Imagine MKE Chief Executive Officer

Imagine MKE

Chief Executive Officer


Imagine MKE is a start-up nonprofit organization whose mission is to unite diverse artists and arts and culture groups to strengthen their ability to thrive and contribute to an inclusive, engaged, and inspired community for residents and visitors of Greater Milwaukee. Imagine MKE will serve as the leadership hub to advance the contribution and sustainability of Milwaukee’s arts and culture sector. The specific goals include supporting artists to access more economic opportunity for their creative expression, partnering with local groups to achieve greater cultural, social, educational, and economic impacts, and building greater public engagement and support for arts and culture. The success of this initiative will increase local and national recognition, local audiences, and financial support for the arts and culture sector and increase social and economic benefits for the city as a whole.

Sustainability of the breadth and depth of the arts and culture sector in Milwaukee has been at risk for many years. This is reflected in increasing dependence on contributed income, lack of living wages for artists, and plateaued audience development. The sector is struggling to remain relevant in a changing population in which many residents have no access to arts and culture. In response to these conditions, more than 100 diverse artists and leaders from arts groups, neighborhoods, business, and philanthropy designed Imagine MKE’s strategic agenda. As a collective impact effort, these same arts, culture, and community leaders will work together with Imagine MKE staff to achieve the overarching deliverable of improved sustainability and expanded community relevance of artists and arts and culture groups.

This agenda is an ambitious one that was borne of the sector and its activation will be informed by current community opportunities, identifying and layering strategic decisions on organizational priorities. The sector representatives built this agenda with the knowledge that it will be adapted to meet both the needs of the sector and the needs and priorities of the community. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO), board, and staff will be the key stewards of managing and advancing this agenda.

Imagine MKE will provide businesses, local government, and community groups a central place to access artists and arts groups to partner on projects that combine cultural, economic, and social impact. The organization will promote and coordinate opportunities to build audience and capacity. Imagine MKE will work to ensure that the philanthropic and public investments in arts and culture have the greatest influence possible and that the sector will gain seats at community decision-making tables. With its partners, Imagine MKE will tell a cohesive, data-driven story of the value and power of arts and culture to build a more connected community. Perhaps most importantly, Imagine MKE will be a leadership voice and ears for the sector as it helps build a more vibrant, engaged, and inspired Milwaukee.

Poised for significant growth, the organization’s proposed, fully staffed operating budget is $790,000, with 100 percent derived from contributed revenue in the initial year. Currently, there is a transition budget with an interim consultant management team in place until the new CEO is on board. Fundraising for the fully staffed initial year is near completion. The staff will include six direct reports to the CEO, one each in programming, fundraising, marketing and communications, outreach and education, network support, and administrative support. Imagine MKE has a 14-member board of directors, led by Chair Katie Heil. Comprised of community leaders, the board of directors includes Work Group Chairs in the areas of Narrative and Network, Public Policy and Advocacy, Neighborhood Based Arts and Culture Impact, and Support for Artists.


As Wisconsin’s largest city, Milwaukee offers rich history, diverse neighborhoods, and world-renown arts and culture. The city sits on the shores of Lake Michigan at the confluence of three rivers where indigenous people lived for thousands of years. In the mid-1800s there was an influx of German immigrants and the sense of community established is still strongly present today. With an estimated population of almost 600,000 residents, the city is the commercial capital of Wisconsin and an important market in the Midwest. Milwaukee is home to seven Fortune 500 global headquarters and many thriving industries, including electronics, medical technology, and food and beverage manufacturing.

Milwaukee provides a robust breadth and depth of diverse arts and cultural offerings. It is the only Midwestern city boasting a nationally acclaimed and ranked symphony, ballet company, regional repertory theater company, opera company, and art museum. There are major facility developments underway in Milwaukee, including a new symphony hall (along with a newly appointed Music Director), new homes for the Milwaukee Ballet and the Milwaukee Public Museum, and continual additions to the world-renowned Milwaukee Art Museum. The Milwaukee Youth Arts Center houses the biggest children’s theater company and youth symphony orchestra in the nation. The city features numerous dance and theater companies, including the highly reputed Milwaukee Repertory Theater and Skylight Music Theatre, a unique musical opera company. One of the reasons for this stellar arts scene is the United Performing Arts Fund, which was established in 1967 and is the region’s largest arts fundraising group. The arts and culture sector has been booming for some time and establishing strategies to protect and sustain these assets will be key to establishing Milwaukee as a vibrant community attracting and retaining the best of talent.

