The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is the nation’s largest nonprofit theatre organization, a Tony Award-winning company (1998 Tony for Outstanding Regional Theatre), and is now home to another big first. Janice Sinden, who has been serving as Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s Chief of Staff since 2011, was announced as the new CEO of the Denver Center. She’s one of only a handful of women to run such a large nonprofit organization and the first to helm the DCPA. Yellow Scene had a chance to sit down with Sinden to learn a bit about her approach to the new position and what Denver can expect when she officially steps into the role later this month.
Yellow Scene: Name three top priorities for the DCPA
Janice Sinden: My top three priorities for the DCPA are to first ensure that I meet with the board, the staff and many of the patrons to listen and learn, which will help inform my overall role and plan for the Center. Second, I will work closely with the different divisions of the DCPA to identify how I can support their work to ensure that the Center remains a vibrant, world-class performing arts organization in not only the country but the world. Third, participating in “The Next Stage” and the re-imagining of the Denver Performing Arts Complex to ensure that the venues are utilized by more people as often as possible will be a key priority going forward. I might also add that an immediate priority is the re-authorization of the SCFD to ensure that our arts and cultural institutions remain on solid financial footing.
YS: How do you see DCPA taking a more active role in community theater and education outside of the walls of the complex and across the state?
JS: The DCPA has an incredible education program and is deeply rooted in not only the Denver-metro region but statewide and beyond. More than 1.7 million students of all ages have participated in the various seminars and workshops hosted by the DCPA to date, and going forward, the Center has a tremendous opportunity to continue to reach out to our youth and our vibrant, diverse communities to identify new, unique ways to engage emerging artists and patrons from all walks of life. In addition, continuing to equip teachers with learning opportunities and study guides to bring the theater to the classroom and expose our youth to the performing arts is critical.
YS: You’re the first woman to hold this post. What does that mean for you personally, and what do you think it means for women in Denver overall?
JS: I am so blessed to have had amazing women mentors and friends throughout my life who told me I can be whatever I want to be, and so quite honestly, when this opportunity presented itself, the fact I am a woman never even crossed my mind. But, I recognize that women hold fewer President and CEO roles than men, and I am thrilled to serve as a role model for young women, especially those who are interested in pursuing a career in arts and culture, so they too know that one day they can run the show.
YS: What made this post so attractive to you that you’d leave your role with Mayor Hancock?
JS: This is a tough question. I have enjoyed every minute of my 5-year run with Mayor Hancock and the City of Denver as Chief of Staff. I would follow the Mayor to the Moon, but the chance to serve as the President and CEO of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and one that I could not be more excited about. The DCPA is such an important cultural institution in Denver and the state, and to lead this organization into the future is an honor and a privilege.
Also, the DCPA has a world-renowned leadership team and staff, and I am confident that together, we will accomplish many great things. I think it is also important to point out that I know many of the members of the Board of Directors, and I have a close relationship with Dan Ritchie who has had such a profound impact on the DCPA and beyond, and to follow in his footsteps means the world to me.
YS: Your predecessor vacated after one year on the job. How do you avoid the pitfalls he ran into?
JS: Sometimes, things just don’t work out. My plan is to listen and learn from the Board of Directors, the leadership team, the staff and the stakeholders and patrons to understand where the organization is currently and where we can take it now and into the future. I am hopeful that my deep relationships in the Denver community and with the staff at the city will be beneficial in this new role and reduce the length of time it will take for me to get up to speed. The support I have received internally and externally has been incredible, and my door is always open for input and suggestions.
YS: When your tenure is up, what do you hope will be your legacy when you look back at your time at the DCPA?
JS: Another tough question! My hope is that when the curtain falls and my tenure with the DCPA comes to a close, the Center has touched as many people as possible, helping each and every person who visits the theater to think outside of the box, allowing their imaginations to go wild. Arts and culture are essential to every vibrant community, and Denver is already known for its innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, thanks in a large part to its deep commitment to the arts. I hope my impact on the organization leads us to new heights as we think big and bold, tackle new ways to engage the entire community, and ensure that anyone and everyone who wants to attend a performance has the opportunity to do so.
Deb Flomberg contributed to this article