Perry-Mansfield Executive Director Joan Lazarus leaves role

Joan Lazarus

— After 2 1/2 years, Joan Lazarus has left her role as executive director of Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp. Her last day was Dec. 31.

According to Kathleen Wasserman, past president of Perry-Mansfield’s board of directors and current board member, it was a mutual decision between Lazarus and the board. Wasserman said she was sorry to see Lazarus go because she has been an asset to the performing arts school and camp.

When pressed for more details about her decision to leave, Lazarus said “it was a mutually agree-upon separation.”

“It’s all neutral, we are just making a change here,” Lazarus said.

According to Lazarus, her departure was timed so that whoever is hired as the new executive director could be in place in time to be part of the “run-up to the summer program.”

“I got here the day the program started, and that made it clear to me that whomever is here it’s important for them to the program in action,” Lazarus said.

“I have no idea what I will do next, but it’s kind of exciting to not know,” Lazerus added. “It could be anything.”

Although Lazarus never attended Perry-Mansfield as a student, she had an extensive background as a dancer, teacher, administrator and fundraiser. Lazarus danced in several regional companies and earned master’s degrees in dance and arts administration.

She has attended the University of Indiana, was a professor at the University of Oregon and has served as the executive director of the Oakland Ballet and the WestWave Dance Festival of new choreography. In 1998, Lazarus founded DanceArt in the San Francisco Bay Area, a nonprofit organization that supports dance theater, choreographers and production through consulting, capital projects and outreach education.

In June 2012, she moved to Steamboat to start her career as the executive director of Perry-Mansfield. With the recent changes, however, Lazarus said she does not plan on staying in Steamboat and hopes to explore other endeavors.

“Joan has done the most remarkable job of anyone they’ve ever had in that position as far as reaching out to the community,” said Karen Jimmerson, longtime Steamboat Springs resident and fan of Perry-Mansfield.

Some of the programs Lazarus introduced to the program throughout her time at Perry-Mansfield included collaborating with other organizations and venues in the community.

“One of the things I remember her saying was that Perry-Mansfield is better known in New York than in Steamboat Springs and she wanted to change that so the community could understand what a gem they had,” Jimmerson said.

Jimmerson also said she was impressed with Lazarus’ ability to connect Perry-Mansfield to a number of venues in town such as the high school, Colorado Mountain College, Strings Music Pavilion, Chief Theater and the Bud Werner Memorial Library.

A few of the programs that were incorporated with Lazarus’ direction were the open house events for the community to watch dancers or actors, the 100th year anniversary celebration, Brown Bag Lunch events that brought guests artists to town, the Dance on Film program at the library, snowshoe events at Perry-Mansfield and more.

“I feel it’s a huge loss to the community to have her leave because she was so enthusiastic about connecting Perry-Mansfield in a way that had never been done,” Jimmerson said. “She referred to her events not as fundraisers but rather friend-raisers.”

Going forward, Wasserman explained the board is unsure who will take Lazarus’ place. For the upcoming summer events, Wasserman said the existing staff will ensure the summer goes smoothly.

“Perry-Mansfield is in a good place for going forward,” Wasserman said. “We will miss her however the staff we have currently is solid and we feel good about the future.”

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.