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Mabel Tainter director is dismissed

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    Steve Renfree has been dismissed from his job as executive director of the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts. He had worked in that job since February, 2015.

    Staff file photo

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The executive director of the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts in Menomonie has been dismissed, in part because of an alleged sex assault involving a different employee at the center, the organization’s board of directors said. 

Steve Renfree will no longer oversee Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts activities after the organization’s board of directors ended his employment. His last day was Friday. 

Renfree is not the Mabel Tainter employee being investigated by Menomonie police related to sex assault allegations at the arts center on Dec. 9, Mabel Tainter board of directors President Andrew Mercil said Tuesday. Renfree had worked as Mabel Tainter executive director since February 2015. 

The alleged sex assault “was one of the factors for which the decision (to dismiss Renfree) was made,” Mercil said. “But it was not the only or the main reason for which he was let go.” 

Mercil declined to comment on other reasons for Renfree’s ouster. A news release issued by Mabel Tainter officials points to plans to grow partnerships between the arts center and the surrounding community and to attract new patrons.

“It has always been one of the (Mabel Tainter’s) goals to continue to reach new audiences and bring in diverse groups,” Mercil said. “We need to find (an executive director) who is very passionate to further our partnerships.” 

A Mabel Tainter employee was suspended following the report to Menomonie police of an alleged sex assault at the arts center at about 2 a.m. Dec. 9. The employee will remain suspended until the investigation is completed, Mercil said. The employee’s name has not been released.

Police continue to investigate the matter and possible charges may be filed with the Dunn County district attorney’soffice. Renfree was the only full-time Mabel Tainter employee, Mercil said. The arts center employs eight part-time workers.

The Mabel Tainter’s board of directors will oversee arts center daily operations as a search for a new executive director proceeds. 

Board members hope to finalize a job description and post it by the end of next week, board Vice President Michelle Dingwall said. The board hopes to hire a newexecutive director by early March, she said. 

The job is key to the success of the arts center, Dingwall said, and should be attractive given not only the Mabel Tainter’s track record of involvement in the arts community but because of the arts explosion underwayin the region. 

Because of its location between them, Menomonie should be able to partner with vibrant arts scenes in both the Twin Cities and Eau Claire, where the scheduled opening of the Confluence Arts Center in September is a sign of astrong arts communitythere, Dingwall said. 

“With what is going on in the Twin Cities and in Eau Claire now, there are lots of opportunities withthe heightened awareness of the arts in the whole region,” she said.

Contact: 715-830-5911,

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