, was 58 when he accepted the job in 2013, replacing Rita Brown who had resigned for health reasons.
He taught U.S. history and English at Eastmont High School for 12 years (after returning to the Valley in 2000 following a 22-year education career in the Puget Sound area) while jumping into the local theater scene, as an actor, director and member of the PAC board.
“I want to infuse a lot of energy and pride,” Cadman said in a Wenatchee World interview in January 2013 after being tabbed to lead the PAC. “My one goal is to bring the best experience I can to the customer. If we can do that, everything else will flow — the seats will fill, we’ll attract better programs and that becomes a cycle of victory.”
One of his first moves was to introduce the “Spring Fling,” inviting local sponsors to commit to specific shows before booking them, part of his “every show sponsored and every seat sold” model. The idea replaced the practice of booking shows first and then trying to find sponsors to pay for them.
The new model proved successful and helped build community involvement and support, allowing an expansion of the offerings and funds for facility improvements.
Cadman also brought his educational background into play, introducing the “Every Kid at the PAC” program that partnered with surrounding school districts to bus in students for a live theater experience. A partnership with Stage Kids followed as well, offering summer theater camps at first and then theater classes throughout the year.
In 2014, what had been the Performing Arts Center of Wenatchee became the Numerica Performing Arts Center in a 12-year naming rights agreement.
The result of all that was a boom to the budget, increasing revenues from $842,109 in 2014-15 to $1.2 million in 2017-18.
The biggest challenge in the job is sustainable growth, he said Monday.
“Unlike many theaters, the Numerica PAC has never had a guaranteed inflow of financial support,” he said. “No government subsidies, no multi-year grants, endowments (until recently). Every dollar in our budget is derived from ‘soft money’ — sponsorships, donations, memberships, grants, fundraisers and ticket sales. We have been so fortunate to be supported by a community so generous and so devoted to our mission.”
Cadman, now 64, went into the job thinking it was for five years.
“When I interviewed in 2013, I shared a five-year plan with the board for turning the PAC around. So I always had five years in mind. To be celebrating six years here is a bonus,” he said.
He isn’t sure what the future holds.
“Truthfully, I am a blank slate,” he said. “Though I have no immediate plans, I am too young for Social Security and too old for Jimmy Johns.”
Last year, he was a finalist for the director position at the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center.
“I think most of us continue to explore options even when deeply involved in our careers,” he said. “That was the situation with my consideration of the museum position, and as a result of that exploration, I ultimately withdrew my application and remained happily committed to directing the Numerica PAC.”
The search is gearing up to find Cadman’s successor. The board has established an ad hoc hiring committee and will begin recruiting this week.
The hope is to have someone on board as soon as possible, allowing time for Cadman help with the transition.
His advice for the next hire is to remember that the job is all about relationships.
“Your tenure can be transformational as long as you practice trust and transparency,” he said. “So fasten your seat belt and place your tray in its upright position — it will be quite a ride!”