Mark Nerenhausen. Photo courtesy of the Hennepin Theatre Trust

Hennepin Theatre Trust names new leader

Updated: March 31, 2017 - 3:36 pm

Mark Nerenhausen succeeds longstanding president and founder Tom Hoch

The Hennepin Theatre Trust named Mark Nerenhausen as its next president and CEO Thursday.

Nerenhausen is the second leader of the downtown-based arts nonprofit, which owns and operates the Orpheum, State and Pantages theaters on Hennepin Avenue. Tom Hoch, its founder and first president and CEO, stepped down last fall and is now a candidate for mayor of Minneapolis.

Nerenhausen comes to the trust as a founding director and professor of the Janklow Arts Leadership Program at Syracuse University in New York. Prior to that, he served as the president and CEO of AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas, Texas, a $354-million arts nonprofit that cultivates art in North Texas. Nerenhausen also led Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Performing Arts Center Authority, which manages six performing arts venues, for more than a decade.

Ann Simonds, who has acted as interim president and CEO since February, said in a statement that Nerenhausen brings a flair for “innovation, partnership and excellence.”

“Mark joins the trust with an impressive record of success that spans the performing arts, fundraising, education and cultural development,” she said.

The trust’s next leader comes at a time when the organization is relocating from City Center and building out a new headquarters in the former Solera building at 900 Hennepin Ave.

“We feel truly energized by Mark and this moment for the Trust, and we’re excited to have him with us as we realize the possibilities of our new home at 900 Hennepin,” Simonds said.

Nerenhausen begins the job Monday, April 3. He and his wife will move to the Twin Cities this summer following the academic year at Syracuse University where, among other administrative duties, Nerenhausen teaches a seminar in the spring. Before the move, he will commute between Minnesota and New York.

“Hennepin Theatre Trust has established itself as an imaginative and entrepreneurial arts organization that is helping to drive cultural and economic vitality through the arts in Minnesota,” Nerenhausen said. “I’m incredibly honored to add to that strong legacy and team up with the board, staff and community members to bring their passion and energy for the Trust to life.”

For Nerenhausen, a Wisconsin native, the move is a chance to get back home, or “at least much, much closer to home,” he said. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in Russian and East European Studies and a master’s degree in business in arts administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a graduate student, Nerenhausen interned at downtown-based nonprofit arts space developer Artspace. His two daughters attended Carleton College and St. Olaf College, and one is a current Twin Cities resident.

“[Minneapolis] has always been part of my life in a lot of ways. It very much feels like home,” he said.

“The reputation of the Twin Cities has always been one of a sophisticated cultural destination. It’s not the content of the culture, but I think, to those outside of the metropolitan area, what people really see is how the region thinks about culture relative to its identity and community and community values. And that’s really extraordinary. That’s really powerful. A lot of places would love to have that.”

The trust has expanded its work over the years to not simply programming its theaters on Hennepin Avenue and the New Century Theatre in City Center, but placemaking and bringing artistic programming to the streets of downtown Minneapolis through large-scale pieces like the Bob Dylan mural and initiatives like Made Here, the largest showcase of storefront window art in the country. It’s this work that attracted Nerenhausen, who has also held positions at arts institutions like Maui Arts and Cultural Center, Oshkosh Grand Opera House, Bijou Theater, Milwaukee Performing Arts Center and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

“For me that idea of not only what the arts mean on stage to the people in the building witnessing them, but what do the arts institutions mean with respect to the larger civic agenda is something that’s always interested me and has been my area of focus,” he said.

Nerenhausen said this work, and placemaking in general, speaks to the larger issue of why the arts are relevant to the community. In recent years the trust has unveiled projects outside its theaters that have involved both downtown residents and office workers commuting to the city, such as 5 to 10 Hennepin, a weekly community programming series on Hennepin Avenue, and a long-term vision for WeDo, or its West Downtown Cultural District.

“If we want the arts to be sustainable we have to understand what makes the arts relevant to the larger community, not just relevant to the people in our concert halls,” he said. “Why do we matter to people who never step foot inside the concert halls?”

Last year, the trust drew a half-million people to its theaters. The organization reported more than $26 million in revenue last year.