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Art, Covid, Equity and the Future

In episode 06, Vivian and Marcie discuss how the Covid-19 shutdown affected the world's arts and culture venues, sparking a financial catastrophe for the sector. Now institutions are trying to cobble together plans to reopen and rebuild. The long shutdown also gave nonprofit organizations time to rethink both their artistic missions and how to address and rectify their own systemic racism, which had gone unchallenged for years and was embedded in the way they pursued their work. Pacific Northwest Ballet Executive Director Ellen Walker, and former ballet dancer and arts administrator Michael Greer, now President and CEO of Seattle-based ArtsFund, join us to delve into Covid, money, race and politics, and the role of art and culture in our communities.

"You can go into a bar or restaurant and strike up a conversation with a complete stranger about whatever game it is you follow. That's pretty normal. Try doing that with the latest ballet."--Michael Greer
"But try! You should try!"--Ellen Walker

Michael Greer by Alan Alabastro Ellen Walker by Lindsay Thomas


Michael Greer is the President & CEO of ArtsFund. As a former professional dancer and experienced executive, Michael’s leadership experience spans both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. He previously held roles as the executive director of Oregon Ballet Theatre and Portland Ballet in Maine. Michael started his arts career as a dancer with Ballet West in Salt Lake City, where he danced for six years. Michael then spent nearly a decade in leadership and executive roles in manufacturing, financial services, and commodities in India and Mainland China for several multinational firms. He is a Trustee on the boards of United Way of King County, Downtown Seattle Association, and Seattle Regional Chamber of Commerce. Michael holds a B.A. in economics from Hampshire College, an M.Ed. from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and an M.B.A. from The Wharton School.


Ellen Walker is in her eighteenth season with Pacific Northwest Ballet and has served as Executive Director for seven years. Ms. Walker oversaw significant audience development initiatives during her tenure as Director of Marketing & Communications for PNB, with an emphasis since 2009 on the cultivation of young audiences. She was named PNB’s Executive Director in July 2014, and now oversees an operating budget of $25 million and a staff of more than 400 full and part-time staff members. Ms. Walker was responsible for managing the relocation of and campaign to fund PNB School’s Eastside location, The Francia Russell Center, which reopened in 2017. Prior to joining PNB, Ms. Walker was a marketing and sponsorship consultant to arts and civic organizations in Seattle and managed numerous projects for Seattle Center and Seattle Center Foundation. From 1988 to 2000 she was Director of Marketing for Seattle Children’s Theatre, where she managed successful efforts to triple the size of the audience for this renowned regional theatre serving young people and families. Before stepping into her latest role, Ms. Walker also served on the faculty of Seattle University’s MFA Arts Leadership program, teaching arts marketing to a new generation of nonprofit arts leaders. She serves as a Vice President of the Inspire Washington board and is also a board member of Dance/USA. Ms. Walker is from Seattle, Washington, and attended the University of Washington and Trinity College, Dublin.


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