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Jessie Inman ready for next adventure after six-year run as Confederation Centre CEO

Jessie Inman.
Jessie Inman. - Jim Day

Jessie Inman is ready for a new adventure – well, more than just one.

The high-energy business woman will officially end her run as chief executive officer of the Confederation Centre of the Arts on July 25.

She has her sights set on adding considerably to an already impressive string of adrenaline-inducing travel with her older and retired husband, Allan Wesley Hart.

The pair, just back from a trip to Chile to celebrate Hart’s 70th birthday, are set to travel aboard the tall ship Europa to Antarctica on a 39-day voyage at sea later this year.

“We want to do more adventure. We are highly into adventure travel,’’ says Inman, who has already walked a glacier, climbed mountains in Ethiopia and awakened nose-to-nose with an Inuit hunter in a grimy hut in Northeastern Greenland while she and her husband spent a week living on ice-covered water.

Inman is also keen to pursue a master’s degree in law for executives with the goal of joining boards of corporations.

Last week, she sat down with The Guardian to reflect on her time over the past six-plus years as the centre’s first female CEO.

First, she is quick to note her resignation is not a matter of abruptly severing ties.

She signed a five-year contact with the centre in 2011 and later signed an additional three-year contract that would have taken her through 2018.

A strong desire to spend more time with her husband, though, will see her leave the post five months shy of year’s end.

Inman is not leaving because the job has lost its appeal. She is simply ready to move on to yet another exciting chapter.

“I absolutely love working here,’’ she says.

“This is a really cool job. I love it here. This was a really difficult decision.’’

Months into her job, Inman told The Guardian she was determined to make the centre more relevant and accessible to all Canadians while also working to inject greater vibrancy into the place.

“I really think that happened and I feel very proud of the accomplishments that we’ve done here in the last six-plus years,’’ she says.

“We’ve done so many things.’’

Adam Brazier, the centre’s artistic director, describes Inman as an inspiring leader with a strong work ethic – a woman who exhibits tireless fight and passion for the place.

“It can be intimidating because she is so determined to make the centre better,’’ says Brazier.

“The centre is certainly a better place for having had her, and she’ll be missed.’’

Inman grew up as the seventh of eight children who were given their share of chores on the family’s mixed farm in St. Catherines, P.E.I. She began her career at the centre in 1976 as an administrative assistant. She went on to work for many years in western Canada and abroad in leadership, investment and development positions before returning to P.E.I. to tackle the centre’s top post.

Fast facts

  • Anne again and again: Jessie Inman estimates she has attended “Anne of Green Gables-The Musical” roughly 50 times. It never gets old for Inman, who will end her run as the Confederation Centre of the Arts CEO in late July. “I love it,’’ she says. “I love Anne. Anne last year, it was just awesome. I can’t wait to see it this year.’’
  • Good customer: Jessie Inman says she regularly takes family and friends to all of the shows at the Confederation Centre of the Arts – always on her dime. “I have been the top ticket buyer at the centre for six-plus years running because I obviously pay for all my own tickets,’’ she says. “The only ones I get (for free) are the opening nights.’’

Inman speaks in the collective when highlighting what she considers notable accomplishments under her tenure. A team approach, she stresses, has been key to success.

Her job as CEO, she notes, has been to keep all the balls in the air.

“I support everybody’s work and make sure the dollars are going in the right directions, that we’re operating as one organization,’’ she explains.

She is, however, disappointed that more dollars are not coming the centre’s way via Ottawa.

“In all fairness, we’re a very unique institution in the country,’’ she says.

“We’re a very big place in a very small province, and I don’t believe we get our share of funding from the federal government for like institutions. I really believe that it’s way overdue.’’

Still, Inman feels a strong sense of achievement with what has taken place over the last half dozen years with an annual budget that hovers around $12 million.

She says the world-premiere of “Evangeline”, a story based on Longfellow’s famed heroine who becomes separated from her betrothed, Gabriel, during the Acadian deportation, was an “incredible accomplishment.’’

But it is “The Dream Catchers”, the Confederation Centre of the Arts’ signature project last year for Canada 150, that Inman holds up above all else.

The centre's creative team visited communities across Canada, working with young people, local artists and Indigenous representatives to create artistic interpretations of their vision for Canada's future. Music, dance, visual arts and traditional crafts were merged into musical theatre that was performed across the country by the Confederation Centre Young Company.

“ ‘The Dream Catchers’ is the most important thing that’s happened here in six and a half years,’’ says Inman.

“It was a very powerful performance…it touched everyone who saw it.’’

Wayne Hambly, longtime chairman of the board of the Fathers of Confederation Buildings Trust, says the centre has made great strides under Inman’s leadership, including a total rebuild of the theatre.

In addition to the very successful “Evangeline” and “The Dream Catchers”, adds Hambly, the centre presented works of many significant Canadian visual artists and expanded and solidified the heritage programming under Inman’s leadership.

Soon, Inman, a free spirit who parachuted seven times one summer, will now look to catch a few dreams away from the Confederation Centre.

“I’d like to climb a few more mountains...there’s so much to do, it’s endless,’’ she says.

“So, no shortage of things to do. It’s just a time for a change.’’

List of Confed Centre CEOs

  • 1964: Mavor Moore
  • 1964-1972: Col. Frank Storey
  • 1972-1973: Edgar Jones
  • 1973-1976: Col. Frank Storey
  • 1976-1979: Hugh Palmer
  • 1979-1986: William J. Hancox
  • 1986: Laurie Balcom (acting)
  • 1986-1989: Brian Anthony
  • 1989: Mitchell McLean (acting)
  • 1990-1993: Wayne Carew
  • 1993: Rod MacInnis (acting)
  • 1993-1996: Colin Jackson
  • 1996: Doreen Malone (acting)
  • 1996-2001: Curtis Barlow
  • 2001: Kim Ladner (acting)
  • 2001-2011: David MacKenzie
  • 2011 – Jessie Inman

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