Boch Center Announces Retirement of Long-Time President & CEO, Joe Spaulding
For 38 years, Spaulding was a civic leader and a fixture in Boston’s cultural community.
BOSTON (9/12/23) – Josiah Spaulding, Jr., who transformed a failing theater in Boston’s CombatZone into one of the most successful non-profit performing arts centers in the United States announced his plan to step down effective May 31, 2024, from the leadership role he has held for almost 40 years. Spaulding, President and CEO of the Boch Center, the Wang Theatre and Shubert Theatre, National Historic Landmarks recognized for offering a rich mix of multicultural programming, concerts, holiday entertainment, stand-up comedy, dance, and accessible educational experiences, will continue to serve as a senior advisor and consultant. He will focus on the expansion of the Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame (FARHOF), which he established in 2019, and provide support during the leadership transition.
“For 38 years, Joe Spaulding has shaped the Boch Center’s mission, vision, goals, and priorities with a keen eye, a great ear, and sense of purpose,” said Board Chair Mark Weld. His energy, enthusiasm for the arts, and his steadfast commitment to serving the broadest possible audience has positioned the Boch Center as the gold standard by which other performing arts centers are measured. Joe is an icon, an innovator, an educator, and an inspiration.”
As the Boch Center plans for the future, a strategic vision plan— developed with input from community leaders, funders, staff, educators, artists, and other stakeholders, and recently ratified by the Boch Center board— will serve as a blueprint, guiding the Center well into the future. For continuity, Weld will remain as board chair through 2025. In the coming weeks, a search firm will be engaged with the goal of naming Spaulding’s successor by the end of this calendar year.
“Joe Spaulding has changed lives and shaped the fabric of our city,” said Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. “Joe’s tireless efforts to revitalize the theater district and develop innovative programs engaging young people in the performing arts have changed Boston for the better.”
Since late 1986, Spaulding has been the driving force behind major milestones at the Boch Center. He oversaw the restoration of the historic Wang and Shubert Theatres, lured top Broadway shows to Boston including the Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon and RENT, introduced young people to the arts through no-cost arts education and training programs, presented performers that represent diverse cultural traditions, distributed thousands of free tickets to school groups and social service agencies, and raised tens of millions of dollars to support arts education, innovative programming and infrastructure.
“Joe is a one in a million leader,” said Robert Lewis, Jr., President and CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. “He has created partnerships with some of Boston’s most distinguished organizations including City Year, The Boston Housing Authority, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston and The BASE. Access, opportunity, and inclusion has been Joe’s hallmark in the 30+ years that I’ve known him. He represents the best in community and civic engagement and cares deeply for those who represent Boston and beyond. Congratulations my dear friend and thank you for our incredible partnerships over the years!”
A skilled executive, Spaulding forged lucrative partnerships with Citigroup in 2006 and two years later, penned a unique co-booking agreement with Madison Square Garden Entertainment. In 2016, he negotiated a long-term naming sponsorship with the Boch Family, a move that reunited two old friends with a shared passion for music and giving back to the community.
“The Boch Center would not be where it is today without Joe Spaulding at the helm,” stated ErnieBoch Jr., President of the Boch Family Foundation. “38 years ago, Joe saw the potential and history behind the bones of these theatres and brought them back to life – he has been the North Star of the Boch Center with his passion and advocation for the arts and live entertainment. It has truly been his life’s work, and I’m proud to have stood by his side.”
Spaulding emerged as a national leader during the pandemic, helping to secure bi-partisan support and over $16 billion in federal grant funding that helped sustain theaters and performing arts centers across the country during lengthy shutdowns.
With Spaulding at the helm, the Boch Center has become a principal driver of tourism, attracting local, state, national, and international audiences. His efforts to position Boston and Massachusetts as cultural destinations have garnered the attention and respect of city and state elected officials alike. Research suggests that the Boch Center’s economic impact on the Commonwealth is in excess of $70 million each year.
The establishment of the Folk Americana Roots Hall of Fame is among the highlights of Spaulding’s distinguished career. Through exhibits, tours, lectures, educational programming, and concerts, FARHOF engages with patrons of all ages. FARHOF, Boston’s living music museum honors the past, celebrates the present and embraces the future.
“I believe the arts and music are the foundation of a civilized society and nurture the creative spirit in all of us. Time and again this philosophy has proven true during my long and productive tenure at the Boch Center,” said Spaulding.
An active and engaged volunteer Spaulding chaired the Boston Theatre District Association and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Currently he is a Trustee of Mass General Brigham and an Honorary Trustee of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Partners Continuing Care.