The Audience Building Roundtable is an initiative of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. Founded in November 2015, more than 50 arts organizations now come together to change the audience building game. Led by a steering committee of peers, the Audience Building Roundtable accelerates audience building innovations. Through the Roundtable, groups test ways to build relationships with those elusive interested, non-attenders and deepen relationships with audiences who have already sampled programming.
Roundtable members share ideas with each other, collaborate on a diverse range of projects and learn new strategies from the best in the field. The Roundtable fosters learning across organizations and challenges arts groups to listen and respond to audience desires. Members pursue audience building solutions that will benefit their own organizations and their peers. Through blogs, newsletters and podcasts, members stay in touch. Members are eligible for scholarships to attend training and professional development programs and may be considered for grants.
Introductory Remarks: Penelope McPhee, President of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
Moderator: Terri Theisen (The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation)
Panelists: Leslie Gordon (Rialto Center for the Arts), Ann-Carol Pence (Aurora Theater), Paul Pierce (Springer Opera House), Gram Slaton (Grand Opera House
As president and trustee of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Penelope McPhee directs the Foundation’s strategic focus on fostering opportunities for children and youth and enhancing the quality of life in Atlanta and beyond.
Penny joined the Blank Family Foundation in 2004, from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami, where she led the $1.8 billion foundation’s grant-making programs.
Before entering the field of philanthropy, Penny had a distinguished career as a television producer and author. Her television programs have won five Emmys, as well as other prestigious awards. For seven years she was on the staff of WPBT, Miami’s public broadcasting station, where she launched its cultural affairs department and served as executive producer of cultural programming.
She is also a noted author whose pictorial history of the civil rights movement, “Martin Luther King Jr. A Documentary: Montgomery to Memphis,” was recognized in 1980 as one of the “Best Books of the Decade” by the American Library Association. Her 1986 book, “King Remembered,” received the New York State Martin Luther King Jr. Medal of Freedom.
In 2008, Penny was elected to the YWCA of Greater Atlanta’s Women of Achievement and selected by Business to Business magazine as a woman of achievement. She currently serves on the boards of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Voices for Georgia’s Children, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Woodruff Arts Center, the Atlanta Education Fund and the Atlanta Committee for Progress. She is also a member of Mayor Kasim Reed’s Cities of Service Task Force. She is a past board member of the Council on Foundations, the Southeastern Council of Foundations and past president of Grantmakers in the Arts, a national affinity group of arts funders.
Penny has a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, and was graduated with honors from Wellesley College, where she received her bachelor’s degree in English and theater arts. She and her husband, Raymond H. McPhee, a retired film and television producer, have one daughter, Cameron Brook McPhee.
Ms. Theisen and her consulting team provide counsel and consulting services to nonprofit organizations, grantmaking foundations, corporate civic engagement programs, and government agencies throughout the United States. Terri Theisen is an expert in strategic and tactical planning, group facilitation and decision-making, board development, capitalization of nonprofit organizations, and organizational development. Theisen Consulting provides services in planning, board development, management, governance, executive search, executive coaching, and civic engagement. Practice concentrations include public health, education, human services, arts and culture, and nonprofit management.
Prior to founding Theisen Consulting LLC, Terri spent more than twenty years as a nonprofit staff leader. She served as CEO of a regional nonprofit; as a regional vice president of two large national nonprofits where she had responsibility for the field operation of more than 30 affiliates; and as an internal management consultant in a large nonprofit organization. Throughout her career, she held various staff positions including program management, public policy, management, and operations.
Terri is an active and committed volunteer. She chaired the 2016 Women’s Leadership Breakfast for United Way of Greater Atlanta and serves on the National Women’s Leadership Council for United Way Worldwide. She is past chair of the United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Women’s Leadership Council and the Women of Tocqueville Society. Terri is a board member of the National Psoriasis Foundation, a $11 million organization dedicated to finding a cure for psoriatic diseases, and is currently the treasurer, chair of the finance committee, and a member of the executive committee. Terri is a board member of Jewish Family & Career Services, a $13 million human service nonprofit.
Terri is an active alumna of Leadership Atlanta (class of 2007.) She is past chair of the Board of Hands On Atlanta and currently serves on its Advisory Board. She is a past board member of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Foundation; a past board member (and current Advisory Board member) of the Visiting Nurse Health System/Hospice Atlanta; and is a member of many other civic and professional associations, including the American Public Health Association and the American Society of Association Executives. Terri is a 2005 graduate of the Diversity Leadership Academy, is a sought-after speaker and conference session leader including for the BoardSource Leadership Forum, Grantmakers in the Arts, the Georgia Society of CPAs, and the Council of Volunteer Administrators. She has been interviewed by numerous industry publications focused on the nonprofit sector. Terri is the author of two books: Nonprofit Business Plan Development: From Vision, Mission, and Values to Implementation, and Succession Planning for Nonprofit Leadership: Steps to Ensuring Your Organization’s Future, as well as numerous articles related to nonprofit management and effectiveness.
