Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Names Kendra Whitlock Ingram to Top Post

Duquesne University graduate will succeed J. Kevin McMahon as president and CEO on Feb. 1, 2023

By Sharon Eberson

Kendra Whitlock Ingram becomes second woman
and first person of color to lead the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Kendra Whitlock Ingram will become the third leader of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust in its 38-year history, taking the top spot of the multimillion-dollar nonprofit agency that is both the caretaker and dynamic force in the Cultural District.

Ingram, 47, a Duquesne University graduate and the president and CEO of the Marcus Performing Arts Center in Milwaukee, WI, joins the Trust on Feb. 1, 2023, with 20 years of arts leadership experience and as the first person of color in the position.

“The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s growing regional, national and international reputation for employing  the arts as a community builder and economic catalyst is just one of the many reasons that I’m heading  back to my college town,” Ingram said in a statement. “The Trust is a dynamic and truly impactful organization with a proven track record of accomplishment and leadership. I am honored and excited to have this opportunity to start a new chapter and build on the incredible story of Pittsburgh’s Downtown and vibrant Cultural District.”  

The Milwaukee Business Journal described Ingram as “a well-known advocate for advancing racial equity through the performing arts.”

When the Marcus Center released an action plan for racial equity, diversity and inclusion (REDI) in April 2021, Ingram said, “It’s our mission as an organization to always be thinking, acting and listening with a REDI lens. Creating and sharing these goals publicly is just another step to strengthen our commitment, and we look forward to tracking and reporting on our progress toward these goals regularly, so the community can help hold us accountable.”

David Holmberg, Highmark Health president and CEO, Cultural Trust Board trustee and chairperson of the search committee, said, “We were very fortunate to attract a highly qualified pool of candidates from around the globe. Kendra’s authenticity and vision especially stood out. She is going to be a hands-on leader who is positioned extraordinarily well to amplify areas where the Cultural Trust has excelled, including collaboration, creativity, and innovation.”

Ingram will have tough acts to follow.

She succeeds J. Kevin McMahon, who announced in May that he would retire after two decades as president and CEO of the organization. On his watch and at its pre-pandemic height, the Trust’s annual budget grew from $20 million to $85 million, among the top five in the United States. 

It is estimated that the Trust oversees more than 1 million square feet of Downtown real estate, including commercial and residential buildings,

McMahon followed Carol R. Brown, who began the process of rebuilding a once shabby, red-light Downtown corridor into the Pittsburgh Cultural District we know today.

Marc Fleming, the Trust’s chief marketing officer and vice president of Broadway programming, said “I am especially excited that our Board Chair Rich Harshman and the Board search committee has selected a new leader who knows the Cultural Trust’s DNA.”

He noted that the Trust and Marcus Center of the Performing Arts are part of the industry group PACC (Performing Arts Center Consortium), and that “Kendra knows how the arts thrive creatively, logistically, and financially.”

Having attended Duquesne University for her undergraduate degree in Music Education, “it’s fantastic that she is familiar with the Burgh and can bring back all the knowledge and experience that she has garnered working from some of the country’s foremost music, arts and entertainment organizations,” Fleming said.

Ingram currently serves on the Board of Directors for Arts Midwest, National Arts Strategies, Live Arts Centers of North America (LACNA Foundation) and Black Arts MKE. 

In 2020, the Broadway League – the trade group representing Broadway and regional theater owners and producers, added Ingram and producer Brian Moreland to its Board of Governors, at a time when organizations representing Black theater workers are demanding an increased presence both onstage and offstage within the industry community.

“As Broadway looks to deepen audience engagement and plan for the future, the Board of Governors is pleased to welcome Kendra and Brian,” Charlotte. St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, told Deadline. “They share a profound commitment to the theatre, a passion for the performing arts, and wide ranging experience in the industry.”

Ingram has held senior leadership positions with performing arts institutions including as executive director of the Newman Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Denver, VP of programming and education for Omaha Performing Arts, managing director of Shenandoah Performances at Shenandoah University, VP and general manager of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and director of Pops and special programming for The Detroit Symphony.

Ingram has been with the Marcus Performing Arts Center, which opened in 1969, since March 2020. She announced today that she would leave the job in January.

The projected 2022 budget for the Milwaukee organization was $17 million, with 86 percent earned revenue and 14 percent contributed revenue that included county funding.

Besides programming that includes PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Dance Council and the Trust Cabaret, the Trust owns and maintains performance spaces such as the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, the Byham Theaters, the Theater Square-Greer Cabaret complex, Liberty Magic, the Harris Theater and Katz Plaza. It also provides or shares programs in venues such as Heinz Hall and the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

The Trust Education Center and its offices on Liberty Avenue sit in a former brothel, now the heart of the Cultural District, surrounded by holdings that include galleries and other mixed-use spaces. 

Brown and McMahon’s legacies are tough acts for anyone to follow, particularly as cultural institutions are still rebounding from more than two years of the pandemic-forced shutdown.

A Scranton, PA, native, Ingram and her husband Ben, a surgical oncology physician assistant, will be relocating to Pittsburgh with their cats, Larry and Lil Mama. In her spare time, Ingram enjoys training for and participating in triathlons, practicing Handel piano suites and attending a wide variety of performances. 

“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,” Board Chair Harshman said. “There are so many exciting Trust projects launching now and on the  horizon for which she is uniquely suited. We look forward to welcoming Kendra back to Pittsburgh to  help lead the Cultural District as the Trust continues to revitalize Downtown and bring audiences back in large numbers to our theaters, galleries, public art installations and festivals.” 

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