Milwaukee Business Journal: Without CEO, UPAF kicks off 2024 campaign with past co-chairs

Drew Dawson | April 26, 2024

The United Performing Arts Fund kicked off its 2024 Community Campaign with 24 past co-chairs and volunteers joining forces.

According to a press release from the nonprofit, this is a first-of-its-kind alliance that consists of community leaders from various industries like Visit Milwaukee president and CEO Peggy Williams-Smith and former Badger Meter Inc. CEO Rich Meeusen.

“Each of our coalition members have played a critical role in the success of past UPAF Community Campaigns, enabling our performing arts organizations to thrive,” said Scott Beightol, chair of the UPAF board of directors. “We are grateful to have their collective support and energy to advocate for the performing arts during this critical time of need.”

This comes as UPAF is undergoing a national search for a new president and CEO after Patrick Rath announced his resignation from the country's largest united fund for the performing arts in March. Former president and CEO Deanna Tillisch is acting as the advisory leader of the organization following Rath's departure.

In 2023, UPAF raised $10,596,622 from almost 13,000 donors in its community campaign. It does not receive government funding. UPAF funds 55 local performing arts organizations.

Founded in 1967, UPAF has 14 member groups: First Stage, Florentine Opera Company, Milwaukee Ballet, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Skylight Music Theatre, Bel Canto Chorus, Black Arts MKE, Danceworks, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, Next Act Theatre, Present Music and Renaissance Theaterworks.

“UPAF plays a vital role in our community by generating continued support of a vibrant arts scene that makes Milwaukee truly special,” Williams-Smith said. “Its dedication and commitment ensures that Milwaukee and our cultural landscape remains a destination where creativity thrives, and communities unite."

The Campaign Coalition members are:

  • Jim Barry, president, The Barry Company, 2019 co-chair
  • Jim Borris, CEO, Zilber Ltd., 2018 co-chair
  • Betsy Brenner, former president and publisher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2017 co-chair
  • Patty Cadorin, former senior advisor, BMO, 2015 co-chair
  • Tom Cardella, former president and CEO of Tenth & Blake Beer Co., MillerCoors, 2015 co-chair
  • Curt Culver, non-executive chairman, MGIC Investment Corporation, 2011 co-chair
  • Heather Dunn, senior vice president and chief financial officer, West Bend Insurance Company, 2021 co-chair
  • Paul Eberle, former CEO, Husch Blackwell, 2016 co-chair
  • Linda Gorens-Levey, partner, General Capital Group, 2017 co-chair
  • Penny Gutekunst, former vice president of Development at Zoological Society of Milwaukee
  • Steve Johnson, US Wealth Business integration lead, head of sales and client strategy, BMO Wealth Management, 2021 co-chair
  • Ted Kellner, Co-founder, former chairman and former CEO of Fiduciary Management Inc., 2009 co-chair
  • Alex Kramer, managing director, BMO Private Banking, 2017 co-chair
  • Gail Lione, senior counsel, Dentons, 2013 co-chair
  • David Lubar, CEO, Lubar & Co., 2012 co-chair
  • Rich Meeusen, former CEO, Badger Meter Inc., community volunteer, 2009 co-chair
  • Justin Mortara, president and CEO, EnsoData, 2020 co-chair
  • Gary “Skip” Poliner, community volunteer, 2013 co-chair
  • Mark Sabljak, principal, Sabljak & Budisch, 2015 co-chair
  • Tim Stewart, president and managing partner, DeWitt Law Firm, 2019 co-chair
  • Julia Taylor, past president, Greater Milwaukee Committee, 2009 co-chair
  • Deanna Tillisch, former president and CEO, United Performing Arts Fund
  • Dave Vetta, former Milwaukee region advisory board chair at First Business Bank, 2018 co-chair
  • Peggy Williams-Smith, president and CEO, Visit Milwaukee, 2016 co-chair
  • Carlene Ziegler, founder, Artisan Partners Asset Management, 2012 co-chair