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Petaluma Arts Center hires new director

DAVID TEMPLETON,

Delfin Vigil, a veteran arts journalist, nonprofit fundraiser, and sometime music producer, has been named the new executive director of the Petaluma Arts Center. Vigil, who lives in Petaluma with his wife, Tiffany, and two children, will replace outgoing Executive Director Val Richman, who announced her retirement in July after three years with the local nonprofit arts organization.

The selection as made following a lengthy regional search and recruitment effort, said Sandra Rozmarin, president of the Arts Center’s board of directors.

“This has been a long and careful search,” she said. “The board and staff are so pleased to have found an individual we feel is a perfect fit for the position.”

Vigil grew up in Benicia and later San Francisco. He spent 10 years covering the arts for the San Francisco Chronicle, after working as an intern at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat in 2003, eventually transitioning into the world of nonprofit marketing and fundraising, primarily serving organizations focused on social justice issues, from assisting day laborers and other undocumented workers to working with the homeless. He’s worked with Legal Aid of Marin, Project Open Hand and 10,000 Degrees.

“My foundation is in arts journalism, a career I’ve enjoyed for the majority of my life,” said Vigil, of the career path that’s led him to this new position as leader of one of Petaluma’s most significant and active arts organizations. “The arts are my natural passion, so I felt this was a good opportunity for me to combine all of my various skills.”

Working in the nonprofit sector, he noted, has been a valuable education.

“I’ve learned that having a great mission is fine, but you need a roadmap to accomplish that mission,” he said.

As to what that roadmap might look like for the future of the Petaluma Arts Center, Vigil has ambitious expectations.

“I see no reason the Arts Center can’t become Petaluma’s answer to MOMA or the DeYoung,” he said, “a crown jewel of the arts and a cultural anchor point in the North Bay area.”

Admitting that it’s a lofty goal, Vigil said such ambitions will take time to achieve.

“Big ideas require small, thoughtful steps,” he said. “I’m a storyteller. So basically, I’m looking forward to helping Petaluma Arts Center tell its story, and tell the stories of our local artists. We’ll see how things go from there.”

Vigil moved to Petaluma ten years ago, arriving in town the same month that the Petaluma Arts Center opened its doors. In addition to his work with nonprofits, he’s written several books, including the 2015 novel “Death of a Newspaperman” (Rare Bird Books) and the self-published illustrated chapbook “Nikko: Concrete Commando,” the story of an artist whose legacy includes writing his name in wet concrete over a thousand times across San Francisco.

“I’ve always associated Petaluma with the arts,” said Vigil. “The town has an artistic tone, from the architecture of its houses to the number of artists and art-based organizations that make their home here. Even the graffiti on the sidewalk is screaming with art and passion.”

Vigil officially takes the new position on Monday, Dec. 11, and will work for two weeks with Richman as part of the transition of leadership.

In a press release, Richman wrote: “It’s been a marvelous opportunity to have been at the helm of the Arts Center, and to lead the efforts of a team of creative and committed volunteers and staff who have all worked to make the Center a hub for creative engagement in the South County. Del will be a terrific addition to the Arts Center. I’m very happy.”

A public event to welcome Vigil will likely take place in early 2018, he said, with details to be announced in January. Till then, Vigil says he’s looking forward to getting to work.

“As a journalist, I was always excited about what the next story would be,” he said. “Now I’m just excited to be a part of the story of this organization, which is so important, and so special and unique.”

(Contact David at david.templeton@arguscourier.com.)