To know Aaron Hurt is to understand the way he proposed handling his office décor. After moving into his new space tucked away in a corner on the third floor of Clowes Hall, he was stuck on figuring out ways to dismantle the big screen television fixed to his wall and mount it on a rolling device that the entire Butler Arts Center staff could benefit from. He hypothesized different ways to turn the space into a conference room, saying it was much too large for just himself. And he was concerned that the colors weren’t welcoming enough. In the end, none of these changes were made.
But Hurt did insist on one request.
He came across a 1963 art deco painting of opening night at Clowes Memorial Hall. He loves art deco work, but it was about much more than just the style. Hurt’s grandfather was there that night in 1963. Donald Hurt was a member of the projectionist union, and when Clowes was ready to open, he was called to help get the stage ready. He hung the original main curtain and worked the first few shows.
“It’s really bonkers,” Hurt says, as he looks up at the painting on his office wall. “To think that my grandfather was hanging the curtain that night, and now I am sitting in this office working here. It’s really not something I take for granted, and we are going to be hands on and inclusive in how we put our stamp on Butler and the greater community.”
Hurt was officially named Executive Director of the Butler Arts Center on January 1, 2019 after serving as interim executive director since August 2018. But this is a role that, in many ways Hurt has been working toward since he was a little boy, and a role that means so much to so many in his extended family.
“This was in his blood and you can just tell by his enthusiasm that he was born to do this,” President James Danko says. “With Aaron, you can hear his passion when he speaks, and when you hear about his family, it is obvious where that comes from.”
Three years after Hurt’s grandfather hung the first curtain at Clowes Hall, his father, Daniel, hopped on his moped at age 16 and headed from the Eastside of Indianapolis to Clowes for his first ever job, sweeping the floors and holding ladders. Daniel would go on to work at Clowes Hall many times over the years. He also worked the beloved summer theater series on the football field.
Aaron was born into a family of projectionists. He was exposed to film, the arts, and theater from a young age, and often went with his father to work. But he first remembers Clowes Hall when he saw his sister, an opera singer, perform there.
“Butler has been a part of our lives for years and for Aaron, this is a scene he has been around since he was in diapers,” Daniel says. “Aaron would come with us to his sister’s performances and practices. It is pretty amazing when you think about it because the connection goes all the way back to my father hanging that curtain. Aaron grew up on this. We are all tied to Butler and Clowes.”
Hurt wanted to run a venue for as long as he can remember, he says. As an arts administration major at Butler, he learned that he could make a career out of running the programming and operations of a place. After graduating in 2008, Hurt worked for the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, the Chicago Children’s Choir, and then made his way back to Butler in 2013, as part-time manager of the Schrott Center. He became full-time later that year, serving as the operations manager. In 2016, after the Butler Arts Center was established, Hurt was promoted to Director of Operations.
He took over as interim Executive Director of the Butler Arts Center in August 2018. When Danko was evaluating what to do about the permanent executive director position, the positive feedback about Hurt was overwhelming.
“Aaron’s passion and enthusiasm for this type of role, coupled with the extraordinary esteem he is held in made him far and away the optimal choice for this position,” Danko says. “I am very excited about him and his potential. It is like an NFL team looking for that young coach who will be a star in 20 years.”
So now, Hurt will work to put his stamp on the place that has been a major part of his and his family’s lives for so long. Something that he called both terrifying and incredible. The goals are numerous.
Hurt has four major focuses—find new ways to make money, form better partnerships, engage more with the Indianapolis market, and create improved University programming. But, he says, it really does come down to one thing.
The goal is to make the Butler Arts Center an authentic hub for arts programming for all different communities in town. For example, next season, ticket prices will start at $19. This adjustment, he says, is a way to make shows more accessible for a much wider group.
“I want us to be known as open and inviting. I want people to leave happy and to have experienced something they couldn’t have experienced anywhere else in the city,” Hurt says. “That is what Clowes originally was when it started.”
And Hurt would know. He grew up learning about Clowes and hearing about Clowes from a grandfather and father who were there from the beginning. Now, Hurt is ready to take Clowes back to that original model—collaborative and inviting. Just the way he likes his office décor.