New Arts Centre executive director takes the stage

Meet Shirley Third-Genus

- January 26, 2017

Shirley Third-Genus, new executive director of the Dalhousie Arts Centre. (Danny Abriel photo)
Shirley Third-Genus, new executive director of the Dalhousie Arts Centre. (Danny Abriel photo)

Shirley Third-Genus started the new year in a new city and a new role.

It’s not an entirely unfamiliar experience: after all, Third-Genus has worked in arts leadership positions across North America over the course of an impressive career. But Halifax is a new home for her, as she moved from from Norfolk, Virginia to become the new executive director of the Dalhousie Arts Centre.

“The Arts Centre is a gem in Halifax,” says Third-Genus, who began as ED on January 3. “It does incredible programming for a city this size. People here are really lucky to have it, and the community realizes how lucky they are to have it.”    

A career spanning North America

Originally from Vancouver, Third-Genus’ illustrious career has included leadership positions with The National Theatre in Washington, D.C.; Peery’s Egyptian Theatre in Ogden, Utah; The Virginia Arts Festival and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Prior to that, Third-Genus worked with the Stratford Festival, the Canadian Opera Company, the Charlottetown Summer Festival and the Neptune Theatre, among others.

In addition, Third-Genus spent two years as the Production Manager for York University’s theatre department, familiarizing her with the university environment. And most recently, she was travelling the world as the Company Manager for Sesame Street Live.  

Past tours had brought Third-Genus to the Arts Centre before, making her aware of its importance to Halifax as a community resource long before she began her new role in January. Home to the Fountain School of Performing Arts, the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium and the Dalhousie Art Gallery, the Dalhousie Arts Centre has been an important cultural hub in the Maritimes since 1971.  

Learn more: Dalhousie Arts Centre website

Third-Genus says she’s been hoping to work in the Maritimes again for years, and when the position with the Arts Centre came up, she felt like the stars had aligned in her favour.

“Everybody has been so welcoming,” she says.

Heather Sutherland, assistant vice-president for Ancillary Services, describes the energy that Third-Genus brings to the role.

“Shirley has a lot of enthusiasm,” she says. “I know she will bring that positive energy to her work with coworkers and the university community at large. She’s a great addition to our team.”

A warm welcome

Third-Genus is looking forward to helping with the transition during the planned expansion of the Arts Centre in the coming years. “It’s incredible what’s going to happen to this building,” she says.

During the expansion, Third-Genus plans to work hard to support both the patrons and presenters who use the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, while also working actively with all tenants at the Arts Centre to help it continue to grow and develop through the transition.

For now, though, Third-Genus is enjoying getting to know the Dalhousie community, faculty and artists in the area. She plans to take in as much of Halifax’s thriving arts scene as she can, as well as enjoy its natural beauty.

She also speaks passionately about her enthusiasm for working with students in a university setting.

“Universities bring diverse communities to an area – resulting in greater acceptance, tolerance and respect, as well as greater innovation and experimentation in the arts: students are willing to take more creative risks,” she says, smiling. 


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