The Cowles Center announces new Executive Director

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November 21, 2011 // UPDATED 12:16 pm - December 1, 2011
By: Jeremy Zoss
Jeremy Zoss

The Cowles Center for Dance & The Performing Arts has announced that Lynn Von Eschen has been named the new Executive Director. Von Eschen’s predecessor Frank Sonntag resigned two weeks ago after 10 months in the position. Von Eschen has worked at St. Paul’s Ordway Center for the Performing Arts and will start his duties at The Cowles Center in January.

“I could not be more thrilled about bringing Lynn onboard at The Cowles Center,” said Kelley Lindquist, President of Cowles parent organization Artspace Projects, Inc., in a statement. “His operational and programming experience at the Ordway, along with his connection to the local arts community, make him the perfect choice to lead The Cowles as we partner with the Twin Cities dance community to offer incredible experiences to dance lovers and to engage new audiences." 

Von Eschen joined the staff of the Ordway in 1993 and served in a variety of leadership roles at the organization until being appointed Vice President and General Manager in 2005. Prior to joining the Ordway, Von Eschen worked for the Children’s Theatre Company.

“It’s a great opportunity and I’m honored to have been chosen as the next executive director,” said Von Eschen. “I have followed the development of the Cowles for several years and the building of it and the planning of it and the opening, so it’s something that I’ve admired from the sidelines and have been watching. At times I thought it would be a great place to be a part of, and the timing just sort of happened at the right time. I have been at the Ordway for 18 years. It kind of all fell together.”

Von Eschen said that part of what makes the executive director role exciting is the opportunity to work at a relatively new arts organization and help shape its long-term identity. “Really what I’m looking forward to is getting over here and making relationships with the dance community and the staff and being part of a new organization,” he said. “There’s not a lot of history of what’s going on or how it’s being done, so being part of a new organization and shaping it is very exciting to me.”

As for the differences between his work at The Ordway and The Cowles, Von Eschen sees issues of both scope and style. “The difference between the two is that the Ordway has a large theater that has about 1900 seats and a smaller theater that’s 300 seats. The Cowles has 500, so it’s kind of in between there a bit,” he said. “I think that it’s a multifaceted role over here between fundraising and marketing and programming and as I said building relationships, so I think it will be about everybody working together for the common good and the mission of the organization and figuring out how to do that as quickly as we can.”

The Cowles Center for Dance & The Performing Arts opened in Downtown Minneapolis in September. The inaugural season continues through June 2012.