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Madame Walker Theatre names interim leader

March 11, 2016

Anita Harden, retired president of Community Hospital East and president of Interim Executives LLC, has been named interim executive director for the Madame Walker Theatre Center in downtown Indianapolis.
 
Harden served similar transitional roles with the Indiana Latino Institute, Lutheran Child and Family Services and the Community Health Network Foundation.
 
Harden told IBJ that the Walker board did not want to hire a full-time leader until its strategic direction is clear.
 
A not-for-profit, the Walker Theatre is engaged in a strategic planning process led by business management consultant Johnson Grossnickle & Associates in an effort to develop long-term strategy. A series of community conversations will take place in upcoming months in an effort to gauge community wants and needs.
 
“We hope to come out of this process with a real good sense of what the best way for the Walker to go in the future,” Harden said, stressing the importance of sustainability and remaining true to Madame Walker’s legacy. “We don’t want to hire a permanent person and then find out that that person doesn’t have the interest or skill set needed to match that vision.”
 
Hardin expects to remain in the role for a year to 18 months.

“That would give us a period for recruitment and for transition to the new leader,” she said.
 
The center has faced ongoing challenges both in finding consistent leadership and in maintaining its National Historic Landmark building. Minimal programming has been offered there in the recent past with only one event—a Jazz on the Avenue concert—listed on the Walker website for each of the next few months.
 
The executive director position has been vacant since Kathleen Spears resigned in May after less than two years in the job.

The departure, Spears said, had to do with the robust changes she tried to incorporate quickly.

“It was a little too aggressive for the board at that time,” said Spears, now president of Indianapolis not-for-profit consulting firm Powers (4) Good. “I gave them 18 months to catch up to me and it didn’t happen.”
 
“My hope would be that [Harden] can continue to turn the organization around and breathe more life into it,” Spears added.

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