At the completion of my college education at the United States Naval Academy in 1976, I spent 20 years serving proudly as a naval officer. This time included five great years in the late 1980s and early 1990s stationed in Charleston.
My time serving in Charleston was the impetus for a family decision to relocate here. Shortly after retirement from the Navy in 1998, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to become the City of Charleston’s first ever Chief Financial Officer. During my eighteen plus years serving the City, I was fortunate to work with many of the organizations that make up the top cultural and entertainment attractions in our region. I enjoyed and learned so much from my work with the South Carolina Aquarium, the Charleston RiverDogs, Spoleto Festival USA, Piccolo Spoleto and MOJA Arts and Cultural Festivals, the Family Circle Cup Organization (now the Volvo Car Open), the USS Yorktown and many others.
Charleston has such a wonderfully rich arts and entertainment culture. Watching a show presented by Charleston Stage or other entertainers at the Dock Street Theatre, America’s first theatre, is always a treat. Spending time taking in the magnificent art at the Gibbes Museum of Art is one of my favorite ways to spend a leisurely afternoon.
My calendar can be kept by several iconic Charleston “happenings,” from the art and events that make up the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in February, the opening of Spoleto Festival USA on Broad Street in late May, to spending a warm summer evening at “The Joe” watching a RiverDogs ballgame and looking out on the beautiful Ashley River. Finally, the Hootie & the Blowfish “Homegrown Weekend,” with two unbelievable concerts at the Volvo Car Open Stadium normally in mid-August, signals that school will soon begin again.
My work as the CFO of the City of Charleston afforded me the opportunity to be involved in the renovation of the Charleston Gaillard Center. Being involved in the project from the beginning provided me with a unique insight into the project and Center. Eventually, this led me to my present position as the President and CEO of the Gaillard Management Corporation, the non-profit organization entrusted with operating the Gaillard Center. Since I began working at the Gaillard Center in the middle of 2016, it has been an absolute joy to work with the tremendously dedicated and talented staff. From our many performances, including those of our resident groups — the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and Spoleto Festival USA — to the many other concerts, plays and programs, the Gaillard Center provides our community with world-class performing arts.
The most rewarding part of my work at the Charleston Gaillard Center is the impact of our absolute top-notch Education Initiative. The Gaillard Center’s Education Initiative impacts over 25,000 students annually. Of those 25,000, over 70 precent attend a performance at no charge, ensuring arts education is accessible to every student in the Lowcountry.
The Charleston Gaillard Center fulfills the vision of providing the Lowcountry with a world-class performance hall, elegant venue space, and vibrant educational opportunities that inspire our community and provide the community unique and accessible, artistic and cultural experiences.
The Charleston Gaillard Center is the realization of a dream put forth by Mayor Joe Riley, the Charleston City Council and the City’s dynamic partner in the Gaillard Center’s total renovation, Martha Rivers Ingram. It is an honor to have served the City of Charleston for so many years and to now be part of fulfilling the promise of the mission of the Gaillard Center.
I consider it a high honor to have this leadership opportunity at this point in my professional career.
Stephen A. Bedard is the president and CEO of the Charleston Gaillard Center.