After two years as the executive director of the Westport Arts Center (WAC), Nancy Heller will step down from the position on Jan. 31, 2011. Heller previously served as the development director for three years at the Riverside Avenue-based visual and performing arts center.

"It has been a privilege to lead the Westport Arts Center over the past two years," Heller said. "Despite a difficult economic climate, WAC has continued to expand its programming to meet the needs of diverse participants and increasingly serves a vital role in bringing the community together through the arts."

"While transitions are never easy, WAC has a committed Board of Directors and a dedicated and talented staff, so the organization is well-positioned to move forward under new leadership," said Heller, a Stamford resident with a background in museum management and marketing.

"This decision was a difficult and personal one for Nancy," said Nancy Gault, first vice president of the WAC Board of Directors. "She has given endless energy and passion to WAC over the past five years. Her decision was based on a desire and growing need to spend more time at home with her children as they enter their teenage years. Needless to say, all of us at WAC will be sorry to see her go and are thankful for her commitment to a smooth transition."

Heller has previously worked in the public and educational worlds at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as well as at New York University's Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts. Heller also has a background in the private sector, working in marketing at Unilever Home and Personal Care, based in Greenwich.

"When I look at WAC's accomplishments over the past several years, I'm proud of our expanded youth education and outreach programs, which now serve 4,000 school-aged children annually under the leadership of Director of Education, Danielle Ogden," Heller said. "Equally important, Helen Klisser During, director of visual arts, has created a dynamic visual arts exhibition program that welcomes and engages individuals of all ages in a dialogue about universal concerns, such as the fragility of memory."

Heller said WAC has been able to strengthen its visual and performing arts and education programs by establishing relationships with Brian Torff, the artistic director for jazz, Russell Platt, the chamber music curator, and Ina Chadwick of Mouse Muse Productions, who has been responsible for writing and literary initiatives.

"It's all about great people creating great programs for the community," said Heller, who also gave praise to the new director of the Westport Youth Film Festival, Kate Lupo.

"I have high hopes that the festival will blossom into a year-round program that serves hundreds of teens and families from near and far," Heller said.

The WAC Board of Directors has put together a search committee for a new executive programming director and a new executive development director.

The arts center is dedicated to creating arts experiences that enrich the lives of area residents and the entire the community. For more information, call 203-222-7070 or log onto www.westportartscenter.org