Champion for the arts in Baton Rouge dies at 57

Champion for the arts in Baton Rouge dies at 57

POSTED: Monday, September 10, 2012 - 4:00pm

UPDATED: Monday, September 10, 2012 - 4:04pm

The CEO of the Greater Baton Rouge Area Arts Council died early this morning. Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 15 at St. Joseph's Cathedral in downtown Baton Rouge. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made to the Derek E. Gordon Arts Fund through the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge.

Gordon, 57, was among the top arts administrators in the country. He returned to his hometown of Baton Rouge to become President and CEO of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge in September 2006. Prior to his current position, Gordon’s career took him to numerous positions and cities, where he served as President and CEO of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City and Senior Vice President at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. He has also held leadership positions with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Texas Commission on the Arts and Cultural Arts Council of Houston, TX.

Gordon’s passion for the arts began as a child singing in the church choir. He has bachelor and master’s degrees from LSU in music, focusing on vocal performance.

As head of the Arts Council, Gordon connected with the leaders of local arts and community organizations, to work with them to assemble the next steps for the arts community here. The Council’s programming includes Arts Education, River City Jazz Masters, FestForAll, the Baton Rouge Arts Market, Sunday in the Park, Community School for the Arts, Grants, and the Community Fund for the Arts, a united arts fund drive.

In his role as the President and CEO of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, Gordon has been responsible for revitalizing the Arts Council and the development of the River City Jazz Coalition, a culturally diverse group of community leaders committed to bringing world class Jazz performance and educational opportunities to the Greater Baton Rouge community. The River City Jazz Masters series has proven to be an effective vehicle to bring the culturally diverse Baton Rouge community together under one roof by presenting world renowned artists including Wynton, Branford and Ellis Marslis, Ahmed Jamal, Patti Austin and Ramsey Lewis to name only a few.

Gordon also enlisted the support of friend and artistic collaborator Debbie Allen in creating a community dance residency which has provided world-class training and performance opportunities for young people of all ages, races and socioeconomic status. The residencies give the young people a culturally diverse learning experience where they learn about dance and one another and the proud audiences for these programs are among the most diverse seen in the Baton Rouge community.

Gordon spearheaded the creation of additional free arts experiences for the Greater Baton Rouge community including the Sunday in the Park Music Series. Once again Gordon has embraced music and traditional culture to bring together audiences from across the Baton Rouge community. Currently Gordon and the Arts Council are working with community leaders with local redevelopment agencies to ensure that planned developments include space for working artists and cultural facilities that serve local residents.

Derek Gordon was a true friend to us at NBC33 News. In fact, he was a vital part of a majority of our station events throughout the year. We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Derek Gordon.

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