Atlanta arts leader Leslie Gordon, who, prior to coming to the Rialto worked with the National Black Arts Festival, the Arts Festival of Atlanta and the Cultural Olympiad, is the director of the Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University. She provides administrative and operational leadership and strategic direction for all aspects of the Rialto Center, including programming the acclaimed Rialto Series, leading fundraising efforts, working with the Georgia State University School of Music programs and events and identifying potential outside clients such as in-residence theatrical companies.
Ann-Carol Pence (Co-Founder/Associate Producer) is an artistic leader of Aurora Theatre. As a musician, she arranged the music for Aurora’s first season’s Christmas Canteen in 1996 before being hired full-time in September of 1998. An education major at James Madison University, she used her background to partner with State Representative Brooks Coleman. Together, they developed Learning Library (or L2), an educational language-arts program highlighting Academic Knowledge Skills (Gwinnett County’s standards of learning). As a musician, she created Aurora’s Musicals by Moonlight, a summer concert, and Aurora’s New Musical Initiative that provides a place for further development and production of new musicals. She has performed as pianist and/or music director both nationally (Goodspeed Opera House, Pasadena Playhouse, The Koger Center, The Cleveland Playhouse, The Majestic, The Kennedy Center) and locally (The Alliance, Theatrical Outfit, Actor’s Express, Horizon, etc.). Career highlights include: Vocal Supervisor for Ellis Island Entertainment, producing in-house reviews for Holland America Cruise Lines, vocal direction for the gala celebrating Andrew Lloyd Webber’s honorary doctorate, assistance in music direction for Heartstrings: An Evening of Hope for the Healing of AIDS and music direction of several productions of Heartbeats (where she appears on the recording as well). As a proud citizen of Gwinnett, she and her partner Anthony Rodriguez are most proud of Aurora Theatre winning the first ever Pinnacle Award for Large Non-Profit. This goes well with Ann-Carol’s nomination for a Women’s Legacy Award in 2006, her 4 Suzi Bass Awards for Mary Poppins, Les Misérables, Clyde ‘n Bonnie: A Folktale and A Catered Affair (both part of Aurora’s New Musical Initiative) and her multiple nominations for In The Heights, Memphis, A Chorus Line, A Year with Frog & Toad, Annie Get Your Gun and Godspell.
Paul Pierce is beginning his 30th season as producing artistic director of the Springer Opera House, our 146 year-old National Historic Landmark theatre that is the official State Theatre of Georgia. The Springer produces mainstage, studio and children’s theatre programs, operates a Theatre Academy training program with a thousand students and a national touring company. During Mr. Pierce’s tenure, the Springer audience has grown by a factor of ten.
In 1998, Mr. Pierce oversaw a comprehensive $12 million renovation and historic preservation of the Springer Opera House. In 2014, the Springer opened the new McClure Theatre, a flexible-space 300 seat theatre and education center for children’s plays, professional training and new works.
A Rome, Georgia native who graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Drama and Theatre from the University of Georgia, Mr. Pierce has produced over 400 productions in his career – 300 of which were at the Springer Opera House.
Pierce began his career as a professional actor and toured for many years before devoting his attention to directing. He is the former associate artistic director of the Repertory Theatre of America, the former managing director of Virginia’s Wayside Theatre and the former producing artistic director of the Harbor Playhouse in Corpus Christi, Texas.
In 2013, Governor Nathan Deal honored Paul Pierce with the Governor’s Award for the Arts for his long service to the cultural arts in the state and Georgia Trend Magazine named him one of 100 Most Notable Georgians. Mr. Pierce is the author of ten plays and The Springer Ghost Book.
Gram Slaton has worked in the creative end of theatre since 1977, first behind the proscenium for thirteen years, and since 1990 as a senior-level administrator. At two of four performing arts centers, he was tasked with reorganizing all phases of the business and reversing extremely negative public sentiment. From 2007 through 2014, Gram also worked as a series and festival co-producer or producer, creating unique events in comedy, music, and documentary film. He has spearheaded two major renovation projects: In 2011, a $2.7 million renovation of the Wheeler Opera House’s basement and first-floor spaces, including 80% of the building’s HVAC and plumbing; and in 2013 a $2.7 million remodel of the venue’s 1889 balcony and replacement of its 1984 technology infrastructure. At present, Gram is preparing the Grand Opera House in Macon, Georgia, for a thorough renovation of its non-theatre chamber public spaces, connectivity to a new courts building coming on line next door, and reclamation of its former second balcony, which has been offline for at least 80 years.