One of Oregon’s most influential arts leaders has accepted a job in Denver, Colorado. Chris Coleman is leaving Oregon after leading Portland Center Stage for 17 years.

Chris Coleman has grown Portland Center Stage into a $10 million organization.

Chris Coleman has grown Portland Center Stage into a $10 million organization.

Jenna Saint Martin/Courtesy of Portland Center Stage

Coleman came to Portland from Atlanta. At the time, PCS was running six-to-eight productions per year, renting stage space from Portland’5 (then Portland Center for the Performing Arts).

During his tenure, Coleman initiated the campaign to renovate a historic armory into a splashy two-stage venue for PCS in Portland’s Pearl District and successfully lobbied for restructuring — and some forgiveness — of the armory debt.

Onstage, Portland Center Stage established itself as a venue for West Coast premieres. Coleman directed a production of Yussef El Guindi’s “Threesome,” which went on to a celebrated off-Broadway production. He also produced innovative takes on the classics — like a 2011 production of “Oklahoma” cast entirely with black actors.

Coleman additionally lobbied for public support of the arts. He was active in Salem during state budget discussions and helped convince voters to pass Portland’s arts tax.

“I think part of the reason why he was here as long as he was was there were so many changes on his watch,” PCS managing director Cynthia Fuhrman said. 

“People have been asking me, ‘Am I surprised?’ The answer is: yes and no. I’m surprised only because I know how much Chris loves Portland. I’m not surprised because there is a change in the field nationwide. There is a generation of artistic directors that are retiring.”

Coleman’s new job with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company begins after the PCS season closes in May 2018. It puts him in charge of a larger set of venues, in a town with more structured public support for the arts.