The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in Saint, Paul Minnesota on September 8, 2021 announced Christopher Harrington as its new president and CEO, effective November 1, 2021. He will be the organization's first Balck leader in its 36 year history and its 12th since it was founded.Photo: Courtesy of the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in Saint, Paul Minnesota on September 8, 2021 announced Christopher Harrington as its new president and CEO, effective November 1, 2021. He will be the organization's first Balck leader in its 36 year history and its 12th since it was founded.Photo: Courtesy of the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

The Ordway, Minnesota’s flagship performing arts venue, announced Wednesday morning that it has hired Detroit arts executive Christopher Harrington as its next president and CEO, succeeding Jamie Grant who left in June 2020 to head the McCallum theatre in California.

His start date is November 1, 2021.

Harrington who holds a master’s in business administration and a bachelor of music degree from Wayne State University becomes the Ordway’s 12th leader since its founding 36 years ago and its first Black person to lead it.

A news release from the Ordway said Mr. Harrington’s hiring followed a comprehensive national search process guided by Arts Consulting Group. Harrington currently works at Detroit Symphony Orchestra where he is credited with launching its venue The CUBE and increasing its presentations sevenfold. Most noteworthy for an arts organization, he grew ticket revenue by over 300% and grew audiences to better reflect Detroit’s demographics.

The Ordway is also home to the Minnesota Opera, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and The Schubert Club. Part of Harrington’s duties will be to represent the Ordway on the Arts Partnership Board of Directors which brings together all the four organizations, according to the announcement from the Ordway.

The late Hugh Masekela (left) and Vusi Mahlasela, middle, during a sold-out concert at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota on Saturday, March 7, 2015. The Ordway on September 8, 2021 announced the hiring of its first Black president and CEO, Christopher Harrington. Photo: Alice Mansaray/The AfricaPaper

“Chris is a trusted arts advocate and we’re thrilled to welcome him to the Ordway family and the Twin Cities,” said Brad Wood, chair of the Ordway’s Board of Directors and its search committee. “Many events of the past year and a half have only underscored the significance of the arts in our lives. He is passionate about community and bringing people together around the performing arts. I can’t imagine a better person to lead the Ordway as we reopen.”

“The Ordway is one of the nation’s leading performing arts centers and boasts diverse programming, a world-class venue, and a dedicated community of arts supporters,” said Harrington. “I couldn’t be more thrilled to join the talented Ordway team and serve as the organization’s next president and CEO. I look forward to collaborating with the board, staff, and Arts Partnership to build on the Ordway’s rich legacy and immerse myself in the vibrant arts community here.”

Legendary African musicians that have performed at the Ordway include the late Hugh Masekela, Vusi Mahlasela and Angelique Kidjo.

The Ordway will reopen to in-person shows on September 19 after an 18-month closure due to the pandemic. Proof of COVID-19 vaccinations or negative test results will be required to attend shows.

About Tom Gitaa

Born and raised in Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa, Tom is the Founder, President and Publisher of Mshale. As the founder, he did a lot of the reporting during the humble beginnings of the newspaper. While he still does the occasional reporting, he now concentrates on the publishing side of the news operation. Tom was also the original host of Talking Drum, the signature current affairs show on the African Broadcasting Network (ABN-America), which was available nationwide in the United States via the Dishnetwork satellite service. On the show, he interviewed Nobel laureates such as 2004 Nobel Peace prize winner, Professor Wangari Maathai, the first woman from Africa to win the peace prize and heads of states such as the president of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh at State House, Banjul. Tom has served and chaired various boards including Global Minnesota (formerly Minnesota International Center), the sixth largest World Affairs Council in the United States. He has previously served as President of the Board of Directors of Books for Africa, the largest shipper of donated books to Africa. He also serves on the boards of New Vision Foundation and the Minnesota Multicultural Media Consortium. Tom also served two terms on the board of the United Nations Association. He retired from running full marathons after turning 50 and now only focuses on half marathons.

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