In Our Own Words: The Rialto’s Lee Foster optimistic about making hearts soar in 2022

Lee Foster is executive director of the Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University. She is the former assistant director of the Office of the Arts at the Georgia Institute of Technology and operational manager of the Ferst Center for the Arts. She was managing director of Theatrical Outfit for three years.


Our world right now is like an unpainted painting. We have a new president at Georgia State, Dr. Blake. I am thrilled. He is the university’s first Black president, which is very exciting. He and his wife have shown tremendous interest in what we are doing. Next year we’re getting a new provost. We are also getting a new mayor in Atlanta and a new head of the city council. We have a blank canvas with all this new leadership and I feel the only way we can go is up.

We opened our first show of the season, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, on November 6. It was gi-normous. My team said that after being closed for almost two years it would have been nice to have a baby show first, but it was a wonderful example of joy in live performance. Our hearts were ready to burst. Trombone Shorty is an incredible musician, but I don’t think I would have picked him if we hadn’t had a pandemic. The joy was a critical piece of what I wanted to share.

We named the 2021-2022 season Mastery. It’s about that nexus of precision and expression that is so critical for top-notch artists. If you see a company or an artist that is just technical and you don’t feel anything, you’re not going to stay with it. We are not challenging our audience or presenting anything very controversial. Instead we picked artists that make your heart soar. Art provides hope and if we can continue that process, we can get through this. It’s about what we are birthing. This is the first year I have been a grandmother; my grandson was born August 17, so it all fits together. I am extraordinarily optimistic.

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