Big retirements in the arts

L-R: Roger Manley, Rich Holly

Two beloved arts leaders at NC State are departing on the same day.

After 13 years as the director of the Gregg Museum of Art & Design, Roger Manley has announced his retirement effective at the end of June 2023. When he returned to NC State in 2010 (having served as curator of the museum for four years in the 1990s), Manley was not anticipating the task that would dominate the first seven years of his tenure: the design and construction of a magnificent new home for the Gregg in the historic chancellor’s residence.

In addition to curating a host of fascinating exhibitions for the Gregg, Roger has worked nationally and internationally as a curator, film director, photographer, folklorist and writer, with interests ranging from self-taught artists and tribal peoples, to fairy tales and gardens. His first show for NC State was the 1988 exhibition, A Blessing From the Source, which featured the 3,500 biblical sculptures of the late Outer Banks visionary folk artist Annie Hooper.

Rich Holly, executive director for the arts and associate dean of University College, is also stepping down at the end of June. He arrived at NC State in July 2015, following a 32-year career at Northern Illinois University, the last seven as the dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. Throughout his time at NC State, Rich has modeled his philosophy of servant leadership. And while he will likely look back and recall too many construction meetings in his early years here (the aforementioned Gregg Museum project, a Price Music Center renovation, and finally, the replacement of the aging fly system in Stewart Theatre), it was the last three years – the pandemic years – that called forth all lessons learned during a career of arts administration, as he provided steady, reassuring guidance during an unprecedented time.

Rich’s time at NC State hasn’t been all about construction and crisis management. He served on the board of Triangle ArtWorks for six years during a period of major growth for the organization (and was the chair for two of those) and has also been the chair of the public art committee at NC State. And perhaps most near and dear to a drummer’s heart, he founded a faculty rock band – The Quadrivium Project – known not only for multiple concerts but also as a learning opportunity for the students who supported the ensemble.

In January 2021, Rich Holly started a blog series called “Our Life in the Arts,” with the subtitle of “Questions, reality, and musings on a life of joy and wonder.” Over the last two and half years, he has explored a range of topics, including failure as the key to success, money, honoring those who came before you in your artistry, problem solving, sports and the arts, pet peeves, and when it’s time to move on to something new.