Joe Gillie

Joe Gillie

“There are still enough goals and exciting things to keep me motivated,” he said of his tenure as executive director of Old School Square Cultural Arts Center in Delray Beach.

Gillie and Old School Square Cultural Arts Center are about as synonymous as they come. As executive director of the Delray Beach landmark for the past 13 years, he has spent as much time in the historic buildings as he has his in own 1941 refurbished bungalow on Swinton Avenue. But he said he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Born in Danville, Virginia, home of the famous Dan River line of bed linens, as a student Gillie dabbled in music and was a member of his high school marching band. But an introduction to local theater in his senior year was soon to catapult him on an exciting journey that landed him where he is today.

“Everyone expected me to become a mill worker and work shifts in the factory. Imagine my parent’s disbelief when I pursued a career on stage. They always wanted me to come back and work there. Eventually they caught on,” said Gillie.

He furthered his education at Averett College in Danville, Virginia by studying architectural art, but couldn’t quite “picture himself in a cubical drawing” so he switched majors to Drama and Speech. He also accepted a small theatrical role and helped out with the stage sets. That experience solidified his future in the arts.

Gillie, who has a M.A. in theater from Portland State University in Oregon, has performed in major regional and repertory theatre companies throughout the United States. In southern Florida he performed at Boca Raton’s Royal Palm Dinner Theater and served as scenic artist and public relations director for The Caldwell Theatre Company. But he said his most compelling experience was on the first national tour of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” with Alexis Smith.

“I auditioned for Tommy Tune with 800 other guys in a typical chorus cattle call. It was down to 24 actors, then eight. I spent three years as the swing dancer for all the guys in the show, had to know all the parts, and be able to go on at a moment’s notice. I also served as assistant stage manager. It was a life-changing experience,” said Gillie.

While Gillie no longer performs, he feels his experience involving all aspects of theater gave him a solid foundation for his current position at Old School Square. There, his accomplishments speak for themselves. He successfully worked with community agencies and local government to transform the historic buildings into a premier cultural arts center that has won numerous local, state and national awards for preservation, innovative arts programs, and lauded as the catalyst for the ongoing Delray Beach renaissance. But Gillie won’t take all the credit.

“It has been a team effort and I’ve been blessed with a gifted board of directors and staff. I’ve been able to instill that passion and mission and they’ve stayed,” he said.

For the past three years, Gillie has served as Chairman of the Palm Beach County Historical Centennial Committee. This committee will oversee Palm Beach County’s 100th Anniversary celebration in 2009.

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