UTICA — Utica resident Lisa Wilsey will serve as the new executive director of the Stanley Center for the Arts following the retirement of current Executive Director Jerry Kraus on March 1.

Wilsey, who previously served as executive vice president of corporate partnerships for the Utica Comets, will begin work at the center this week, though, to create a smooth transition between directors.

The Stanley’s board was looking for a candidate with experience in the entertainment field who could also help to develop corporate partnerships and found that person in Wilsey, said board President Steve Zogby at a news conference Friday morning at The Stanley.

"We are very fortunate and excited to have someone of Ms. Wilsey’s experience and caliber that is ready to lead the Stanley," he said. "Her experience with corporate marketing and event management will help her implement our board’s strategy to keep the Stanley vibrant and successful in the future. It’s an added bonus that she is also local and knows the history and legacy of our historic Stanley theater."

Wilsey, who also has a background in the entertainment industry in her native California, said she envisions a Stanley that gets a lot of use.

"I would really like to see the calendar become more strongly a place where (people) can find an event that week to go to," she said.

She envisions the theater keeping all of its current offerings, such as Broadway plays, concerts, children’s theater and the Nutcracker ballet every December, but adding even more variety and more performances by entertainers of the caliber of Bob Dylan and Jerry Seinfeld, both of whom recently performed there to sold-out crowds.

"Nothing is going to be removed from the calendar. We just want to add to it," Wilsey said.

Wilsey moved to Utica in 2013 to take a job with the Comets, which she held until May 2017. Since then she has worked for the TW Agency, a San Diego-based advertising agency, out of her home office.

Back in California, Wilsey worked in artist and tour management, working with artists that included Aerosmith and Mick Jagger, she said.

Zogby also took time to praise the outgoing Kraus, who served as executive director for six years and served on the board for four years before that. Kraus, he said, helped to bring "the Stanley back to being our community’s premier performing arts and events location and also to a position of financial profitability."

Kraus said that he is "thrilled" to see his replacement get the job. He said that he has plans, after a vacation, to stay involved in the theater.

"Once you get in here, you can’t really leave it behind," he said.

Asked about the Stanley’s strengths as she prepared to take over, Wilsey listed them as its staff, reputation and financial situation. She also said she thought the growth of downtown Utica will dovetail with more activity at the theater.

Her challenges, Wilsey said, will be to expand the theater’s membership base and to bring in visitors from outside the city limits. She wants the Stanley to become a regional base both for audiences and for performers, she said.

To do that, she plans to use more corporate partnerships to offset costs so that bringing in more famous-name talent won’t drive up ticket prices beyond the means of area residents.

"This is the city’s theater and it has to be available for everybody," she said.

Someday, Wilsey said, she’d like to see the theater serve as an acting school and possibly even a place for budding playwrights to learn. She’d like to see activities day and night, she said.

"So it’s a living, breathing building," Wilsey said.

Despite a lifetime spent in the warm climes of southern California, Wilsey said she’s fine with the snow in Utica.

"It’s my hometown now," she said. "I’m married and I’m not leaving."