New Director of McVinney Auditorium hopes to support needs of Catholics, arts community


PROVIDENCE — The Diocese of Providence welcomes the leadership of Aaron Mack who will serve as the new director of the state-of-the-art McVinney Auditorium, located in downtown Providence.
Mack brings with him years of expertise in managing institutions dedicated to arts in the community, particularly with his recent experience as associate director of Production at The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture in the Archdiocese of New York.
Louise Dussault, who oversees the director and serves on the McVinney Auditorium Advisory Board, shared that the diocese is thrilled that someone with the depth of Mack’s background has come to Rhode Island to lead the auditorium into the next decade.
“It is apparent that he will provide strong leadership and innovative strategies to enable the Auditorium to continue to address the needs of the Catholic Church and the community,” said Dussault.
McVinney Auditorium Advisory Board Chair Mary Ann Altrui also extended her joy for the new director’s appointment.
“The advisory board is delighted to welcome Aaron,” she said. “He brings to the auditorium a wide range of skills, experience and enthusiasm. The board happily gives him our support and our best advice.”
Recently renovated in 2015, Bishop McVinney Auditorium functions as an inspiring space to bring the diocese and greater community together through performance, lectures, concerts and more. Named after Bishop Russell J. McVinney, the fifth Bishop of Providence, the auditorium has a distinct and unique foundation in the faith. And Mack is dedicated to focusing in on the Catholic identity of the auditorium.
“I think there is a lot of conversation about ‘are we Catholics who run an auditorium or are we a Catholic auditorium?’” Mack said.
Mack understands that a Catholic-owned and run facility like McVinney Auditorium — which is connected directly to the chancery — faces certain challenges as to the types of secular events that can be presented there.
“So as much as I would like to develop with the outside secular arts community — bringing people we can bring in like the dance companies, classical music organizations — I really want it to be a community resource as much as possible to the entire community,” Mack said.
“But I think as far as expansion we need to get serious about defining ourselves as a Catholic auditorium.”
Originally from Rutland, Vermont, Mack recently moved to Rhode Island with his family to bring his new ideas to the McVinney stage. He expressed the need for McVinney Auditorium to be a resource for the Catholic community and wants to ask, “How can this be a supportive space for them?”
“We need to find ways to reach out to Catholics who aren’t necessarily producing explicitly Catholic art, but Catholics who are artists or who are involved with artistic organizations. Instead of asking them to support us, we need to be finding ways to support them, Mack said.”
But, Mack is clear — you don’t have to be a Catholic to experience and enjoy all that McVinney has to offer.
“This really is meant to be an open and welcoming space to everybody and there are a lot of events that we do that are very much interesting to a wider community — not just to a Catholic audience,” Mack said.
“But also, if we are doing something that is Catholic in nature, what better an opportunity is there to come and listen and learn about the faith? There is no reason to be afraid to walk in through the door. You won’t receive any judgement, you’ll only receive information and entertainment.”
Some special events coming up at McVinney Auditorium include performances by the Narragansett Bay Symphony Community Orchestra on March 8, and the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival, an exhilarating visual tour of stunning landscapes, remote cultures and adrenaline-packed action sports, on March 9.
McVinney is also the venue for the Rhode Island Chamber Music Orchestra and will also soon host the Miss Rhode Island competition.
“It’s a pretty wide range of events,” explained Mack. “We have been mentioned before as the home for classical music in Rhode Island, which is a strong title and something we would like to live up to. If you’re a fan of classical music, I’d say keep an eye on our calendar. If you’re a fan of dance, keep an eye on our calendar as well.”
Mack also hopes to bring an annual event to McVinney, much like Trinity Repertory Company does with its tradition of “A Christmas Carol.”
“I’d love to see that here at McVinney. The Sheen Center recently produced a Christmas show called the ‘Gospel of John’ and it did exceedingly well. Something similar that is Christmas related and is less expensive to produce is a viable option for us. I’d love to see a homegrown production.”
Mack hopes that the venue will continue to be a home for community gatherings, conferences, graduations, youth events and school theater productions for both public and private schools.
“We are more than willing to be welcoming and to work within the budgets of local educational institutions to get them in here if they would like to utilize this space. You don’t have to be a Catholic school to use the space. We would love to have you.”
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