Aleskie named Hopkins Center director

by Anthony Robles | 1/10/17 2:15am


Mary Lou Aleskie, the executive director of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven, Connecticut, will be the next director of the Hopkins Center. She will assume the position in the spring.

Aleskie will not only be in charge of developing a framework for the Center by managing a $7.8 million operating budget, but will also engage with College administration and the Hop’s numerous benefactors.

“We are thrilled to welcome Mary Lou Aleskie to Dartmouth,” College spokesperson Diana Lawrence said. “Her tremendous leadership, creativity and passion for the arts and education will help to chart an exciting course for the Hopkins Center here in our community and beyond.”

Aleskie was chosen for the job by a search committee chaired by Provost Carolyn Dever. The committee also included deputy director of the Hood Museum of Art Juliette Bianco ’94, actress and comedian Rachel Dratch ’88, Hopkins Center Board of Overseers member Caroline Harrison ’86, the Hop’s director of student performance groups Joshua Kol ’93 and associate dean of arts and humanities and English professor Barbara Will.

“I am humbled, gratified and inspired by the opportunity to work with the staff [at the Hop], [the] college leadership and the community,” Aleskie said. “It’s pretty exciting stuff.”

Aleskie will replace interim director Maria Laskaris ’84, who has served in the position since the fall. Before Laskaris, Marga Rahmann ’78 served as interim director following director Jeff James’s retirement in 2015.

As director of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas since 2005, Aleskie oversaw an annual 15-day series which included theater and dance groups, international musicians, circus performers and speakers. Aleskie was in charge of all fundraising and programming at the festival. Previous artists and speakers at the event have included Yo-Yo Ma, Spike Lee and Salman Rushdie.

During Aleskie’s time in New Haven, the National Endowment for the Arts recognized the festival as among the top five arts presentations in the nation. Attendance at the festival, which began in 1996, has grown to record numbers.

Hop programming director Margaret Lawrence said that she thinks Aleskie’s experiences working with multiple kinds of artists at the festival make her well-suited for her new role.

“I think coming here at a time when we are seeing the Hop as part of a larger arts district, the Arts and Innovation District, is a wonderful confluence, because [Aleskie] has some great experiences in working with different genres of art to raise interesting issues and ideas,” Margaret Lawrence said. “I think she’ll be a really wonderful collaborative player in that endeavor.”

The Arts and Innovation District includes the Hopkins Center, the Hood Museum of Art, the DEN Innovation Center and the Black Family Visual Arts center.

Aleskie’s principal goal at the festival for the past 11 years has been to build stronger local community relations while broadening the profile of the event to fit an international scope, according to her biography on the festival’s website. Aleskie said that this ability to bring the community and the performing arts together is one of the Hop’s strengths.

“One of the things I really care about is connecting people and ideas with the performance, which the Hop is already doing,” Aleskie said. “I’m looking forward to adding value in that area.”

Aleskie began her career in the arts as chief financial manager and general manager of the Tony Award-winning Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas. During her tenure, she produced the first American tour of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” to visit Russia and Lithuania, as well as the world premiere of Frank Wildhorn’s “Jekyll & Hyde.” Before her position with the Alley Theatre, she worked as an auditor for Deloitte in New York City.

After the Alley Theatre, she assumed the position of executive director of Da Camera of Houston, which presents ensemble chamber music and jazz concerts. After that position, Aleskie was president and chief executive officer of the La Jolla Music Society in San Diego, California, which features orchestras, dance companies and soloists, from 2002 to 2005.

In addition to her position at the festival, Aleskie has taught courses on theater administration at the Yale University School of Drama, participated in the National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program and currently serves on the Executive Committee of the International Society for the Performing Arts, a New York-based international network of performing arts professionals.