Human Interest

Eric Holowacz is leaving to live Down Under, and slightly to the right.

Holowacz, the executive director of the Sedona Arts Center in Uptown, will be leaving in October for a new job in Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud. Or New Zealand for us Yankees.

Holowacz will be the museum director and cultural affairs coordinator in Whakatane, which is in the Bay of Plenty. The museum is operated through the area’s equivalent to a city council.

Holowacz is no stranger to New Zealand. In fact, he and his family are citizens of the country, having immigrated there when he took a previous job. Two of his three daughters were born in New Zealand.

A reference from his former boss helped solidify his job offer.

Holowacz said he is working hard to make sure the transition for incoming Executive Director Vince Fazio is smooth. Fazio is currently the deputy director of the SAC.

Holowacz plans on returning, though it won’t be permanent. He said he hopes to come back during the summers to help oversee the Sedona Summer Arts Colony, a project just finishing its second year which was undertaken on his initiative.

He also will stay on in a consulting capacity at SAC. Holowacz said on his return to New Zealand he wants to accomplish three things. First, rekindle the connections he has in the area made prior to leaving in 2007. He will also be part of a building project at the museum and will ensure it finishes properly. Then, it’s international, as he will look at possible residency programs and other opportunities not just for Kiwis, but for all those in the South Pacific area.

He may even try to broaden the New Zealand to Sedona connection beyond himself, “not impossible when you think about what I’ve done,” he said.A map of New Zealand, pointing out where Sedona Arts Center Executive Director Eric Holowacz will move to, in the Bay of Plenty on the northern island.

Holowacz said he is leaving for the islands due to their culture and outlook on life. He said that in New Zealand, both the white and Polynesian ethnic groups have embraced the native way of thinking, which he described as self reliant and capable of accomplishing anything while keeping a sense of humility. He added that New Zealand was still finding ways to be innovative in the 21st century, and that he was excited to be a part of that.

He described Whakatane as a good place to settle down. He estimated the size at roughly 30,000 people, but with fewer tourists than Sedona.

It’s the people that Holowacz will miss the most back among the red rocks. 

He said he came into the position with a plan to expand programming and culture at the SAC, and the board and staff have been behind him the whole way, building their own momentum as well.

“Eric’s leadership brought a greater focus on the creative life of the Verde Valley, and resulted in the establishment of Sedona Summer Colony, and increased support form the city of Sedona and state of Arizona,” Board Chairman Kath Gilliam said. “He fostered a greater focus on membership growth, facilities improvements, gallery operations and board and staff capacity — and will be truly missed at the Art Barn.”

He said he has a lot of experiences to tide him over until he returns, “stored up like a battery” inside his mind. Memories of artists he’s met will definitely be a part of that charge.

“This has been the most amazing part of my work — meeting and working with artists,” he said.


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