After a mixed beginning that was complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, the Shed in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards announced Wednesday that it had tapped Meredith Hodges, known as Max, the executive director of the Boston Ballet, to become its new chief executive officer.
“She is the right combination to join the Shed at this moment,” said Jonathan M. Tisch, who in April succeeded the Shed’s founding chairman, Daniel L. Doctoroff, and who — with his wife, Lizzie — donated $27.5 million in 2019 toward the building’s construction. “She is a proven leader who understands the business side of culture, but also has an affinity for the culture side of culture.”
The chief executive position was initially held by Alex Poots, who previously founded the Manchester International Festival and served as the artistic director of the Park Avenue Armory. But he gave up the chief executive title in January, when the organization said he would solely focus on his role as artistic director.
Having opened with great promise in 2019, the Shed saw some of its initial ambitious programming meet with mixed reviews. And it had little time to build momentum or an audience before it was hit, like so many other cultural institutions, by the pandemic: 28 of its 107 full-time workers were laid off in July 2020, and its annual operating budget was reduced to $26.5 million from $46 million.
In a telephone interview, Hodges, who will start later this year, said she felt confident about the institution’s prospects. “The Shed opened on the eve of one of the worst crises the art world has ever had to weather,” she said. “There is a huge amount to be proud of in the Shed’s short existence.”
The Shed’s founding chairman, Doctoroff, who had been a deputy mayor under former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, stepped back from the role because of illness.
As mayor, Bloomberg helped jump-start the project by securing a $75 million city grant for the Shed, and he has personally donated $130 million of his own fortune toward the architecturally ambitious $475 million arts center.
“Obviously it’s a very difficult moment for all cultural institutions,” Tisch said. “The Shed is no different.”
Despite its economic challenges, the Shed has had some noteworthy successes, namely sold-out performances for “Straight Line Crazy,” the recent play about Robert Moses featuring Ralph Fiennes, and an ambitious three-part exhibition by the Argentine artist Tomás Saraceno.
Poots will report to Hodges, who said she felt “lucky and excited” to work with him and “to get to free Alex to put all his energy and attention on his passion.”
Poots said that he looked forward to working with her. “Having her expertise will enable me to entirely focus on our artistic direction,” he said in a statement, “to produce and present ambitious new productions, and to develop new artistic formats.”
Hodges described herself as “strategic” and “data driven.” Asked whether she had any targets for building the Shed’s audience, revenue or the endowment, Hodges said: “I’m a quantitative person, so I’m sure that will come.”
Hodges, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School, was also a senior associate consultant with Bain & Company.
At the Boston Ballet, which she has led since 2014, Hodges more than doubled the endowment, to $36 million from $14 million; helped lead the organization’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts; and built attendance to 170,000 for the company’s 2022-23 season, its second highest ever.
Before going to the Boston Ballet, she served as the executive director of Gallim Dance, a contemporary dance company in Brooklyn, and in various roles at the Museum of Modern Art, including project director leading strategic development, membership and technology initiatives.