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Colleen Kollar Smith to Lead UC San Diego’s New Campus Performance and Events Office


  • Erika Johnson

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  • Erika Johnson

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The University of California San Diego has named Colleen Kollar Smith as the inaugural Executive Director of the newly created Campus Performance and Events Office, led by the Division of Student Affairs. Kollar Smith – who has also served as a lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Dance at UC San Diego – most recently served as Executive Producer of Moonlight Stage Productions, a cultural arts program in Vista, Calif.

Colleen Kollar Smith, inaugural executive director of the new Campus Performance and Events Office

Colleen Kollar Smith

“We are excited to welcome Colleen Kollar Smith, who brings a proven track record of strategic and collaborative leadership in the performing arts,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Life Patty Mahaffey. “Her arrival is timely as we renew focus on amplifying the arts in our campus community and the addition of the new Epstein Family Amphitheater.”

In her new role, Kollar Smith will be positioned at the nexus of an accelerating performance arts program. As part of the Student Life team, she will cultivate and oversee an annual lineup of lively events offered through the university’s established ArtPower program, Campus Events Office and The Loft. In addition, Kollar Smith will lead programming for the forthcoming Epstein Family Amphitheater – a 2,650-seat, multi-function outdoor venue slated to open in Fall 2022 that will present a wide variety of performances, lectures, large-scale concerts, recitals, movie screenings and more.

“I am excited to help bring the Chancellor’s vision to fruition to make UC San Diego a unique addition to San Diego’s vibrant arts and culture sector,” said Kollar Smith. “There is already a thriving arts presence on campus with strong academic and community partners and supporters as well as new and existing venues with easy access via the trolley. The university is well positioned to become an arts destination well beyond our region.”

UC San Diego will celebrate the opening of the Epstein Family Amphitheater with an inaugural lineup of thrilling performances at the new open-air venue on the UC San Diego Blue Line. Photo credit: Safdie Rabines Architects.

After officially starting her new role on July 25, Kollar Smith will begin tapping into the creative minds of campus and community partners. The feedback will help her develop a student-centered events infrastructure, with the priority being to solidify programming for the fast-approaching debut of the Epstein Family Amphitheater in October. Performances and engagement experiences will be in alignment with UC San Diego’s mission, vision and strategic goals with foundational themes of anti-racism, belonging and equity.

“I hope to make meaningful connections with the students, faculty, staff and artists on campus as well as existing and potential partners within the community to create a cohesive, collaborative and strategic approach to the work ahead,” said Kollar Smith.

Collaboration will be key in visioning and amplifying arts programming at UC San Diego. Kollar Smith will work with partners such as Jordan Peimer, who currently leads ArtPower’s public programs and residencies. His role is expanding this year to become Artistic Director of Planning and Outreach, which will involve continuing to curate ArtPower events as well as assisting in the development of engagement programs for the Stuart Collection—the university’s public art collection—alongside Director Jessica Berlanga Taylor.

Veteran of the stage

Kollar Smith already has a head start on making connections at UC San Diego. For the past four years she has served as a lecturer within the Department of Theatre and Dance Stage Management MFA program. Her three-part course was designed to develop skills in leadership, communication, human relations and ethics. “I am passionate about mentorship, particularly in the performing arts industry, and being on campus at UC San Diego for the past four years has been inspiring and fulfilling.”

A native San Diegan, Kollar Smith began her career in theatre as a performer, choreographer, director and creator. Her prior experience has centered on sustainable program and revenue growth, donor cultivation and stewardship, creative programming and collaborative partnerships. She believes in the power of art to bring communities together and is passionate about building resilience within the arts and civic sectors.

Kollar Smith’s previous experience as Executive Producer of Moonlight Stage Productions and Operational Manager for the Recreation and Community Services Department for the City of Vista involved overseeing the operations of the 2,000-seat Moonlight Amphitheatre, 385-seat Avo Playhouse, Wave Waterpark, historic Rancho Buena Vista Adobe, and Public Arts Program.

Other projects that bring pride to Kollar Smith include creating Jingle Terrace Park in response to the pandemic. Over 15,000 families participated in the mile-long drive-through light experience, which raised over $30,000 and garnered 12,000 pounds of food for the North County Food Bank in the first year. Also, Kollar Smith conceived and executed 100 Hours of Stories at Lamb’s Players Theatre, a crowd-funding event that broke a Guinness World Record.

Kollar Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in drama from UC Irvine and a master’s degree in nonprofit leadership and management from the University of San Diego. In acknowledgement of her work, she has received several Craig Noel Awards from the San Diego Critics Circle for her creative work — three for Outstanding Choreography and one for Outstanding Performance in a Musical.

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