Eric Vaughn Holowacz
- Member for
- 19 years 10 months
Eric Vaughn Holowacz was born in Princeton, New Jersey and grew up in Columbia, South Carolina. He attended Irmo High School, and was a member of its National Championship academic Quiz Bowl Team in 1986. After studying architecture at Georgia Tech, he completed a dual degree in Art History and English Literature at the University of South Carolina. In 1989, he began a year abroad at the University of the Virgin Islands, but returned home early after Hurricane Hugo devastated the islands.
While finishing his undergraduate degree, Mr Holowacz was hired as an intern with the South Carolina Arts Commission in early 1990. There he supported program and administrative staff and learned the workings of an extensive state arts agency. On his own initiative, with the blessing of the agency’s senior management, he compiled and edited the South Carolina Writers Directory (a comprehensive resource for the state's literary artists and presenters). He worked with leading arts administrators Scott Shanklin Peterson, Ken May, David Houston, and Marion Draine.
In 1991, Mr. Holowacz moved to Mons, Belgium and spent six months traveling throughout Europe.
In the spring and summer of 1992, Mr Holowacz began his professional association with Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina—first in public and press relations, then as Publications Coordinator, and finally as the international arts festival’s Operations Manager. There he supervised programs ranging from internships, orchestra auditions, government relations, and support staff and functions—including transportation, housing, volunteers, artist communications, and contracts.
For the festival, he also developed innovative programming, including a Poets and Writers Series and a Humanities Symposium addressing the role of the arts in American public policy. Mr Holowacz was very active in local and regional cultural efforts, serving on the boards of the Poetry Society of South Carolina, the South Carolina Artisans Center, and several committees of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.
He later served as Vice Chairman of the South Carolina Presenters Network and board member of the high-profile advocacy consortium, the South Carolina Arts Alliance. His mentors during this time were Marcus Overton, Milton Rhodes, and Mayor Joe Riley.
After leaving Spoleto Festival in 1995, he worked as Director of Operations for the Atlanta-based Toenut, an alternative music ensemble signed to UK-based Mute Records. He created a multi-media stage component for the band’s stage show, which was presented in dozens of venues at home and abroad. Mr Holowacz managed the touring and office affairs of the group, and accompanied the band on engagements throughout America, as well as a debut concert tour of England.
In June of 1996, Mr Holowacz was named Executive Director of the Arts Council of Beaufort County, where he served a growing constituency, developed innovative arts opportunities, and fostered the creative ideas of the community.
His pioneering efforts included the free Arts in the Park series, all events on the University of South Carolina—Beaufort Performing Arts Centre stage, and a major partnership with the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs. The latter resulted in the well-loved Cows on Vacation public art project, the River of Art exchange with the Shedd Aquarium, a Beaufort artist participating in Suite Home Chicago, and the gift of a Beaufort Art-o-mat machine to the Chicago Cultural Center.
As CEO, he gained a reputation for unique cultural advocacy projects and participation-building efforts. His tenure saw the successful production of over 100 world-class chamber music concerts, theatre residencies, and visual art exhibitions at the University of South Carolina – Beaufort gallery; the introduction of an engaging public art program; the hosting of a weekly arts segment for local television and radio WJWJ; and six consecutive operating years without a fiscal deficit.
He was known for a keen dedication to constituents, educators, and artists. While there, Mr Holowacz helped establish a regional and national reputation for the arts and cultural opportunities of his Lowcountry community—and his organization was honored with the 1999 Governor’s Award for the Arts as South Carolina’s Outstanding Arts Organization.
Communication, creativity, and advocacy have been the hallmarks of his career, and Mr Holowacz is well known among colleagues as an artistic director, writer, editor, producer, and critical thinker. His articles, editorials, and public programming have often engaged the public, spurred community dialogue, and addressed issues involving creativity and human expression.
He has a proven facility with graphics and visual media, written communication and rhetoric, the advancement of the non-profit organization, community development, cultural program engineering, and multiple layers of strategic planning.
As CEO of the Arts Council, he was responsible for all budgetary matters, development and fund-raising, management of staff, board administration, public relations, and program development. His leadership saw annual membership double, the operating budget grow from US$125,000 to over US$225,000, and new partnerships and creative alliances form for the benefit of Beaufort County.
