David Breneman (right) is ready for his first full season as president and CEO of the Society of the Four Arts (561-655-7226). After taking over for Ervin Duggan in January, he wasted no time acclimating himself to his new role—and his new home.
“I’ve never been a Floridian,” Breneman says. “It’s almost like one enters as an anthropologist learning a new culture. This is really not your typical place—it’s got its own mores, its own history, its own foibles. I’ve had a lot of fun trying to get my hands around it and figure out as much as I can in a short time.”
Though he considers himself a passionate arts fan, he is first and foremost an academic. His tenure at the University of Virginia included stints as a professor of the economics of education and pubic policy, dean of the college of education, and director of the university’s public policy program. Earlier in his career, he served as president of Kalamazoo College, a liberal arts college in Michigan.
Breneman sees many parallels between the Four Arts and the qualities that define a high-level liberal arts college. “Ervin Duggan nailed it in a short space when he said [the society is] like a small private liberal arts college but with the community as its constituents or its students,” he says. Lectures, performing arts programs, and art galleries, he points out, “are things that surround a good college, and we have all of them with a focus on the population that lives in and around the Four Arts area.”
Trio con Brio Copenhagen performs at the Society of the Four Arts on January 24.
Photo: Nikolaj Lund
In preparing for the 2015-16 season, Breneman particularly focused on selecting speakers for the O’Keeffe Lecture Series. “We’re trying to make these academically and intellectually respectable talks in every dimension,” he says.
As president, Breneman will do his best to attend all Four Arts events and programs, especially the concerts—a personal passion for him and his wife, a former choral conductor. “I’m a big fan of classical music,” he says. The Four Arts’ multifaceted lineup this year includes the Escher String Quartet (January 10), the Hollywood Concert Orchestra (February 10), and The Romeros (February 28).
Most of all, though, Breneman prides himself on being an advocate for each art form—art, music, drama, and literature—fostered at the society. “I’m not a painter and I’m not a musician and I’m not an opera singer or this and that, but I’m a great consumer,” he says. “As you’re heading an organization that tries to treat all of them, it’s an advantage not to be mired in one of them.”