Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival picks new executive director

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BECKET — Jacob's Pillow hasn't gone far to find its new executive director.

Pamela Tatge, director of the Center for the Arts at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., will succeed Ella Baff as executive director of the international dance festival, beginning April 18.

Baff stepped down as the Pillow's executive and artistic director at the end of the 2015 season after 17 years on the job. She put together the 2016 season — the Pillow's 84th — which begins June 18 with the annual gala.

Tatge, 53, has been director of the Wesleyan center for the past 16 years. Prior to Wesleyan, she spent 10 years as director of development at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven.

"It will be an honor and a thrill for me to lead Jacob's Pillow's next stage of development," she said in a Pillow news release.

"The Pillow's leading role as a dance presenter, the support of artistic development and new work, and its deep audience engagement programming is of vital importance nationally and internationally," she said. "Its educational and archival resources are unmatched."

At the Center for the Arts, Tatge oversees and develops all programs in music, dance, theater and the visual arts in an 11-building complex on campus and at various other venues on campus and in Middletown. Her main focus, according to the release, has been to "re-imagine the role of artists in curricular and co-curricular life."

At Jacob's Pillow, Tatge will "set the artistic vision and strategic goals for all aspects of the organization, including festival programming, education, preservation, audience engagement, residency programming, artist support, long-term planning, fundraising and marketing," the release said.

One of 10 finalists for the Pillow's top job from nearly 60 applicants, Tatge was the unanimous choice of the search committee, according to Pillow board Chairman Mark Leavitt, who also served on the committee.

"Pamela is a proven leader who has worked with a wide range of dance artists for decades," Leavitt said in a news release. "She has created innovative and collaborative dance programs that bring audiences and artists together."

"Her work at Wesleyan in collaborating with other art forms to expand and diversify audiences" is a particular strength, Leavitt said in a telephone interview.

"We've made a lot of progress in that regard at the Pillow, but her experience at Wesleyan will help those efforts further," Leavitt said. "She also will help with the continued development of the Pillow's education mission."

Tatge is the mother of four children and lives in Madison, Conn. with her husband, artist Jerry Zinser. She has bachelor's degree in history from Wesleyan and a master's in liberal studies, also from Wesleyan.

She has been director of the Center for the Arts since 1999.

During Tatge's time at Wesleyan, the Center for the Arts has become known for its contemporary dance programming, notably Breaking Ground Dance Series, which brings innovative, highly trained companies from the United States and abroad to the campus; and DanceMasters Weekend at Wesleyan, a dance immersion weekend for dance students and instructors.

Tatge led the development of Wesleyan's Creative Campus Initiative, which includes an annual Creative Campus Fellow in Dance, and a campus-wide environmental program, Feet to the Fire, which uses the arts to explore environmental issues.

She also spearheaded Wesleyan's Green Street Arts Center (now known as Green Street Teaching and Learning Center), established in 2005 to help revitalize Middletown's North End.

Together with former Jacob's Pillow executive director Samuel A. Miller, Tatge co-founded Wesleyan's Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance, a post-graduate program for the study of the preservation of contemporary performance.

She is a member of the board of the New England Foundation for the Arts and recipient of the Association of Arts Presenters' 2010 William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence and Sustained Achievement in Programming.

"Her vision for our organization is exciting," Leavitt said. "I think she'll be great."


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