Pablo Center’s director of artistic programing: “I have the best job”

Brenna St. George Jones reflects on what she appreciates about her career in the world of performances

More stories from Ta'Leah Van Sistine

Life in the city
December 8, 2021

Photo by Gabbie Henn

Before moving to Eau Claire to take over as directer of artistic programming at the Pablo Center, Brenna St. George Jones lived in New York City, where she worked at Columbia University.

The Pablo Center brought its director of artistic programming to Eau Claire, but she said it is not the only reason she stays.

Brenna St. George Jones — who is in charge of creating the inaugural season and overseeing all of the artistic, educational and workforce content at the Pablo Center — said the experience of working with great people inside of a great place makes working at the Pablo Center rewarding.

“I’m the luckiest girl in the world,” St. George Jones said. “I have the best job.”

In the midst of the opening night at the Pablo Center, St. George Jones said she felt the weight of the expectations for the building, as it’s opening was highly anticipated by the community.

“Deadline is deadline,” St. George Jones said. “… There is no harder deadline in the world than opening night.”

St. George Jones said 1,200 people had bought tickets for opening night, and the significance of the event revealed itself to her.

“There were a couple thousand people standing outside on that day,” St. George Jones said. “I have to admit, I had that moment of ‘Oh, my God.’ It was going to end spectacular, be it good or bad, but there was no doubt (opening night) was going to happen.”

Firebird, a puppet and dance performance, was a part of the program on the opening night of the Pablo Center. St. George Jones said during the part where the firebird ascends, she felt the powerful moment transform “the weight” of the expectations for the building into pride.

“I (felt the weight) because I feel responsible for my part of this legacy,” St. George Jones said. “A lot of … people worked really hard to get us to this point … and I have no interest in being the one to drop the ball. My job is to take it to the next stage in the evolution, in the revolution, really.”

Before coming to Eau Claire, St. George Jones was the senior director of the production and operation for Miller Theatre and the Lenfest Center for the Arts at Columbia University.

Melissa Smey, the associate dean and executive director at Columbia University School of the Arts, said she worked with St. George Jones for almost a decade, as they were a part of the planning team to help prepare for what was to be the new Lenfest Center for the Arts at the time.

“We really had a wonderful … learning experience working together to plan for the opening of that new building and how we would serve students, faculty and staff, but also serve the wider community,” Smey said.

Buildings associated with a campus often appear to only affiliate with the designated university, Smey said, but she distinguished the Lenfest Center for the Arts as a building that proves the opposite.

“A lot of academic buildings are meant to serve the campus community, not primarily meant to serve the wider community, but the arts are open to everybody,” Smey said.

Regarding her passion with artistic programming, Smey said St. George Jones has the skill to create an efficient and thriving workspace, and the ability to see perspectives from a 360-degree viewpoint.

“She really cares about fostering an environment that enables everybody to do their best work,” Smey said. “She cares about the artist, but also cares about the audience.”

St. George Jones said the Pablo Center was built with community in mind.

“A place the size and scope of the Pablo Center in a city of 65,000 people makes no sense, but it makes perfect sense,” St. George Jones said. “It was absolutely an idea that was born here, that happened here, that was fought for; so this really is something that was done for and by a community.”

In comparison between working in New York City to working in Eau Claire, St. George Jones said the Pablo Center has more impact than it would in a large city and that realistically, art takes place in a lot of other places outside of New York.

“It matters more here … everything matters to the people who do it, to the people in New York it matters, but you’re sharing the bandwidth … with other things,” St. George Jones said. “Here, this place, I think, matters to this community.”

St. George Jones said she was really grateful to work with talented individuals at Columbia University, but she loves her job as the director of artistic programming at the Pablo Center. She said she is paid and encouraged to have interactions with artistic and musical performances.

“My passion is exactly what I’m doing now — to work with artists and audiences,” St. George Jones said.

Despite being in Eau Claire, Smey said she and St. George Jones remain close friends and that she is proud of the work she has been doing at the Pablo Center.

“We sure miss her here in New York,” Smey said. “But we’re glad that she’s really doing great things in Eau Claire.”

Van Sistine can be reached at [email protected]