Known as a “big city of little neighborhoods,” Milwaukee’s East Side, Historic Third Ward, and Bay View are just a few of its great locales, each with its own unique personality. Offering rich cultural diversity with mixed-use areas that are simultaneously historic and hip, the region attracts young professionals and families. The cost of living is 10 percent lower than the national average, making it an accessible metropolitan destination. Major new additions to the city in the past two decades include the Milwaukee RiverWalk, the Wisconsin Center, and Pier Wisconsin. Often referred to as the “City of Festivals,” Milwaukee is home to an amazing film festival, many ethnic festivals celebrating the city’s diverse cultural makeup, and Summerfest, the world's largest music festival.

Milwaukee County has one of the best park systems in the nation and the area features numerous outdoor attractions, including kayaking down the Milwaukee River and cycling on the 125-mile Oak Leaf Trail. Sports fans can catch the MLB Brewers at Miller Park, considered one of the best ballparks in America, and the NBA Bucks at the brand-new Fiserv Forum, a 17,500-seat arena designed solely for basketball. Milwaukee also offers extensive options for public transportation, including streetcar, bus, and commuter rail networks. General Mitchell International Airport is the largest airport in the Wisconsin region, serving over half a million passengers a year.


Position Summary

An accomplished professional and exemplary leader, the CEO of Imagine MKE will build the organization, advance the strategic agenda, recruit a talented staff, and facilitate the engagement of grasstops and grassroots leaders in Milwaukee. Reporting to the board of directors, the CEO will be an entrepreneurial leader responsible for supervising and directing all aspects of the strategic vision, public visibility, and managerial operations. The successful candidate will be inclusive, collaborative, creative, adaptive, and able to lead a sector-focused, results-based culture defined by the best practices of collective impact. This individual will own a deep commitment to inclusion and racial equity. A passionate champion of arts and culture, the CEO will support staff, board, and volunteers to pursue and be accountable for ambitious goals that socially and economically benefit the community.

Roles and Responsibilities

Leadership and Advocacy

  • Serve as the primary representative and spokesperson of Imagine MKE.
  • Develop relationships with key stakeholders and influencers at the civic, corporate, government, and community levels.
  • Create and communicate strategies to demonstrate the economic and civic value of a diverse and vibrant arts and culture sector.
  • Design and implement strategies to increase the sustainability of the sector by identifying and facilitating opportunities for revenue diversification and audience development.
  • Increase access to arts and culture experiences in diverse Milwaukee communities and neighborhoods.
  • Establish strategies and methodologies to measure the social and economic impact of the arts and culture sector and communicate findings through public reporting.
  • Advocate for increased community investment in arts and culture to address inequities, ensure sustainability, and expand opportunities for growth.
  • Leverage resources and connections to ensure Imagine MKE is involved in community development decision-making.

Arts and Culture Sector Engagement

  • Sustain and increase the level of sector engagement through Imagine MKE Work Groups.
  • Nurture the inclusive nature of Imagine MKE to increase agenda ownership among Work Group participants and to balance expectations.
  • Evaluate and prioritize opportunities in collaboration with Imagine MKE Work Groups to leverage resources and achieve maximum impact.
  • Explore viability to develop and maintain a combined arts and culture calendar for greater Milwaukee to enhance asset mapping and identify gaps in service.
  • Partner with a broad array of organizations, such as United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF), Milwaukee Artist Resource Network (MARN), Metro Milwaukee Association of Commerce, Greater Milwaukee Committee, and public sector partners, to ensure strategic alignment and coordination of programs with similar goals and objectives.

