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Executive director Bruce LaRowe is leaving Children’s Theatre

Bruce LaRowe, executive director of Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, announced Tuesday that he is stepping down to explore new career options.

He’ll end his 20-year tenure as executive director at the end of the year, he said.

LaRowe said he doesn’t have another job lined up but is interested in doing something new, perhaps in the environmental field.

Under his leadership, Children’s Theatre moved to The Joe & Joan Martin Center at ImaginOn uptown in 2005 and expanded its annual budget to $4.1 million.

“Those are some of the fond memories I will carry with me from my time with the Theatre,” LaRowe said.

He moved to Charlotte in 1983 from New York, he said, and worked for eight years as the associate director of the Arts & Science Council. He also worked for two years as a director of development at Belmont Abbey College before beginning at Children’s Theatre.

He transformed the theater, said Robin Branstrom, a former Children’s Theatre board chairwoman and current chairwoman of the advisory committee.

“Oh my goodness, he took it from a very homegrown children’s theater to one of the most-developed and well-known and largest children’s theaters in the country,” she said, adding that the ImaginOn partnership is a prototype that others in the country aspire to achieve.

In a letter to the theater’s board members Tuesday, LaRowe said board chairwoman Jami Farris will coordinate a search process that the board will discuss at an Oct. 22 meeting.

Farris thanked LaRowe in a written statement, calling him a “true visionary” and his work “a treasure in our community.”

Branstrom said hundreds of well-qualified people applied for the open arts director position this summer, probably because of LaRowe’s reputation.

“I think Bruce has built such a wonderful organization that it will attract strong, strong leaders from all over the country,” she said.

Branstrom called LaRowe “one of the best arts administrators in the country” and said he will be missed. “He will certainly be hard to replace.”

LaRowe said he’s enjoyed watching a generation of young people grow up and be influenced by the theater.

“Twenty years has been a great, great time, and I’m excited to see what other options there will be,” he said.

Ruebens: 704-358-5294; Twitter: @lruebens
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