Derek Gordon, executive director of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, died Monday morning, said Cheri M. Ausberry, chairwoman of the Council’s Board of Directors.
Arts Council officials confirmed in July that Gordon had taken a six-month medical leave.
“His service to the community cannot be denied,” Ausberry said. “Everything he touched turned to gold.”
Ausberry and others lauded Gordon’s creative artistry and his commitment to artistic development in Baton Rouge.
“He brought tremendous energy to the arts in Baton Rouge,” said John Davies, president and chief executive officer of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. “He revived the arts in Baton Rouge in a short period of time.”
Gordon, who graduated from LSU with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music, returned to the city in 2006 to assume directorship of the Arts Council.
Before coming to Baton Rouge, Gordon served as the president and CEO of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City and as a senior vice president at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
Since coming to Baton Rouge, Gordon was instrumental in creating the River City Jazz Coalition and bringing the River City Jazz Masters concert series to the city, according to a statement from the Arts Council.
He also helped to create the Sunday in the Park Music free concert series, the statement says.
Along with Debbie Allen, Gordon helped create a community dance residency which provided high-level training and performance opportunities to young people, the statement says.
“He had a vision for the arts and we saw it in so many ways,” said Davis Rhorer, executive director of the Downtown Development District, who said he collaborated with Gordon on a number of projects.
Gordon also served on the East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board of Control and the board of the Center for Planning Excellence. He was 57.
A Mass celebrating Gordon’s life will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Cathedral of St. Joseph downtown, with visitation beginning at 9 a.m., said Kathy Scherer, acting director of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. She said the family is requesting that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Derek E. Gordon Arts Fund through the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge.