UPAF Applauds a Successful 2019 at Annual Meeting

UPAF | December 17, 2019

MILWAUKEE, Dec. 17, 2019 Just off another successful year, the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) closed the curtain on its 2019 Campaign with its Annual Meeting yesterday, held at the Milwaukee Rep’s Stackner Cabaret. “The meeting provides us with an opportunity to review the year’s highlights and recognize and thank the many people and companies who support the performing arts with their time and dollars,” said Deanna Tillisch, UPAF’s president and CEO.

UPAF raised $11,881,893 throughout the 2019 Campaign. $8,820,000 was allocated in 2019 with $8,644,318 going to UPAF’s 14 Member Groups and $175,682 going to 16 smaller performing arts organizations through the Affiliate Program, sponsored by Briggs & Stratton.  

A record $683,500 in grants have been distributed through UPAF Bright Minds, sponsored by BMO Harris Bank, a grant program to fund arts education.  Ten UPAF Member Groups will receive Bright Minds grant funding, which is up $10,000 over 2018’s total.

UPAF’s 2019 Campaign was co-chaired by Jim Barry, president of The Barry Company, Sandy Botcher, vice president of field experience at Northwestern Mutual and Tim Stewart, attorney and partner at DeWitt LLP.

The 2020 UPAF Campaign Co-Chairs were also introduced at the meeting. The trio consists of Tami Garrison, community affairs director of MillerCoors, Justin Mortara, principal of the Mortara Group, and Rolando Rodriguez, chairman, president and CEO of Marcus Theatres®.

Rob Sanders, outgoing chair of the UPAF Board of Directors, with assistance from local actors Samantha Sostarich and Stephanie Staszak, gave the 2019 UPAF Board report and announced the newly elected officers, Board Chair Tim Mattke of MGIC, Treasurer Brent Tischler of Associated Bank and Secretary Steve Johnson of BMO Harris Bank. He also welcomed new members, Juliet Kersten of Children’s Wisconsin, Dennis Klumb of KS Energy Services and Stephanie Lyons of Northwestern Mutual.

Outgoing board members Leslie Barbi and Curt Culver were also recognized for their dedicated service to UPAF.


Attendees enjoyed performances by cast members of Milwaukee Rep’s production of Nunsense and the Florentine Opera Company’s Baumgartner Studio Artists.

New Fundraising Initiative for 2020 Introduced

In honor of Tillisch’s final UPAF Campaign, UPAF is introducing a new fundraising initiative for 2020 called Kasey’s Fund. Throughout her tenure, Tillisch has been extremely committed to ensuring accessibility of the performing arts and this fund will continue those efforts. The special fund, named in honor of her daughter Kasey, will provide seed money for the community outreach programs UPAF Connect and UPAF Bright Minds, with a continued focus to increase diversity, inclusion and equality within the arts. Dollars raised from new or increased gifts can be directed to Kasey’s Fund throughout 2020.

Community Leaders and UPAF Member Groups Recognized

Numerous awards were presented: The Milwaukee Repertory Theater received The Good Stewards Award, sponsored by Northwestern Mutual Foundation, the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO) received the Bright Minds Award, for arts education, sponsored by BMO Harris Bank, the Milwaukee Ballet was awarded the UPAF Collaboration Award, Julia Taylor of the Greater Milwaukee Committee earned the UPAF Notable Women Award, presented by BMO Harris Bank, Betsy Katschke of the Waukesha County Business Alliance was presented the Next Generation UPAF Award, presented by We Energies and Sean Rierdon of Clarios received the UPAF Volunteer of the Year Award, sponsored by von Briesen & Roper.

About UPAF

The United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) has been setting the stage since 1967 by providing critical investment in our region’s vibrant performing arts scene.  UPAF’s mission is to secure community resources, promote the performing arts as a regional asset and improve the quality of life through responsible investment in and financial support of the performing arts in Southeastern Wisconsin. In 2019 UPAF raised nearly $12 million to support the area’s performing arts environment. UPAF proudly bears Charity Navigator’s highest distinction for nonprofits and is the No. 1 united arts fund in the country in terms of dollars raised.

As an umbrella organization, UPAF supports a breadth of performing arts groups that collectively offer something for everyone through its 14 Member Groups and numerous Affiliates.  More than one million people are touched each year through performances, educational outreach, special events and community partnerships.