SPEARFISH | Darren Granaas has been named the new executive director of the Matthews Opera House & Arts Center.
This new position marks a long-awaited return to the Black Hills area for Granaas, who grew up in Rapid City.
“I had been on the lookout for a unique opportunity that would allow me to grow the arts and make a difference in my community, and I felt very strongly about moving back to my hometown and settling in that area,” Granaas said in a release. “The stars aligned with this job. I fell in love with Spearfish a few years ago and this just felt like it was almost fated.”
Granaas’ career in the arts began 30 years ago when, after graduating with a B.S. in English from the University of South Dakota, he immediately went to work as the program director for the Civic Fine Arts Center in Sioux Falls from 1989-1999.
Most recently, Granaas just completed a 20-year-stint in O’Fallon, Mo., a close suburb of St. Louis, as the Cultural Arts Coordinator.
During his time in O’Fallon, Granaas had the opportunity to build an arts program from the bottom up while also experiencing the unique challenges of combining the arts with municipal government. He brings to his new position experience not only in arts administration but in grant writing and visual and performing arts programming.
Granaas said his long career in the arts has been a dream come true, and a goal he feels lucky to have realized so early on.
“I love the arts. It’s something I do because I’m passionate about it and I love trying to make a difference in my community,” Granaas said. “I learned early on that it's about collaborating. It’s the passion you have for it. I can’t imagine getting up and working every day on anything else. I get to do what I love.”
Granaas said he is especially excited to continue his work in the arts in Spearfish, a community he says is unlike any other.
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“This a beautiful town with incredible people. It’s a university town, next to the canyon, next to lakes ... it’s a diverse community that is forwarding thinking but yet has a strong grasp on tradition. It’s a unique town and I already feel completely at home here,” Granaas said.
When asked about his future goals for the Matthews, Granaas emphasized that he wants to continue to build on the local legacy that has already been established by this historic organization.
“The Matthews already does an excellent job of offering incredible arts programming, both on the visual and performing arts side of things. We have an amazing tradition of performing arts, and we want to continue to build on our community theater shows, as well as our Subscription Series performances, while also bringing in fresh ideas and really bolstering the visual art offerings our gallery provides,“ Granaas said.
“Additionally, I want to maintain our focus on increasing donations and looking for additional grant opportunities -- ensuring that The Matthews continues to be financially viable for a long future of thriving arts programming in Spearfish," he said.
Granaas is not the only new face at Matthews Opera House. Several positions have been filled over the past year. The current staff consists of Heather (Clark) Evans as Gallery Manager, Kyler Flock as the Community Engagement Manager and Festival in the Park Coordinator, and Maegan Detlefs as Marketing Manager.
“We have an incredible team and holding on to our current staff for as long as possible is one of my biggest goals,” Granaas said. “Being so new, the four of us have a unique opportunity to use our energy and excitement to our advantage and forge forward with a new vision for the Matthews.”
When he’s not working, Granaas enjoys spending time with his son, Chet, 21, and being outdoors. Granaas said he is excited to once again live in an area that allows easy access to some of his favorite hobbies.
“We love being outdoors: hiking, kayaking, snowshoeing, fishing. We didn’t get a lot of that in downtown St. Louis,” Granaas said with a laugh.