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(Editorial) New DeBartolo director has very special job

Author: Arts and Letters

It is with pleasure that we join the University of Notre Dame in welcoming Anna M. Thompson to the posts of executive director of the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts and the Judd and Mary Lou Leighton Director of Performing Arts.

Thompson, a 20-year veteran in performing arts administration, gained both her education and experience in the Midwest. She comes to South Bend from St. Joseph and Collegeville, Minn., where she curated and oversaw visual and performing arts programs for nine years at two liberal arts institutions.

Prior to that, Thompson was director of education at Butler University in Indianapolis and had served as performing arts coordinator for the Indianapolis Museum of Arts. She attended Albion College and did post-graduate studies at Western Michigan University and at Butler.

Thompson’s breadth of experience in both community and academic arts administration prepares her well for the broad range of responsibilities she undertakes this week. The South Bend area is rich with performing arts venues and talent. And the DeBartolo Center, in its three years of operation, has become a destination point for performing arts lovers the region over.

When the DeBartolo opened, some wondered if it would be unwelcome competition for the Morris Performing Arts Center in downtown South Bend and other area venues. On the contrary, other venues have thrived. One can speculate that the DeBartolo’s role as performing arts magnet for a much larger region has been good for all.

And it works both ways. We expect that Thompson comes to the position with a strong appreciation for the strength of this community’s performance endowment.

Thompson’s job duties, along with running the DeBartolo Center’s five venues and booking acts for their stages, include booking the ND Presents series at the Morris Performing Arts Center. The reach from the greater community to Notre Dame and back again has taken several other forms that Thompson is bound to appreciate. Jon Vickers, owner of the popular Vickers Theatre in Three Oaks, also is manager at the Michael Browning Family Cinema in the DeBartolo Center. It has been an especially big hit with the South Bend community.

Summer Shakespeare at Notre Dame also is an event that engages the community. The centerpiece is a major professional production at the DeBartolo. The ShakeScenes productions that utilize the talents of local high school students at Washington Hall on the ND campus are not to be missed, either.

Campus-community collaborations have been many. Two years ago, the South Bend Symphony Orchestra, which is at home at the Morris Performing Arts Center, announced that it would conduct its chamber music series at the Leighton Concert Hall in the DeBartolo Center.

John A. Haynes oversaw construction of the DeBartolo Center and guided its first two years of operation. The center has been without a director for the year since his departure. Now, Thompson takes on the challenge — one that doesn’t end at the edge of campus.

The opening of the DeBartolo in 2004 made it the vortex of a community-wide web of artistic performance sites. When the ND-South Bend Symphony collaboration was announced the next spring, Haynes said, " … we know that we can accomplish a lot more working together than we could separately." Thompson now is in the position to expand on that philosophy, to the great benefit of the Notre Dame and greater South Bend communities.

Originally published by South Bend Tribune Editorial Board (in the South Bend Tribune) at on July 23, 2007.