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Woodruff Arts Center names new CEO, and he’s someone familiar  

The Woodruff Arts Center announced Friday morning that Doug Shipman will take over as president and CEO of the Midtown arts center.

Shipman will succeed Virginia Hepner, who has served as CEO at the Woodruff since 2012. He will begin July 18.

The third-largest arts organization in the nation, the Woodruff includes the Alliance Theatre, the High Museum of Art and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Shipman is the founding CEO of downtown Atlanta’s Center for Civil and Human Rights. After shepherding the civil rights museum through nine years of development and leading it for a year, he stepped down from that job in June 2015.

“Doug is a perfect choice to lead the Woodruff Arts Center,” Doug Hertz, a past chairman of the arts center’s board of trustees and chairman of the CEO search committee, said in a statement. “He has enjoyed great success as a leader in both the for-profit and nonprofit worlds.”

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When Shipman left the rights museum he became CEO of BrightHouse, a consulting group founded by Atlantan Joey Reiman.

Virginia Hepner has served as president and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center since 2012. It was announced Friday that she will be replaced by Doug Shipman, the founding CEO of downtown Atlanta’s Center for Civil and Human Rights. File photo (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Shipman said he was “thrilled” to be steering the Woodruff. “The arts are the heart and collective conscience of any community, and the Woodruff Arts Center has been an incredible platform for presenting Atlanta the best in theater, music and art for nearly 50 years,” he said in a statement.

Hepner took the reins at the Woodruff during a critical time, when roiling disagreements prompted lockouts by the management.

She guided the center through a $112 million fund drive that resolved many of the musicians’ disputes, permanently endowing 11 new positions at the ASO. It will also pay for a significant overhaul of the Alliance Theatre, which is underway, and a reinstallation of the High Museum’s permanent exhibits.

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Hepner also oversaw a rebuilding of the leadership in the Woodruff’s component organizations. Rand Suffolk became the new director of the High and Jennifer Barlament the new executive director of the ASO.

A 25-year banking professional before she joined the Woodruff, Hepner announced in November that she would retire from the organization at the end of May.

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Shipman, 44, an Arkansas native, attended Emory University before earning graduate degrees at Harvard. In the early 2000s he was sent to Atlanta by the Boston Consulting Group to measure the feasibility of establishing a civil rights museum.

He stayed with the project, even as the recession stymied progress. The $75 million museum finally opened its doors in 2014.

When Shipman left the rights center to become CEO of BrightHouse, the Atlanta outfit had just been purchased by the Boston Consulting Group. This meant that Shipman was back inside the organization where he’d started out.

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