Mr Holowacz was one of a handful of non-profit executives selected for the 2001-2002 South Carolina Executive Institute, a prestigious year-long leadership and management course developed by the Governor’s Office, the State Budget and Control Board, the University of South Carolina, and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He served as chairman of the Beaufort County Historic Preservation Review Board, was a key consultant for the Palm Key Institute, and a past member of the Community Advisory Board for South Carolina Educational Television.
In early 2002, Mr Holowacz resigned his post as Executive Director, to spend more time with his wife and new daughter. They decided to plan a move abroad, and relocated to Wellington, New Zealand in October 2002.
After a year as stay-at-home father, Mr Holowacz accepted an offer to replace Neal Palmer as Wellington City Council’s arts manager, a role he began in May 2003.
This high-profile position involved community arts activities, festival event production, new creative initiatives, and extensive consultation with grass roots artists and audiences throughout the capital city. He regularly advised constituents on grants funding, marketing, project management, audience development, government relations, and community partnerships.
One of his first city-wide projects, Drive by Art, saw hundreds of artists and school children painting over 300 vinyl banners for public display above the streets of Wellington. That project won the 2004 Creative Places Award from New Zealand’s national arts council.
Throughout 2004 and 2005, Mr Holowacz was heavily involved in the planning and development of a new Arts Centre for Wellington, a bold initiative undertaken by the capital city’s mayor and her councillors. He grew his role along with this vision, advising the City Council policy and strategy units on the successful implementation of a new Public Art Policy, long-range planning, facilities development, and future cultural initiatives.
In July 2005, Mayor Kerry Prendergast officially opened Toi Poneke: Wellington Arts Centre, a 3,000 square meter multipurpose facility comprising 7 floors, 2 buildings, and dozens of creative spaces. It remains a hub for the Capital’s artists and cultural producers.
As Wellington’s Arts Programs and Services Manager, Mr Holowacz was based at the centre following its opening. There he advised an average of 30 artists and projects each month and continued to manage his portfolio. He developed and published the extensive fortnightly email newsletter, weblog, and creative development resource, The No.8 Wire, to a weekly circulation of almost 2,000 people.
2006 saw the launch of his most ambitious idea to date, the Opening Notes Project, an innovative public-private partnership with the Saatchi & Saatchi agency in Wellington. This unique music initiative involved local artists, the district health boards, generous creative advisors, and 6,000 new babies each year. Opening Notes captured the diversity of talent and culture in Wellington with a specially-packaged 22-track music CD and accompanying booklet of images and poetry—and this parcel was gifted on the day of birth to every one of the 6,000 babies born annually in the Wellington Region.
In 2006 Mr Holowacz became a member of the Intra Asia Network, a loose consortium of cultural workers and creative projects from across Asia. Thanks to a grant from the AsiaNZ Foundation, he attended its conference in Seoul, South Korea, and began building networks and exchange ideas.
The following year Mr Holowacz laid the groundwork for the Bolton Street Cottage Visiting Artist Exchange, a new initiative to transform Wellington’s second oldest dwelling into a residence and retreat for creative people from throughout Asia, India, and the Pacific. His international work included communications and planning with ambassadors, cultural attaches, and officers from Wellington-based Embassies and High Commissions—as well as strategic planning within the City Council.
In New Zealand, he also served as chairman of Wellington Access Broadcasting Society, served on the executive committee of the New Zealand American Association, and was member and officer of Wellington South Rotary Club.
In early 2007, after almost five years in Wellington, Mr Holowacz and family gained New Zealand citizenship. In April of that year, he was recruited for and accepted a multi-year contract to serve as founding executive director of a new creative community in Key West, Florida. He and his family relocated to America’s Southernmost city, long know for its art and culture heritage, where he began structuring a vision, plan, and all program and operational aspects for the organization. During his first few months, in partnership with his new board of directors, Mr Holowacz helped generate a three-year strategic plan, a multi-year balanced budget, a capital improvements work plan, and a blueprint of artistic programs and services.
Throughout 2007, Mr Holowacz assembled a small, highly-skilled staff, implemented a comprehensive branding and marketing strategy, completed historical preservation efforts on the campus, produced a resoundingly successful program season (which comprised workshops, lectures, residencies, partnerships, and new collaborations), and launched on-going annual membership and major donor initiatives.
He spent three years working across the community, state, and country to establish The Studios of Key West as a major new arts organization—and endowed it with a diverse portfolio of programs, community relationships, funding sources, and tacit relationships. In that role, Mr Holowacz was responsible for an annual budget of $800,000, a staff of 4, a multi-million dollar portfolio of properties, all artistic direction, and over 100 annual workshops, lectures, and community events.
