Today we’d like to introduce you to Mark Slavkin.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I grew up here in Los Angeles in a family dedicated to public service and helping others. From an early age I was drawn to politics and government and was privileged to have wonderful opportunities in Washington, DC, Sacramento, and Los Angeles County government. In 1989 I was elected to the Los Angeles Board of Education at the age of 27 and served on the school board for 8 years representing West Los Angeles and the West Valley. I was supportive of arts education during my time on the board, but it was by no means by signature issue or cause.
As I was preparing to leave the school board and explore new possibilities, a friend connected me to the Getty Trust during the time the Getty Center was still under construction. I had never considered working in the arts or arts administration and my first response was to be skeptical. Thankfully, I decided to explore this further and was selected as Los Angeles Program Officer for the Getty Education Institute. For me, this was like attending graduate school in the arts and arts education. The Getty gave me the chance to meet with key leaders around the country and become much more knowledgeable and passionate about the importance of arts education.
The Getty was also an invaluable credential. My work there brought me to the attention of The Music Center, which later invited me to join them as Vice President for Education. I spent 14 years at The Music Center and had a chance to work with and learn from wonderful colleagues with enormous expertise in arts education. As a result of my work at The Getty and The Music Center, I am sometimes considered a national leader in arts education. Ironically, I did not know this career path even existed when I was in college.
In 2015 I left The Music Center to join the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts as Director of Education. I was drawn to the chance to help create a new cultural resource from the ground up. It has been so rewarding to help shape The Wallis and define our values and our commitment to arts learning for people of all ages.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road from my early interest in politics to my time in elective office was smooth and a rather straight line. One step led to the next in a fairly clear manner. Leaving politics was more challenging. Since that was so much of my identity, I did not have a sense of what else I could be “good at.” My time at The Getty was a very steep learning curve. There were aspects of the job where I had no relevant experience and struggled to “catch up.” When I left The Getty, I was not certain if this was the start of a new career path or simply a one-time detour. Only now that I look back does it become clear that The Getty experience was the key turning point that opened doors to my subsequent career in the arts.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts – what should we know?
The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (“The Wallis”) was created by visionary civic leaders and philanthropists who believed Beverly Hills should have a vibrant home for the performing arts. Interestingly, the funds were raised and the Old Post Office Building was transformed without a pre-existing arts organization in place. Our glorious campus was constructed and opened first. The creation of a dynamic arts organization to program and activate the space came second.
My role is to see that the artistic resources on our stages are shared with the entire community so that people of all ages grow in and through the arts. Our founders saw education as a key priority and made sure a dedicated Education Wing was included in the campus, with three classrooms and a beautiful outdoor courtyard. We call this “GRoW @ The Wallis: A Space for Arts Education” to honor the original naming gift by Gregory Annenberg Weingarten and Regina Weingarten.
We welcome thousands of K-12 students throughout the school year to attend special student matinee performances. Each week our classrooms are active with young people and adults learning and rehearsing. Our programs are designed to address needs not otherwise served in the Los Angeles area. For example, we provide an artistic home for The Miracle Project, a performing arts program for young people with autism and all abilities. Our Student Arts Reporters program provides an opportunity for teens to learn about arts journalism by attending and reviewing performances on our stages.
Our organization will turn five this October. We are still young and have a long way to go. But I am very proud our work is grounded in the values of inclusion and diversity. Each time we lift up the stories of those too often left out of these experiences, I feel we are doing our job.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I think I am best known for leadership, which I define as investing in the growth of those around me. I tend to put the cause or the goal first, ahead of any desire or need that I have for personal recognition. My authentic commitment to the larger cause gives me a certain credibility with those with whom I work. Anything thing important that I have ever helped achieve has been the result of a team effort. I believe leaders who focus on the needs of the whole team are most effective in the end.
- Address: Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
9390 North Santa Monica Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
- Website: www.thewallis.org
- Phone: 310 246-3800
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @TheWallisBH
- Facebook: @TheWallisBH
- Twitter: @TheWallisBH
Each image is by Mark Slavkin