Marcia J. White, president and executive director of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), is stepping down from her job at the end of 2016, SPAC’s 50th anniversary season.
This will be her 12th summer season at SPAC.
Hon. Susan Phillips Read, a retired associate judge of the state Court of Appeals and chairwoman of SPAC’s board of directors, said during the upcoming summer’s golden anniversary season, SPAC will “celebrate our many visionary leaders since 1966. Marcia is certainly one of them. Her imprint will remain long after her tenure at SPAC ends.”
“It has been a privilege and a joy of my life to lead, serve, and work for one of the most extraordinary performing arts centers in the world,” White said in February. “The Saratoga Performing Arts Center has enriched and enhanced the quality of life for millions of people since its founding 50 years ago. I have been truly blessed to have had the unique opportunity to work with SPAC’s passionate board, dedicated staff and the greater Capital Region Community, and I am immensely proud of all that we have accomplished together.”
She came to SPAC just prior to the 40th anniversary season, “and feel that the ideal time to depart is at the conclusion of SPAC’s 50th anniversary celebration season. While I feel my energies leading me in new directions, it’s with deeply bitter-sweet emotion that I announce my decision to leave SPAC,” said White.
White became president and executive director of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in March of 2005. With a leadership style developed during 20 years as a top-level political advisor and public relations strategist in the state Legislature, she ushered in a new era for SPAC, characterized by a strengthened financial picture, historic capital improvements, a robust educational focus, and artistic excellence, SPAC officials said.
Read said White assumed SPAC leadership “during a period of exceptional turmoil. Under her direction, SPAC has continued to present varied classical and popular programming of the highest caliber and has broken even for 11 consecutive years, an enviable record in today’s challenging environment where so many performing arts organizations have struggled financially.”
Upon taking the helm at SPAC, one of White’s first priorities was generating new revenue. By underscoring SPAC’s cultural and economic contributions to the region, she was able to broaden SPAC’s base of support within the business and philanthropic communities, solidifying its finances and replacing years of fiscal deficits with 11 consecutive operating budget surpluses.
According to the SPAC board, she spearheaded the raising of some $15 million through major gift solicitations and generated a 70 percent increase in revenue from fundraising events and first-ever title sponsorships with global companies including Key Private Bank, HSBC, GE, and the Italian Trade Commission.
White also headed the expansion of SPAC’s wine festival fundraiser into the Saratoga Wine & Food Festival and Concours d’Elegance in partnership with the Saratoga Automobile Museum, a move which more than doubled its attendance and revenue and transformed the event into one of the fastest growing wine and food festivals in the country, officials said.
White has overseen more than $5.7 million in renovations and upgrades of the historic amphitheatre and facilities over the last several years, including a complete refurbishment of the amphitheatre interior in 2007 and the installation of a new amphitheatre faÃ§ade in 2012, made possible through a major gift from SPAC board member Susan Dake and former chairman of the board Bill Dake.
White’s tenure has also seen significant upgrades in SPAC’s technology infrastructure including installation of a new lawn speaker system, adoption of an in-house ticketing system, and implementation of a new website and mobile technology capabilities.
Artistically, SPAC has pursued the highest standards for its programming while incorporating contemporary elements that make the classical performing arts more accessible for mainstream audiences.
Among the achievements of White’s tenure, SPAC board members said, include: establishment of a new summer residency with the celebrated Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; expansion of SPAC’s dance season to include tours by renowned international ballet companies including Russia’s iconic Bolshoi Ballet, the National Ballet of China, and the National Ballet of Canada; and expansion of SPAC’s dance season to include modern dance by top companies such as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Lar Lubovitch, Mark Morris, the Martha Graham Dance Company, and Twyla Tharp.
White has prioritized the cultivation of a younger audience for classical performances through the creation of educational and marketing innovations such as family-friendly pre-performance workshops for children; stronger educational outreach through a revamping of SPAC’s flagship performing arts education program, Classical Kids; and incorporation of master classes, lectures and films as an adjunct to SPAC’s classical programming.
White serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations within the Capital Region, including the Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau, the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and the Albany Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce. She is a member of the Saratoga Springs Commission on the Arts and has served as a trustee for the College of St. Rose since 2005.
The board hired the nonprofit executive search firm of Phillips Oppenheim to assist in the search for a new executive director and president. The company has worked with performing arts institutions including Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Metropolitan Opera, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation and the Music Center in Los Angeles. The search will be led by Phillips Oppenheim principals Sarah James and Becky Klein.