Powell to lead Phoenix Theatre Cultural Center as search begins for its first full-time CEO

The Phoenix Theatre Cultural Centre has embarked upon a mission to hire its first chief executive officer by Jan. 1, in the meantime naming an interim CEO.

William Powell, a long-time business leader and arts management consultant in Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio, will become the Downtown cultural institution’s  interim chief executive officer on May 1. The role is being created to support the organization’s vision to use the Cultural Centre to regularly stage compelling theatre, dance, and critical community conversations for people living in Central Indiana.

At the same time, the Phoenix announced the pending departure of Bill Simmons, the former artistic director who since early 2022 has served as director of the not-for-profit’s Ignite fundraising campaign. Simmons will leave the Cultural Centre in June with the campaign ahead of schedule (already at more than 50 percent of its $6 million goal). He is leaving the Phoenix to spend more time with the consulting firm he started in 2022.

Powell will oversee operations and fundraising at the Cultural Centre – located since 2018 along the Cultural Trail at Illinois Street. David Jose, president of the Centre’s Board of Directors, said the board is “excited to have someone with the vast business experience of William Powell to serve as interim leader and assist with the national search for a permanent CEO.”

Jose said Powell and the next CEO will work closely with the organization’s staff including Constance Macy, who has been artistic director since January 2022. The team will continue to drive the Phoenix Ignite Campaign.

Powell has been a consultant for arts organizations for many years and has served as a grant reviewer for the Ohio Arts Council, Greater Columbus Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He was the lead consultant on the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s Arts Stabilization Program, working with more than 50 organizations to assist with developing and maintaining working capital reserves to create more stable operations.

Powell was the longtime owner of the Monon Coffee Company in Broad Ripple and a partner in Indy’s Kitchen, a food-service incubator that helped start more than 100 food businesses – generating more than $5 million in economic activity in Indianapolis.

Interim CEO William Powell

“The Phoenix, which produced its first show nearly 40 years ago, remains central to entertainment and culture in Indianapolis,” Powell said. “An evolving landscape, however, demands a fresh, innovative approach. The external environment – including effects of the pandemic that have changed arts organizations everywhere – is prompting theaters to reinvent themselves and take a broader approach to reaching their communities.

“With a state-of-the-art Cultural Centre in Downtown Indianapolis,” Powell continued, “the Phoenix is uniquely positioned to do just that – making the experience pleasant, entertaining, and inviting regardless of who you are coming to see.”

Starting in September, seven theater and dance organizations, including the Phoenix Theatre, will be resident companies (also known as collectives) of the Cultural Centre. The first and only theater company in Indianapolis focused on women actors, directors and playwrights as well as the first Black theater in Indianapolis to be recognized by the Actors’ Equity Association will be among other resident companies at the Cultural Centre.

Powell and the permanent CEO will work with the Phoenix Board of Directors and others in the community to ensure the Cultural Centre is a venue committed to thought-provoking productions, presentations, and discussions for people in Central Indiana.

“William Powell is an outstanding choice to lead the Phoenix Theatre Cultural Centre during this time,” Jose said. “William understands business, he understands the arts, and he understands Indianapolis. He’s a leader who is committed to helping the Phoenix Theatre and the Cultural Centre become true destinations for arts patrons everywhere.”

“We’re in the middle of a very exciting era,” added Macy, the first female artistic director of the Phoenix Theatre in nearly four decades, “and this year we are celebrating our 40th anniversary in Indianapolis. The Cultural Centre has become a hub for actors and people of all backgrounds – and the CEO role, starting with William’s leadership and experience, will help us become a premier venue for diverse arts and culture in Central Indiana.”

PHOTO ABOVE: The Phoenix Theatre Cultural Centre sits at the corner of Illinois and Walnut streets along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.