Last updated on December 17th, 2019 at 12:25 pm
The Marcus Performing Arts Center has named Kendra Whitlock Ingram as its president and chief executive officer.
Ingram succeeds Paul Mathews, who announced in July his plans to retire after leading the Marcus Center for 21 years.
Ingram has been executive director of the University of Denver’s Newman Center for the Performing Arts since 2016. She will be the first female president and CEO in the Marcus Center’s 50-year history.
“I am truly humbled to have been chosen to lead the Marcus Center as it celebrates its first 50 years and prepares for its next 50 years,” Ingram said. “I am tremendously excited to join an organization with such a strong, established leadership team and track record of success. I look forward to working together to build on the Marcus Center’s tradition of world-class performing arts, continue to expand the diversity of programming and reach new audiences.”
Prior to working at the Newman Center, Ingram was vice president of programming and education at the Omaha Performing Arts Center, and has held leadership roles with the Shenandoah Conservatory, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Phoenix Symphony Orchestra and Tulsa Philharmonic.
Laura Gough, Marcus Center board chairperson, said Ingram’s variety of experience in the performing arts, along with her business acumen, made her stand out in the search process.
“She’s a musician and has run symphonies; she was the second in command at Omaha (PAC), which is a very sizable and highly recognized performing arts center in the nation,” Gough said. “She has been executive director at the Newman Center. She checked all of those boxes … She has a passion and understanding of the arts but also really gets the numbers and has the finance background, which is very important.”
The center, which was established in 1969, is home to the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Ballet, Florentine Opera, First Stage and a variety of community events.
Ingram said she was impressed by Milwaukee’s arts scene when she visited the city for the first time in 2016 to attend the Arts Midwest Conference.
“I was struck by the vibrancy of the arts and entertainment community in Milwaukee; it definitely feels like there’s growth and momentum across the sector there,” she said. “When this position became available, it had all the elements of what inspires me and excites me about working in this industry.”
The center is in the quiet phase of a fundraising campaign to support its campus master plan, which involves expanding its plaza, establishing a flexible great lawn for events and completing a host of interior improvements. The upgrades are expected to be rolled out over the next few years.
The current focus is on phase one, which includes adding a new donors lounge at the facility, Gough said. Mathews has stayed on with the organization to help steer its fundraising efforts during the leadership transition.
In addition to the campus master plan, Ingram said her top priorities include maximizing usage of the facility and addressing program gaps in Milwaukee.
“One thing I found success with here (at the Newman Center) is looking at the cultural landscape and what may be missing in the market,” she said. “What nationally-touring artists could we be bringing to the market? How can we engage a broader segment of the community? Those will be priorities in my early time with the Marcus Center, as well as building more community relationships.”