Chairman of the South Orange Performing Arts Center’s Board of Governors Paul Bartick regretfully announces that Mark Packer is leaving the executive director position on June 30, the close of the fiscal year. Six years ago, Mr. Packer was brought in to help build the profile and success of the young arts center. His leadership and knowledge of non-profit arts stabilized the day-to-day operations of SOPAC and brought many successful changes including increased programming that draws in audiences from near and far, savvy use of the building to increase rental income and a funding campaign called Entertaining the Future that surpassed $1.2 million.
Among Mr. Packer’s other notable achievements at SOPAC was building institutional support for the organization, including receiving the organization’s first grants from the NJ State Council on the Arts, which requires organizations to meet the most rigorous standards. Mr. Packer has been instrumental in creating a climate of financial stability that has led to budget surpluses for the past six years. In addition, his leadership was evident in his volunteer activities. Mr. Packer founded the South Jersey Cultural Alliance, a service agency for over 100 Arts & History organizations in Southern New Jersey. He also served on the Board of Art Pride New Jersey, the statewide advocacy organization for the non-profit Arts industry for over 25 years and served as its president for six years.
South Orange Village President Sheena Collum praised Mr. Packer’s accomplishments and states, “Our beautiful arts center thrived under Mark’s leadership. SOPAC has helped build the economic engine of South Orange and makes it a welcoming place to live for families seeking arts experiences in their community. We certainly wish him much success in his next endeavors.”
As part of the transition to new leadership, Mr. Bartick has announced the appointment of Dee Billia as the SOPAC’s Acting Executive Director. Ms. Billia, SOPAC’s Director of External Relations for the past six years, has a rich history with the New Jersey arts industry and has held leadership positions with several of New Jersey’s most prestigious arts organizations. “We are excited to have Dee Billia lead SOPAC as the Acting Director,” says Mr. Bartick. “She has a stellar reputation in the New Jersey arts world and has been a key player in SOPAC’s success during the past six years. The Board of Governors is confident in her leadership while our transition team searches for a permanent executive director.”
During the last six years Ms. Billia has successfully led the marketing and communications department at SOPAC. During her tenure SOPAC has made great strides in driving awareness and attendance, moving from 70% average capacity to 87% average capacity. SOPAC has been honored with the Discover Jersey Arts “New Jersey’s Favorite Small Performing Arts Center” for the past five years. Ms. Billia served as Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the New Jersey Theatre Alliance and subsequently as Vice President of Communication for the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. Prior to her tenure at SOPAC she served as Director of External Relations at Appel Farm Arts & Music Center in southern New Jersey. She also served as Vice President of the South Jersey Cultural Alliance and was on the Marketing/Communication committee for the Community Foundation of South Jersey during that period. She was named Arts Advocate of the year in 2002 by the Arts Council of the Morris Area. Ms. Billia serves as chair of the Jersey Arts Marketers North and received a Jersey Arts Marketers leadership award from ArtPrideNJ in 2016. She is a member of the ArtPrideNJ messaging committee and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Barry University in Miami, FL.
SOPAC programs are made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
The South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) is a 501(c)(3)charitable organization.
Since 2006, SOPAC has been serving as a premier performing arts center in the region. SOPAC offers innovative artistic and cultural experiences for diverse audiences in an intimate, inviting environment. The premier arts center hosts a variety of live performances, community events and education programs for all ages. To further expand its offerings, SOPAC has a partnership with the Juilliard School of Music to present Juilliard @ SOPAC—a series featuring upcoming musicians from the acclaimed conservatory. SOPAC is home for Seton Hall University Arts Council’s performances, including Classical Concert Series, Jazz ‘N the Hall performances and Seton Hall University Theatre productions. SOPAC also presents performances by its theatre company in-residence, American Theater Group. For more information, visit SOPACnow.org.