By ALYSSA HOLCOMB
A select group of MSLCE students, accompanied by EPICS staff Mandi Glowen and Jonah Zeiger, recently took a site visit of the Goodman Theatre, Chicago’s largest (and oldest) non-profit theatre.
The cohort met with John Collins, General Manager, and Kate Welham, Senior Director of Institutional Giving and Development Operations, in a two-hour session and tour of the iconic locale. Both Collins and Welham were very open during the session, answering questions with insight and candor while simultaneously maintaining a positive outlook on the future of the industry.
Throughout the Q&A portion of the visit, the organization’s core values of “quality, diversity and community” were evident as they described the company’s focus on “taking risks” and presenting works that represent different aspects and subsets of the community at large. According to Collins, the Goodman focuses on maintaining the “artist as entrepreneur,” where they spend their full season “reinventing themselves” – to them, this affirms that “there’s something really special about doing this work.”
Welham also debunked a major myth about development – it is not just about raising money, it’s actually largely about relationship building. Her career path over her 10 years with the company traced her start as an intern to her current position, which requires her to meet with a number of people and groups across multiple levels of giving purpose. She described the importance of “searching for quantifiable impact” to share with potential donors. Welham also described the variety of outreach and the educational and developmental programming that the Goodman possesses.
As an attendee, I appreciated both of our hosts’ honesty and open kindness. It was obvious how passionate they are about their work, as well as what it means to the Chicago community at large. They were also cognizant of the issue of differentiation in the “experience economy,” where commercial theaters and non-profit arts spaces engage in a “soft competition” for ticket sales and support. The Goodman’s solution? “If the work is good, [audiences] will come to it.”
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