The Nickelodeon has named a new executive director, and she’s no stranger to the theater community.
Sumner Bender has been Spring Hill High School’s theater teacher for six years and is responsible for theater educators’ professional development in Lexington-Richland School District 5. She is also president of the board of Trustus Theatre and has served on that body since 2011.
Bender, a Columbia native, will take over her new role on June 6.
“The arts community in Columbia is my home,” Bender, 39, said in a news release. “The Nick, let’s be honest, is very cool… I want to make sure that institutions like The Nick will always be around.
“I’m ready for a new challenge. I’m ready for a job where I can implement change.”
The Nick, located in the heart of downtown Columbia at 1607 Main St., reopened April 15 after suspending screening March 1 in “an effort to fulfill its long-term mission more effectively,” according to a statement.
“We were looking for a transformational, visionary cultural leader who had expertise in many different areas,” said Charmaine Clowney, vice president of the Nickelodeon board and an attorney who consults in the area of diversity and inclusion. “She will be embraced by many diverse communities in Columbia and beyond. I hope that we can keep her.”
Jada Willis, whose human resources consulting firm advised the board during the search process, said Bender’s energy, knowledge and understanding of The Nick’s community importance stood out.
“She has such a passion, and a love of theater and the arts,” Willis said. “This is way more than a job. This is her life.”