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New leader in town

October 18, 2002

Barbara Diamond

The Festival of Arts hired a debonair, energetic, former museum

director to head its team of professionals and volunteers into a

challenging future.

"I knew this job was going to be a challenge when the first thing

I saw in my office was a panic button under the desk," joked Steven

L. Brezzo, 53.

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Tuesday was the trim and breezy Brezzo's first day on the job.

Festival President Scott Moore introduced Brezzo to the City Council

and the community at the council meeting that night. Festival search

committee members and Brezzo backers Bruce Rasner and Kathleen

Blackburn also attended.

"I am pleased to be here and to work with a community that is such

a great supporter of the arts," Brezzo said.

Rasner said Brezzo's track record and energy impressed the search

committee from the get-go.

"He has been there, done that," Rasner said. "We had actively

searched for five months and when we looked at the finalists, he

stood alone with his background in the visual arts. We wanted someone

to regain the prestige of the festival as a first-class art venue."

Brezzo spent his entire career until 1999 working in San Diego

museums. Since then he has been bi-coastal, creating traveling

exhibitions and consulting with museums and foundations to establish

new opportunities and expanded programming.

"I first came to California through a Rockerfeller Foundation

program almost 35 years ago," said Brezzo, a native of New Jersey,

who grew up in Pennsylvania and attended college in Connecticut.

He had recently graduated with a master's degree in theater and

fine arts when he was selected as a museum educator by the La Jolla

Museum of Contemporary Art, now the San Diego Museum of Contemporary

Art.

"It was during the halcyon days when museums were abandoning

elitism and opening their intellectual arms to bring in new

audiences," Brezzo said.

He moved to the San Diego Art Museum in 1980 as assistant director

and worked there until his contract was not renewed in 1999.

Brezzo was in New York this year when he heard about the

festival's search for an executive director and made contact. He was

in London when festival headhunter Rasner called about the job.

"I visited three or four times," Brezzo said. "I wanted to assure

myself that it was a match: that the festival's expectations were

attainable and the board was ready to make the leap. They have been

very forthcoming and realistic."

Festival President Moore said the board, most of whom had fought

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