Collaboration Top of Mind for New Clarice Smith Center Executive Director

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

CONTACT: Erica Bondarev

Martin Wollesen

Martin Wollesen photo by John Consoli

COLLEGE PARK, MD – The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland has named Martin Wollesen as executive director. Wollesen, a longtime arts administrator and proven creative thinker, has an all-inclusive approach to the arts and a demonstrated commitment to higher education. 

"We are pleased to have Marty join the university. His experience creating meaningful and innovative arts programs that enhance student life and support community involvement will be a great asset to our campus,” says Mary Ann Rankin, UMD's senior vice president and provost. "He brings more than 20 years of experience in arts administration and higher education to the Clarice Smith Center.”

In his new role, Wollesen will provide innovative and strategic leadership for the Center’s programmatic, educational and community activities, with collaboration as a core operating tenet.

In his new role, Wollesen will provide innovative and strategic leadership for the Center’s programmatic, educational and community activities, with collaboration as a core operating tenet. He will strategize with university leadership to advance the Center's mission; strengthen faculty and student partnerships; and cultivate new and existing community relationships.

The School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, the School of Music and the Clarice Smith Center, all units under the university's College of Arts and Humanities, share physical space and similar intellectual missions. Wollesen will work collaboratively across the college and with these schools to develop activities, programs and initiatives that support and enhance the learning environment. He will oversee the Center’s visiting artist program which is known for its commitment to provocative and new work. Partnership with The Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library and the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission will also be central to his role. 

"Marty has proven his strength and leadership in creating robust partnerships that integrate the arts across campuses and within local communities," says Bonnie Thornton Dill, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. "We are pleased to have another incredible arts advocate on our campus to enhance the visibility of the Center and continue to create important connections between students, faculty, staff, alumni, artists, and the community."

'Artistic expression is both an intrinsic need and a public responsibility. We will allow ourselves to investigate, test, and respond. And have fun!'

"I am thrilled to be joining not only one of the best campus-based performing arts centers in the country, but a topnotch university as well," says Wollesen. “The Clarice Smith Center is part of the academic enterprise and human scholarship of a great public university, and the performing arts have a central role in the intellectual interchange that is at the core of student development and cultural responsibility. Artistic expression is both an intrinsic need and a public responsibility. We will allow ourselves to investigate, test, and respond. And have fun!”

Susie Farr, retiring this September, has served as executive director of the center for fourteen years. “Martin Wollesen will be extraordinary in his new role.” notes Farr. “At UC San Diego, he created unique programs that enhanced the lives of a wide range of students. He has also done tremendous work in engaging the community in the life of campus through the power of the arts.” 

Wollesen is honored to be taking the helm of an organization with a national reputation as a model performing arts center on a major university campus – a reputation that is Farr’s legacy. ”It is an enormous privilege to build from the incredible foundation and vision that Susie Farr and her colleagues at the University of Maryland have created at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. Her leadership, dedication and creativity to the performing arts have had immeasurable impact on our field.”

Currently, Wollesen serves as artistic director for ArtPower! at University of California, San Diego, the university’s premiere multi-arts presenting program in dance, music, spoken word and film. ArtPower! offers diverse artistic experiences that foster self-exploration with an emphasis on risk-taking and the unknown. These principles are familiar to Wollesen, who had an international upbringing, residing in places like Singapore, the Philippines, Egypt, Portugal and Israel witnessing street performance, cultural festivals and operas that, for him, linked the arts to cultural identity.

As artistic director for ArtPower!, Wollesen has created and implemented the Innovator-in-Residence Program that explores the intersections between the sciences and the arts; The Loft, a performance lounge and wine bar, the only venue of its kind on a college campus; the Place Matters Project, the most comprehensive, interdisciplinary arts initiative in the university's history where non-performing arts students worked with Brooklyn-based dance ensemble Urban Bush Women to create movement pieces that enriched their connections to campus. 

Concurrently, Wollesen serves as director of the University Events Office that curates the presented artist program at UC, San Diego. As director, he has developed significant campus traditions that connect the arts to academic life including Sun God Festival and New Student Convocation.

Wollesen was previously the director of education and associate director of programming for Stanford Lively Arts at Stanford University where he created Encounter: Merce, an initiative where students from across campus use Merce Cunningham’s art as a baseline for collaborative study and creative expression. Prior to that, he was director of programming for University of California, Santa Cruz Arts & Lectures performing arts program. He holds a B.A. from the University of California at Santa Cruz.  

Wollesen serves on the board of directors for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters and California Presenters. He previously served in board roles with the Western Arts Alliance and San Diego Performing Arts League. In 2012, he was awarded the Western Arts Alliance Vanguard Award for innovation in the arts for The Loft as UCSD. In 2011 he was named as San Diego Magazine’s 50 People to Watch.

He will officially assume his duties at the Clarice Smith Center on September 2, 2013.


Located on the University of Maryland campus and a part of the College of Arts and Humanities, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center is a premier presenting arts venue and collaborative laboratory shared by the School of Music (SOM), the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies (TDPS) and the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library. The Center made its debut in 2001 and has grown into a national model for campus performing arts centers, presenting performances and programs by visiting artists as well as by students and faculty of SOM and TDPS in an environment of creative learning, exploration and growth. The Center remains active in the larger university community through its innovative partnerships and extraordinary experiences.

The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center is supported by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive. An agency of the Department of Business & Economic Development, the MSAC provides financial support and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations, units of government, colleges and universities for arts activities. Funding for the Maryland State Arts Council is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.