Programs and Revenue Development

  • Identify and explore viability of new program opportunities for Imagine MKE to serve as a think tank for policy ideas and strategies to enhance the arts and culture sector in Greater Milwaukee.
  • Serve as a guiding partner to artists and arts and culture organizations for best practices in areas including but not limited to organizational structure, board planning, governance, proposal creation, fundraising, and volunteer management.
  • Support audience development efforts and explore opportunities to leverage sector marketing through partnerships with UPAF, MARN, Visit Milwaukee, Milwaukee Filmmakers Alliance, Greater Together, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and other similar organizations.
  • Develop methodologies to measure audience participation and investment and create strategies to reach new audiences.
  • Expand and diversify creative offerings available to residents throughout Milwaukee’s neighborhoods and elevate the visibility of existing neighborhood cultural assets.
  • Promote capacity building by providing business development training to individual artists.
  • Benchmark similar advocacy programs across the country with an eye to implementing best practices.

Organizational Development

  • Develop a realistic business plan and oversee all aspects of building a new organization, including bylaws, budgets, HR policies and procedures, and strategic, fundraising, marketing, and communication plans.
  • Oversee all fiduciary and budget aspects of the organization.
  • Hire and manage staff with clear expectations and support.
  • Help develop and support the engagement of the board as effective governors, ambassadors, and advocates for Imagine MKE.
  • Facilitate the collective impact structure, managing a diverse group of engaged stakeholders who will support Imagine MKE’s ongoing work.
  • Manage organizational resources in accordance with the highest ethical and nonprofit standards.
  • Instill and drive a culture of philanthropy and accountability within the organization.

Traits and Characteristics

The CEO will be a natural leader and advocate with a high level of comfort and credibility in both traditional power structures and grassroot community environments. A firm believer in cultural equity and inclusion, the CEO will have a deep appreciation for the value of shared ownership and collective impact, along with a strong understanding of the arts and culture’s capacity to transform, inspire, regenerate, and build bridges across communities. A creative entrepreneur and dynamic innovator, the CEO will envision and activate Imagine MKE’s impact and reach. With superior communication skills and political savvy, this individual will possess an exceptional ability to manage and engage diverse networks at all socioeconomic levels. A result-oriented leader, the CEO will pursue and be accountable for ambitious performance goals.

Other key competencies include:

  • Teamwork – The ability to effectively and productively working with others to unite the sector, achieve organizational goals, and manage conflict.
  • Self-Starting and Flexibility – The capacity to demonstrate initiative and agility in adapting to change.
  • Diplomacy and Appreciating Others – The dexterity to identify with and care about others, treating everyone fairly, regardless of personal biases or beliefs.


A bachelor's degree and demonstrated expertise in organizational development, collaboration, program creation, public policy, advocacy, and fiscal management are required. Experience working with public agencies, arts councils, creative industries, and/or similar institutions is essential. The successful candidate will possess a commitment to the arts, artists, and development of cultural organizations. Demonstrated expertise relevant to successfully collaborating with artists, business executives, community leaders, and elected and appointed officials is essential. Applicants must have experience working with boards and high-level volunteers. Excellent written, verbal, and presentation skills are necessary. Knowledge of the Milwaukee area’s complexities is highly desirable.

Compensation and Benefits

Imagine MKE’s competitive compensation (commensurate with experience) consists of a base salary along with incentives linked to board designed benchmarks. Its benefits package includes medical, dental, vision, and prescription coverage; a flexible spending account; life and disability insurances; paid time off; holiday and sick pay; and participation in a 403(b) retirement plan.

Applications and Inquiries

Please submit a letter and resume with a summary of demonstrable accomplishments (electronic submissions preferred) to:

Jenna Deja, Vice President

ACG Contact Logo

201 West Lake Street, Suite 133
Chicago, IL 60606-1803
Tel       (888) 234.4236 Ext. 227


Imagine MKE is an equal opportunity employer and is dedicated to the goal of building a
diverse and inclusive organization. It strongly encourages applications from women,
people of color, and members of other historically under-represented groups.




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