by Susan Condon Love
For 33 years, working at Saint Ignatius High School has been a journey of love for Art Thomas - teacher, department chairman, author, journalist and long-time Facility Manager of The Breen Center for the Performing Arts.
In between writing theater and event reviews for area newspapers, Thomas has successfully juggled such daunting tasks as organizing the 560-seat center - built for $12 million in 2009 - for high-profile events such as Comedy Central’s Daily Show with Trevor Noah during last summer’s Republican National Convention, as well as continually working to ensure the success of non-school concerts, myriad school events, musicals and plays.
First as an English teacher and then five years as Chair of the Fine Arts Department, and ultimately as the first (and only) Facilities Manager at The Breen Center, Thomas has spent a career sharing his talents, love of entertainment and considerable organizational skills with the Saint Ignatius community and Northeast Ohio’s theater and music-loving community.
After decades of nurturing life-long learning, Thomas is retiring from his full-time duties at Saint Ignatius to devote more time to his “other love” – travel, which will include theme parks (indulging in his love of roller coasters), embarking on cruises, and visiting as many exotic locales as possible.
After retirement, “I’m not going too far away!” Thomas says, sitting in his cozy office located “stage right” in The Breen Center. “I’m still going to be involved in the Circus Company (which he founded in 1984) and substitute teaching.”
The Circus Company is the school’s extracurricular group for students who enjoy magic and juggling. The group performs about 150 times a year at such locales as nursing homes and hospitals. “It is one of the things of which I am most proud,” Thomas says. “Why? Because it is 100 percent student-driven.”
Thomas’ life’s journey - which has included writing 12 sports and history books for children - is anchored by his love of Saint Ignatius’ students and The Breen Center.
“Art would always ask, ‘What will make the student experience the best?’” says English teacher Rich Fujimoto ‘66, who for 24 years worked with Thomas directing and producing student plays and musicals.
“Art always stresses that learning how to juggle or perform magic is fun. But the most important part of developing that talent is to share it with others,” says Language teacher Christopher Laco ’03, co-moderator of the Circus Company with Thomas.
“The Jesuit tradition of service is very important to me,” Thomas stresses. “Having a gift, developing it and sharing with others is vital.”
“Art always told me that you must end the show when the audience still wants it to continue, rather than having them wish that the show was over 10 minutes ago,” Laco says. “He is leaving while he is still at the top of his craft.”