Kendra Whitlock Ingram to step down as head of Marcus Performing Arts Center

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The Marcus Performing Arts Center on Tuesday announced the departure of Kendra Whitlock Ingram, who served as the organization’s president and chief executive officer since late 2019.

Ingram will leave the organization in January 2023 to take the helm as president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, a performing arts organization in Pittsburgh. The move will bring Kendra closer to family in her home state of Pennsylvania. Her parents live a few hours away in Scranton, and Ingram said she’s looking forward to seeing them more frequently. She will also return to her professional roots.

“Returning to Pittsburgh, it’s kind of where this all started for me nearly 30 years ago. I was an intern with the Pittsburgh Opera, which is one of the resident companies of the Cultural Trust. I was a student at Duquesne University and spent many many hours and performances at the Cultural Trust venues over the years,” said Ingram in an interview with BizTimes Milwaukee.

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“It has been an amazing honor leading this organization and being part of such a vibrant, energizing and growing arts community,” Ingram said separately in a statement. “I am enormously grateful for the support of our donors, board of directors, employees, volunteers and Milwaukee’s incredible performing arts community as they welcomed me into this role and your city. MPAC truly is an anchor for arts and culture for the region, and I look forward to seeing the continued growth and success of the organization into the future.”

During her three years with MPAC, Ingram led efforts to reimagine the MPAC Campus Master Plan during the pandemic to take advantage of the closure and make necessary renovations to Uihlein Hall; build an executive leadership team with new talent and newly created roles, including vice president positions to oversee programming and development; advance the organization’s racial, equity, diversity and inclusion work, including the creation and implementation of the REDI Action Plan; develop the organization’s first Cultural Ambassador Program, naming Donald Driver as the first ambassador to help make the performing arts more accessible to underserved youth, families and communities of color; and expand and diversify the MPAC Presents lineup of nationally and internationally celebrated artists. This was all in the midst of a global pandemic that had a devastating impact on arts organizations nationwide.

“Kendra has been with us for three short years but the amount she was able to accomplish in those three years exceeded all of our expectations,” said Ray Wilson, board chair of the Marcus Performing Arts Center. “She has put the Marcus Center in a completely different position today than we were in three years ago, and myself and the other board members, I know were going to be confident (in finding a new leader for the organization) because our profile has been raised across the country as a performing arts center.”

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The MPAC board will launch a national search in the coming weeks, working with a recruitment search firm to identify new leadership that will guide the organization into the future. Members of the MPAC executive leadership team will assume shared responsibilities until a new leader is named. The interim leadership team will include: Megan Huse, vice president of development; Katie Dillow, chief financial officer and vice president of finance and administration; and Ken Harris, vice president of venue operations.

Ingram said she wants to see her successor continue the momentum of relationship building with local arts leaders and community leaders and elected officials across the Milwaukee area.

Stepping into her role in 2019, Ingram succeeded Paul Mathews, who retired after leading the Marcus Center for 21 years. Prior to MPAC, Ingram had been executive director of the University of Denver’s Newman Center for the Performing Arts since 2016. She is the first female president and CEO in the Marcus Center’s 50-year history.

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