Newberry Opera House
Molly Fortune is currently the Executive Director at the Newberry Opera House in Newberry, South Carolina. She has held this position since September 2015 where she is a leader for a world renowned performing arts center. She leads a staff that oversees ticketing, programming, marketing, operations and patron engagement. She strongly believes that historic buildings provide a window or door for economic development and revitalization of America's downtowns.
In the previous 3 years, the Newberry Opera House has been a leader in events not necessarily produced on the stage. Under her leadership the Opera House hosted NASA and a 3-day STEAM camp leading up to the total eclipse on August 21, 2017. This event brought in over 25,000 people to downtown and another 50,000 to the county for the events. The Opera House worked with NASA to be named a NASA Designated City for the event and was the only location in the path of totality to have an Astronaut call the eclipse. Due in December 2018, the Smithsonian will host a tour exhibition in the lobby of the Opera House focused on Rural Communities at a Crossroads. Prior to these two events, she has worked with the Newberry Opera House Foundation to reorganize and become a strong force in nonprofit work for the Midlands. The Opera House continues to think outside the box for programming and community engagement.
Prior to her work in Newberry she held the positon of Director of Restoration and Operations at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. A fiercely protected landmark and nationally acclaimed theatre, the Fox is a multi-purpose performing arts venue which hosts over 450 events and has more than 780,000 patrons per year. During her tenure at the Fox Theatre, Molly's leadership oversaw the departments of Production, Maintenance and Operations, Restoration, Housekeeping, Guest Experience, Security, Tours and IT. Molly was influential with the development and implementation of new strategic initiatives such as the Fox Theatre Institute, an outreach and consulting division for which she served as the Director of Restoration Consulting. However, her main focus was on the one and only in-house restoration and operations departments of a theatre anywhere in the country. Upon her retirement she had been with the Fox for 15 years.
Projects completed under her tenure at the Fox included: carpet re-weaving; handrail installation; ceiling restoration, Landmarks Lounge creation; historic finishes documentation; furniture appraisal; lighting appraisals; Organ restoration; Lighting restoration and improvements; exterior lighting; HVAC upgrades at 2.5 million alone. She always thought outside the Fox in solving problems that would enhance the theatre going experience yet maintain the historic integrity of the facility. Her Department spent over $1 Million in Capital improvements each year.
And even before her work at the Fox Theatre, Molly was employed by the Department of Defense as a Cultural Resource Specialist in Historic Preservation and Programming for two military installations in the Southeast. While with the DoD she also did smaller projects consulting on buildings at both West Point and US Naval Academy.
Molly received her BFA in Interior Design from Converse College with a minor in Physics; received an MFA in Historic Preservation from the Savannah College of Art and Design Summa Cum Laude with Distinction.
Molly is very active with the League of Historic American Theatres serving on the Executive Committee, as well as on the Board of Advisors for the Savannah College of Art and Design; Women of influence in Venue Operations from IAVM and Leadership roles within other facility operating societies. She is also active as a mentor, peer reviewer and guest speaker on the importance of historic buildings as economic drivers for several professional Preservation and Museum oriented organizations and publications.
Molly is married to LTC (ret) Christopher Kemper and has two daughters and three dogs.