Maryland Hall hires new executive director to lead Annapolis arts organization out of COVID pandemic

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On her second day on the job as the new executive director at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, Jackie Coleman was introduced to one of the biggest art events in Annapolis.

Between unpacking her belongings after moving from Connecticut, Coleman attended the opening night of the Annapolis Film Festival on March 31 and later caught a showing of a documentary about soul and pop singer Dionne Warwick.


The annual film festival is one of the many reasons the job leading the city’s preeminent arts organization was so appealing, Coleman said.

She comes to the role with an extensive arts background including two theater degrees and experience in education, administration, leadership and performance. Coleman most recently worked for five years as the senior community impact officer for Hartford Foundation for Public Giving in Connecticut.


Maryland Hall was founded in the late 1970s by a group of community members, including Ellen Moyer, the former alderwoman and mayor, who believed the city needed a community arts center. Over the last 40 years, the organization has rented out studio spaces in the former Annapolis High School to artists and resident art companies and offered a year-round schedule of classes and performances focused on visual arts, music, theater, writing, dance and more.

“I think it was the range of programming that Maryland Hall offers,” Coleman said of what attracted her to the job. “The fact that there’s the opportunity for performances and exhibits in the same space where there’s educational experiences — because I have an arts education background as well — I really loved all that coming together.

“I love being able to go downstairs and watch 6-year-olds practice ballet,” she added. “I took ballet classes when I was 6 years old. So, I love that all of those things exist and that it exists in this historical building.”

The Maryland Hall Board of Directors has announced the appointment of Jackie Coleman as Maryland Hall’s Executive Director.

Coleman is the third person to lead Maryland Hall since 2017. She takes over for Emily Garvin who had served as executive director since late 2019. Before Garvin, Margaret Davis served just under two years from late 2017 to September 2019 when she resigned for unknown reasons.

Last summer, the Maryland Hall Board of Directors, led by its chair Debbie Mayer, formed a committee that conducted a nationwide search to replace Garvin, Communications Director Katie Redmiles Barron said.

The committee used a ranking system to vet 120 applicants before landing on Coleman, Mayer said.

Coleman arrives as Maryland Hall begins to fully reopen from COVID-19 pandemic-related closures and restrictions over the past two years, including dropping its mask mandate on Monday.

During the pandemic, the creative arts center was kept afloat by programs established to help financially distressed arts organizations, Barron said. These included a loan from the federal Paycheck Protection Loan Program and a grant from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program established by the U.S. Small Business Administration to help theaters, museums and other performance venues make ends meet. Additional money came from the Maryland State Arts Council and Arts Council of Anne Arundel County.


“We are now transitioning away from that emergency funding support and hoping to keep bringing our audiences back more and more to keep going forward,” Barron said.

The Maryland Hall Board of Directors has announced the appointment of Jackie Coleman as Maryland Hall’s Executive Director.

In her first week, Coleman has prioritized getting to know her staff and understanding their needs moving forward. During the pandemic, staff was halved from 19 to 10, she said.

“That sort of made sense when the venue was shuttered because they couldn’t have anyone in,” she said. “But now that we’re reopening, the staff is starting to feel like we need more physical bodies; we need more support to really be able to be the vibrant asset to the community that we have been.”

Coleman’s ability to hit the ground running and apply her broad professional background was part of the reason she was hired, Mayer said.

“Her ability to build teams within an organization and out into the community, that’s really important coming out of COVID, especially,” Mayer said. “After the pandemic, we’ve all been isolated. Maryland Hall has been open, but not in the way that we knew it before.”

At Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Coleman led the organization’s arts strategy and helped create Catalyst for the Arts, an initiative to help arts organizations develop sustainable programming and operations in response to the pandemic.


In the 1990s, Coleman earned a bachelor’s of fine arts in theater at the University of Connecticut.

She then worked as a professional actor in New York City for 10 years and continued to perform full time as she earned a master of fine arts degree in theater from the University of South Carolina.

For six years, she was education director at Hartford Stage, a Tony Award-winning theater. She was then a senior executive adviser for the arts for Hartford Public Schools for five years. In 2015, she became an education consultant for the arts with the Connecticut State Board of Education.

While theater is the art form she has been trained in the most, including performing in numerous Shakespeare festivals, Coleman has developed a passion for other arts. During her professional career, “[M]y lens was all the arts — dance, music, theater, visual art, media and arts education,” she said.

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As she gets settled in, Coleman isn’t ready yet to discuss her vision for the organization, but she said she hopes to honor the city’s history while also considering the social climate of the present day.

“We’re going to honor [the history] but then make sure we consider the context, consider that we’re in 2022 and that we’re hopefully emerging from a pandemic and have a keen awareness that, during those years, the social unrest that has been in our community has strongly impacted the art sector,” she said.


Coleman is taking over for Garvin, who recently left the organization when her family moved out of the area. Over the past 23 years, Garvin served as Maryland Hall’s director of education and vice president of programs before being promoted to chief creative and operations officer in 2017 and then executive director.

“Emily Garvin was an amazing and dedicated arts professional for so many years at Maryland Hall,” Mayer said. “She went above and beyond as she helped steered us steer us through COVID.”

With Coleman in the fold, Mayer said she is most looking forward to seeing more people in the hallways and filling the theater and classrooms of the old school. She also hopes to continue some of the outdoor programs developed during the pandemic.

“All the things that I’ve loved about Maryland Hall because I’ve been involved there for close to 30 years,” Mayer said. “Everyone is on board to get back to the good hard work of fulfilling our mission of art for all.”