In early 2010 Mr Holowacz was offered the role of producer and general director of Cairns Festival, a long-standing creative celebration in Tropical North Queensland. He and his family relocated to Cairns in March 2010, where he spent the next six months establishing a new brand identity, Festival team, and artistic direction. He also set out to achieve a slate of ambitious community engagement ideas, collaborative programming in support of creative people, and innovations to the standard festival model. For each festival, Mr Holowacz was the driving force behind a season of over 100 unique events, dozens of external partnerships, a growing population of sponsors, and audiences of over 100,000.
He relocated to Mildura in May 2012 for one year assignment as Arts & Culture Manager for Victoria’s largest (geographically) local council. As director of the Mildura Arts Centre his primary concern was the completion, re-branding, and activation of Victoria’s newest proscenium theatre. He also oversaw cultural programming, staff restructuring, marketing, and daily operations of the region’s heritage properties, main art gallery and significant permanent collection.
In 2013, Mr Holowacz returned to the United States to become President and Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s leading local arts agency. For the next two years, he oversaw a staff of ten and a $1.75 million annual budget—and managed year-round jazz and festival presenting, grant-giving programs, professional development for the local community, united arts fund campaigns, and new community engagement initiatives for Baton Rouge.
In 2015, he became Executive Director of Sedona Arts Center, a 60-year old cultural and educational organization at the heart of Northern Arizona’s creative life. Over the next two years, he rejuvenated the program and facilities—and managed a staff of ten, an active historic campus, an annual budget of $1.3 million, and new community partnerships. In 2016, along with principal partner Paul Amadio of Verde Valley School, he founded America's newest residency program for artists and cultural managers, Sedona Summer Colony. The inaugural year accommodated over 125 creative people from around the world, and fostered new works, ideas, and collaboration over 5 weeks at a 300-acre campus in the Sonoran Desert.
In August 2017, Mr Holowacz was appointed Director of Whakatāne Museum and Arts at Whakatāne District Council and returned to Aotearoa after a decade abroad. There he oversaw the completion of a new $5 million collections and research facility, and was chief steward of a collection of over 800,000 heritage objects, Taonga Maori, fine art, books, photographs, and archives relating to the heritage of the Eastern Bay of Plenty. Holowacz also established the Southern Hemisphere's only Volcanic Artist Residency (in partnership with Ngati Awa / White Island Tours), developed new exhibitions, and fostered national and international connections for the museum.
Mid-2019 saw him returning to Wellington and Toi Poneke Arts Centre before the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic. He was appointed to the role of chief executive officer of Creative Capital Arts Trust in Wellington, overseeing New Zealand Fringe Festival (and the most extensive programme of events in its 30-year history) as well as the country's largest free multi-disciplinary street festival CubaDupa. Following the Covid-19 disruption and nation-wide lockdown the following year, Mr Holowacz returned home to the Bay of Plenty. He was offered and accepted the temporary role of General Manager at Creative Bay of Plenty—based in Tauranga and one of New Zealand's leading regional arts, culture, and heritage organisations.
His leadership there resulted in major new project and resilience funding from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, TECT, Creative New Zealand, and Mātātuhi Foundation. Mr Holowacz established a new arts sector networking effort, the Creative Connections Lunches, a new artist interview series called Creative Patapatai, and a companion podcast series that highlights creative identities and continues to grow. While there he also served on the volunteer leadership group of the emerging Regional Arts Network Aotearoa, forged new partnerships in the Bay of Plenty, established Ngā Toi Māori cultural development programming in partnership with Te Tuhi Mareikura Trust, and was successfully awarded a fully-funded Māori Arts Internship from Toi Māori Aotearoa. Mr Holowacz also instigated plans for a new Bay of Plenty light art festival (which debuted in 2022 as Tauranga's After Dark Urban Light Festival, explored site-specific nature-based public art, developed the framework for a new artist residency programme, expanded scholarships and career awards for creative practitioners in parntership with Acorn Foundation, and established a new rapid-response Arts Mini-grant programme in partnership with TECT.
Following the second nation-wide lockdown in late 2021, Mr Holowacz concluded his 15-month role at Creative Bay of Plenty and accepted the role of Chief Executive Officer of Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre in Katherine, Northern Territory. He returned to Australia's Top End in December 2021 and is currently overseeing operations, programming, audience development, and the development of a $5.5 million capital expansion and new ourdoor amphitheatre for the Big Rivers Region.