Anchorage, Alaska: Anchorage Opera (AO) Retiring General Director Reed W. Smith’s last day with AO is June 2, 2023, but before his departure tributes in recognition of his dedicated years of service abounded. On May 6, during Smith’s curtain speech for Carmen by Bizet at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, Andrew Timothy Grey of the Alaska House of Representatives, surprised Smith by presenting him with a Citation of Honor from the Thirty-Third Alaska State Legislature for “his tireless work to transform the Anchorage Opera into a nationally-recognized arts organization that promotes diversity and serves the Anchorage community”. The sold-out Discovery Theatre audience further honored Smith with a standing ovation. On closing night of Carmen, May 7, the Anchorage Opera Overture Council, AO’s young professionals group, hosted a party in celebration of the production and in honor of Smith. On May 9, the Anchorage Municipal Assembly, working with the Anchorage Arts Alliance, issued the first in a proposed series of Arts Advocacy Resolutions recognizing Smith for his service to AO, taking the company “from insolvency to prosperity…with an unwavering commitment to excellence, integrity, and inclusivity, fostering a culture of collaboration, respect, and creativity within the organization and in the community”. Smith received a standing ovation when accepting the Resolution. Anchorage Opera tenor, Luke Honeck and accompanist, Sarah Cleary performed in Smith’s honor at the meeting. On May 14, the AO Board of Trustees held a festive send-off in the Anne Stevens room of the Loussac Library and presented him with a service plaque and a piece of Alaska Native artwork. Board Trustee, KC Kaltenborn, commended Smith’s work with Native communities and his championing of Alaska Native rights and issues in AO productions. In presenting the Alaska Native mask, by Edna Saccheus (Yup’ik), to Smith, Kaltenborn cited the 10 Universal Alaska Native Values as embodying Smith’s work and life ethic. “Show respect to others. Share what you have. Know who you are. Accept what life brings. Have patience. Live carefully. Take care of others. Honor your Elders. Pray for guidance.” On April 26, Smith attended his last Anchorage East Rotary meeting at which he received his Paul Harris Fellow plus 2 pin.
Smith’s legacy with AO and with the community includes producing the Alaska premiere of five operas, three of which were 21st-century compositions by American composers, and the US premiere of Missing by distinguished First Nations playwright Marie Clements and Juno award-winning composer Brian Current which gave voice to the ongoing tragic crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. In 2015-16, Smith launched a new AO programming model of three mainstage productions with one serving a particular demographic or societal issue. Programming socially relevant works also provided opportunities for educational presentations and collaborations with arts and non-arts community partners on impactful projects. The resurrection of AO’s educational programming was a high priority to Smith, as opportunities to experience the arts are limited for ASD students. The premiere production of AO2Go in 2015-16, Aklaq & Nayak (An Alaska Native Adaptation of Hansel & Gretel), infuses traditions of opera with indigenous Alaskan culture. The production is slated to be remounted in 2023 with a filmed version made available for streaming to rural villages across the state. Smith was selected by OPERA America to be part of the Civic Action Group, which provides guidance to other companies wishing to enhance civic practice. AO was one of only seven opera companies represented in that group. In the August 2020, SMU/DataArts paper for the Wallace Foundation, “The Alchemy of High-Performing Arts Organizations”, AO was identified as one of ten high-performing organizations for the national study and Smith served as a consultant. A proud member of Anchorage East Rotary and Paul Harris Fellow, Smith was a frequent helper at the mobile food pantry.
The AO Board of Trustees and the Anchorage community are grateful for Smith’s tenure and wish him well in his next chapter.
Anchorage Opera is one of the largest producers of the performing arts in Alaska and the first opera company in North America founded in the circumpolar North in 1962. For additional information contact Judy Berry, Marketing & Development Director