Chicago Arts Leader Named Weidner Center Executive and Artistic Director
Strickland brings 20+ years metro market experience in arts programming and education to region
GREEN BAY – After a nationwide search, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay announced today the appointment of Chicago arts leader Kelli Strickland as the new executive and artistic director of the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts. Provost Greg Davis announced the appointment. Strickland begins her new role October 31, 2017.
“Kelli brings great passion for the arts and executive level leadership to the Weidner Center,” Davis said. “Versed in both the operation of performing arts establishments and arts education, she is a fantastic addition to the Weidner Center, the University and the region’s broader performing arts community. We are confident she is going to connect with all of those constituents in new and meaningful ways while leading us in delivering on the Weidner’s important mission.”
Strickland comes to UW-Green Bay’s Weidner Center from the vibrant Chicago theatre scene where she served as executive director at two venues, The Hypocrites — one of Chicago’s premier off-Loop theatre companies — since April 2015, and prior to that the Raven Theatre, where she was the organization’s first executive director in its 35-plus year history.
Throughout her career Strickland has worked as an artist, arts educator, consultant and leader and has amassed a track record in fiscal growth and management, staff oversight, facility management, fundraising, marketing and partnership building across sectors. At The Hypocrites, Strickland doubled the individual donor base, tripled the subscriber base and spearheaded annual budget growth from $420,000 to $1.3 million. During her tenure as executive director at Raven, Strickland wrote and implemented the theatre’s first strategic plan, secured funding for a major facility improvement project and doubled the theatre’s revenues. In addition to her arts management background, Strickland has experience as an arts educator and consultant in program development, program evaluation and arts learning assessment.
“I am honored and excited to join the staff of the Weidner Center — a performing arts center with an extraordinary history, a bright future and a concert hall known well beyond the Midwest for its exquisite acoustics,” Strickland said. A former adjunct faculty member at Loyola University Chicago for 17 years, Strickland appreciates the connection between the Weidner, University and community.
“I place a very high premium on the symbiotic relationship between education and arts and culture,” Strickland said. “I was attracted to this role due to the Weidner’s mission to serve multiple groups — the communities of Green Bay and Northeast Wisconsin, and also the University community. An organization committed to a broad spectrum of stakeholders, inevitably yields a rich tapestry of programming and a vibrant institution.”
Having previously served as the Raven Theatre’s director of education and outreach since 2007, Strickland took a leave in 2012-13 to complete the prestigious Devos Fellowship for Arts Management at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
“Kelli is a smart and passionate arts leader,” said Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Emeritus) and president of the Devos Institute of Arts Management. “She has a great record of success managing performing arts organizations and will be a remarkable asset for the Green Bay community.”
There are many disciplines that comprise the performing arts, and Strickland says she is excited to build a robust portfolio of offerings. “World-class dance, music, spectacle, circus arts, spoken word and multi-media are all part of the performing arts landscape now,” she said. “In addition, I recognize the local community has an interest in continuing to bring popular entertainment, including Broadway titles, celebrity personalities and quality family productions to the center. I am keen to pursue and expand the opportunities to bring these titles to Northeast Wisconsin.”
Continuing, and possibly growing “The Stage Doors Education Series,” which serves more than 17,500 students from 63 cities throughout Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula every year, will be a priority.
Strickland also wants to see underutilized gallery space shining a light on established regional artists, as well as up-and-coming artists training at the University. “I hope to see some exciting and free community events so that those who don’t know us yet have a chance to get to know us. And, of course, we will proudly continue to serve as a laboratory for the students at UW-Green Bay.”
Strickland replaces Kate Green, who resigned in April of 2017.
About the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts
UW-Green Bay’s Weidner Center for the Performing Arts is known for its elegant design and the acoustic excellence of its 2,000-seat main hall, Cofrin Family Hall. It also houses two smaller performance spaces, the Fort Howard recital hall and the Jean Weidner Theatre, along with a dance studio and Grand Foyer. The Weidner Center has a distinct benefit in being part of a leading institution of higher learning. The Center is a home for UW-Green Bay Music and Theatre and Dance programs, community events and productions, and performances by visiting artists and touring companies. Beyond the large-scale touring productions that grace the stage, the Weidner Center also focuses on scholastic development, programming and an impactful education series — Stage Doors. The Stage Doors Education Series serves more than 17,500 students from 63 cities throughout Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula every year. For more information on the Weidner Center, visit www.WeidnerCenter.com, 920-465-2726, 800-895-0071, or follow ‘Weidner Center for the Performing Arts’ on Facebook, Twitter (@WeidnerCenter) and Instagram (@weidnercenter).
About the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is a comprehensive public institution offering undergraduate and graduate programs to 7,158 students. The University transforms lives and communities through exceptional and award-winning teaching and research, innovative learning opportunities, and a problem-solving approach to education. For more information, visit www.uwgb.edu.
What others are saying about Kelli Strickland, Executive and Artistic Director of the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts:
“Kelli Strickland has been a thoughtful, vibrant, active and much-admired leader in Chicago’s theatre community. There is no doubt in my mind that the Green Bay area will benefit from her passion, energy and commitment to the arts.”
David Schmitz, Executive Director, Steppenwolf Theater Company
“Kelli blends a passion for the performing arts (in their many forms) with an awareness of audience needs and the business of running a theater.”
Phillip Bahar, Executive Director, Chicago Humanities Festival
“An energetic and experienced leader, Kelli will be a wonderful addition to the Green Bay arts scene.”
Esther Grimm, Executive Director, 3Arts
“Kelli is a visionary leader, passionate and forward looking.”
Jennifer Bilfield, President and CEO, Washington Performing Arts Society
“Ms. Strickland’s leadership style is pragmatically collaborative, open to ideas of priorities and of means to accomplish priorities, incorporating decision making grounded in data, leavened with a sense of humor.”
Stephen Johnson, Treasurer, Board of Directors, Raven Theatre
“Kelli demonstrates outstanding leadership qualities through: Strategic thinking that incorporates pragmatic approaches to visionary objectives; Clear communication of plans and goals; effective engagement of stakeholders; skillful management of diverse personalities; willingness to accommodate disparate points of view; readiness to adjust previously agreed plans when necessary; laser focus on organization mission and values; and continuous application of lessons learned.”
Deborah Oestreicher, President, Board of Directors, The Hypocrites
“Kelli is one of the most talented arts administrators I know, with an unusual combination of both deep artistic knowledge and experience and an incredible command of arts strategy. This is a big loss for Chicago and a huge gain for Green Bay.”
Angel Ysaguirre, Executive Director, Illinois Humanities Council