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Panida announces staffing changes

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | February 26, 2021 1:00 AM

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A new interim chairperson is at the helm of the Panida as the board announced several changes, including the departure of the historic downtown theater's longtime executive director, Patricia Walker.

"With COVID, there's been a really great opportunity for us to kind of refresh, refocus, like reevaluate what the theater means to the community," interim board chairperson Keely Gray told the Daily Bee. "And so with this new board that came on, we had a lot of community members reaching out to us and kind of sharing what their thoughts and their feelings, their wishes for the future were," Gray said.

The input prompted to board to "go back to the drawing board and reevaluate our mission, our vision, our values and really find what the community wants us to be," she said. "That was kind of the impetus for the changes that we decided to go through."

With the change in leadership and the shifting landscape of the film industry — with films released simultaneously for home and theater viewing — Gray said the board is taking a look at how it books films, what people want from their theater and connecting better with the community.

"We're just trying to get ahead of the game and kind of marry the two. How do we maintain being a community theater, community oriented, serving our community, and keep up with the demanding industry that's just changing every second."

At this point, Gray said the only staffing change was the elimination of the executive director position. The move was effective Tuesday afternoon.

In talking to the community throughout the pandemic, Gray said board members were told residents want to feel connected to the theater again, for it to be more accessible and welcoming.

They hope to create what form that could take during a strategic planning session set for March. The board also hopes to hold a town hall-style session to gather consensus on what the Panida's future holds.

"One of the things that was made really clear to us is that our community treasures this theater. Like, they have gotten us through the pandemic we would not be surviving right now if we didn't have them," Gray said. "And we feel like we owe it to them to do the best work that we can because if we want to continue to earn their support, we have to earn it, you know, we have to do the work."

The board said they were excited that Gray accepted the role as interim chairman of the board. The move ensures the Panida "will continue as a vibrantly exciting venue bringing quality live productions and outstanding films to Sandpoint,” vice chair Tari Pardini said.

As the Panida emerges from restrictions imposed by the pandemic, board members said the staff restructuring will maximize the theater’s ability to thrive once again and benefit from essential community input and support.

“Although we view the changes as essential,” Gray said, “we are unanimously grateful to Patricia Walker for the energy, time, commitment, and love that she has shown over the past seven years as executive director of the Panida. We wish her well and hope she will continue to enhance our community with her knowledge and expertise.”

The COVID-19 pandemic challenged art theaters all across America, board members said in a statement. That support, generosity and love from the community helped the Panida weather this economic storm, they added.

“We could not have done so well without you!” they said. “We are excited about the Panida’s future as we envision the theater not only as a venue for truly great community theater but also as a renowned magnet for outstanding talent from across the nation. North Idaho and the Panida will grow and prosper together.”

Information: Panida Theater, panida.org or on Facebook @panidatheater.