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Kendra Whitlock Ingram will be the first person of color to lead Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

Kendra Whitlock Ingram is the new head of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.
Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Kendra Whitlock Ingram is the new head of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s newly chosen CEO and president, Kendra Whitlock Ingram, grew up in Scranton. But she said her career as an arts professional really got started when she was a college student in Pittsburgh.

Ingram said she chose to study music education at Duquesne University in large part because of the city’s performing-arts scene. After arriving, in 1993, she said, she was a regular at such Downtown venues as the Heinz Hall, the Benedum Center and the Byham Theater – the latter two owned by the Trust. Her first internship was with Pittsburgh Opera.

“The arts organizations there, the opera, the symphony, the ballet, the Cultual Trust programming -- these are some of the top organizations in their field nationwide,” said Ingram in a video interview. “It was such a gift to be able to have that as a student. I don’t know if I would be doing this today if I didn’t have that experience.”

Ingram will replace longtime Trust CEO and president Kevin McMahon, who in March announced his plans to retire after 21 years in the position. McMahon succeeded founding president and CEO Carol Brown. That makes Ingram just the third person to head the group, founded in 1984 to revitalize Downtown through the arts.

Ingram, who is biracial and Black, will also be the first person of color to hold the position. She’ll begin work Feb. 1, in an office just half a mile from the Duquesne campus where she studied in the ’90s.

After graduating from Duquesne, in 1997, Ingram went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Nebraska – Omaha, and then to a career in arts management. She served as executive director of the Newman Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Denver, and vice president of programming and education at the Omaha Performing Arts Center, before becoming president and CEO of Milwaukee’s Marcus Performing Arts Center, a nonprofit arts presenter quite similar in mission to the Trust.

The Marcus is Milwaukee’s “arts anchor,” Ingram said. It presents a touring Broadway series similar to Pittsburgh’s, and its resident groups include Milwaukee Ballet and the Florentine Opera.

The Marcus and the Cultural Trust are in fact part of a national network of the 54 largest U.S. performing-arts presenters, said Ingram. “We all know each other very well,” she said.

“Kendra’s boundless enthusiasm and breadth of experience managing a broad range of art forms have made her the number-one choice to lead the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust at this important time in its history,” said Trust board chair Richard Harshman, in a statement announced Ingram’s hiring.

The Trust is the region’s largest presenter of performing arts, including the popular touring Broadway series, at the Benedum. It also runs the Greer Cabaret Theater, Liberty Magic, the Harris Theater, and multiple Downtown art galleries, including SPACE and Wood Street Galleries, and produces the Three Rivers Arts Festival and First Night. It has extensive real-estate holdings Downtown and under McMahon its budget quadrupled to a pre-pandemic high of $85 million.

Ingram acknowledged the performing arts are still seeking to regain audiences lost during the pandemic. She notes that while attendance at the Trust’s Broadway series has been strong, work remains. “Frankly, it’s getting people back in the habit again,” she said.

She said another priority is access and inclusion.

“My personal mission in this business is to really make sure these type of experiences are really available to truly everyone,” she said.

She noted that her current hometown, Milwaukee, has a population that’s more than half Black, Hispanic, or Asian. (Pittsburgh, by comparison, is two-thirds white, according to 2021 U.S. Census figures.)

Ingram praised the Trust’s efforts to make sure the artists on its stages, and the staff behind the scenes, reflect the diversity of the community. “The Cultural Trust has been doing a great job,” she said. “It’s one of the things that actually attracted me to this organization.”

She said in Milwaukee, she currently spends half her time meeting people. She said she will continue working to ensure that more people feel welcome at Trust venues. “Relationship-building and getting to know the communities whom you’re serving are really a big part of that,” she said.

Updated: November 2, 2022 at 3:57 PM EDT
This story has been updated and revised to incorporate material from an interview with Kendra Whitlock Ingram.
Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: