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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Susan Mendenhall was named president of Arts United on Friday at the dedication of ArtsLab at Auer Center.

Arts United selects president

Insider emerges from talent search

– After five months of scanning résumés, attending committee meetings and interviewing applicants, the Arts United Board of Directors found that the search for a new president ended where it began.

Susan Mendenhall, Arts United director of resource development, was selected as the new president of Arts United, board Chairman Andy Boxberger announced Friday.

The organization used the formal dedication of Auer Center’s $1.6 million ArtsLab addition to announce Mendenhall’s new position. The new facility can seat up to 200 people and features versatile seating and staging options.

The Arts United Board of Directors voted Thursday to name Mendenhall president.

Mendenhall, who will succeed former longtime leader Jim Sparrow, will be directing a staff of more than 25 and will be the primary representative, facilitator and spokeswoman for cultural and arts organizations in the community.

Mendenhall said that as her first official act as president, she will encourage the community to participate in the organization’s annual fund drive, explore the city and to be proud of what Fort Wayne has to offer.

“My first priority is to continue Arts United’s trajectory, and making sure that we are an anchor support for arts and cultural organizations,” Mendenhall said. “Arts United is a great way to support a broad variety of organizations.”

Mendenhall, a graduate of Indiana University, has a bachelor’s degree in public and nonprofit management and a master’s degree in philanthropic studies from the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy. Before joining Arts United, Mendenhall was the League of American Orchestras development fellow at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. She also was the campaign and donor services manager for Fort Wayne Philharmonic.

The executive position has been vacant since September, when Sparrow resigned from Arts United after 15 years to accept the position of president and CEO of the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County in North Carolina.

The selection committee, which included Mendenhall, used the remainder of the year to interview applicants, narrowing the field to five or six, Boxberger said this month.

As the process went along, however, Boxberger said he and other members realized that the right person for the job had been among them from the beginning.

He said an arduous interview with Mendenhall confirmed that she was ready to take on the leadership position.

“We spent several months with her as a committee, and when we started talking about what we were looking for, we all kind of realized we were talking about Susan,” Boxberger said.

“It just happened to all of us at once.”

The formal dedication of the ArtsLab in the Auer Center for Arts & Culture was a fitting backdrop for the changes happening at Arts United.

The new addition features a flexible overhead lighting and sound grid, a balcony lounge and portable risers that can be outfitted in various formats to accommodate seating for up to 200 people and staging.

The Fort Wayne Civic Theatre, Fort Wayne Youtheatre and Fort Wayne Ballet performed small vignettes to show how the space can be used.