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Chris Harrington named new president and CEO of the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

Detroit performing arts leader brings community-building emphasis to Minnesota


September 9, 2021

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Sept. 8, 2021) — The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts today announced the hiring of Christopher Harrington as its new president and CEO, effective Nov. 1.

As president and CEO, Harrington will lead the Saint Paul nonprofit, which is home to a wide variety of performances, including Broadway @ the Ordway, Concerts @ the Ordway, dance, and programming for young people and families, including the annual Flint Hills Family Festival. The announcement comes ahead of the Ordway’s reopening later this month after being closed for 18 months due to the pandemic.

“The Ordway is one of the nation’s leading performing arts centers and boasts diverse programming, a world-class venue and a dedicated community of arts supporters,” said Harrington. “I couldn’t be more thrilled to join the talented Ordway team and serve as the organization’s next president and CEO. I look forward to collaborating with the board, staff and Arts Partnership to build on the Ordway’s rich legacy and immerse myself in the vibrant arts community here.”

Harrington joins the Ordway from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, where he has worked since 2012. Passionate about connecting people through the arts, he has a successful track record in audience development, revenue generation strategy, leadership, and advancing diversity, equity and inclusion priorities. Among his many achievements during his tenure at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Harrington reimagined and launched its venue The CUBE, increased its presentations sevenfold, grew ticket revenue by over 300% and grew audiences to better reflect the demographics of Detroit.

His hiring concludes a comprehensive national search process guided by Arts Consulting Group. He will succeed interim president Chris Sagstetter, who will resume her previous role as executive vice president and CFO. He is the Ordway’s 12th president and CEO.

“Chris is a trusted arts advocate and we’re thrilled to welcome him to the Ordway family and the Twin Cities,” said Brad Wood, chair of the Ordway’s Board of Directors and its search committee. “Many events of the past year and a half have only underscored the significance of the arts in our lives. He is passionate about community and bringing people together around the performing arts. I can’t imagine a better person to lead the Ordway as we reopen.”

“I would also like to recognize Chris Sagstetter for successfully leading the Ordway through the darkest days of the pandemic. Thanks to her leadership, the Ordway is reopening in a strong position to thrive,” added Wood.

Harrington holds a Master of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Music from Wayne State University. He currently serves on the board of the Association of Performing Arts Professionals and is a mentor in Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business Corporate Mentor Program. He has served on grant review committees, on the executive team for Detroit Young Professionals and as a panelist at national conferences.

“From studying music and business and starting my career in the box office to working my way up to senior roles and community leadership, I have had the opportunity to learn from and contribute to the arts world in various capacities,” said Harrington. “Throughout my career, what has driven me is authentic connection – connecting people with the arts, powerful stories and with each other.”

Harrington will also represent the Ordway on the Arts Partnership Board of Directors. The Arts Partnership consists of the four highly acclaimed organizations that perform regularly at the venue — Minnesota Opera, the Ordway, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Schubert Club.

“Chris brings with him a dynamic track record of leadership, strategic thinking and joyful enthusiasm that will benefit not only the Ordway, but also the Arts Partnership and the Twin Cities as well,” said Ryan Taylor, president and general manager of the Minnesota Opera and president of the Arts Partnership Board of Directors. “Our community is fortunate to benefit from his many talents as we work together to imagine a bold, bright, creative future for artists and audiences alike.”


The Ordway is the arts epicenter of Saint Paul, Minnesota, and one of the leading nonprofit performing arts centers in the country. Founded on the belief that performing arts should be wide-ranging and accessible to all, the Ordway is home to a variety of performances that encompass the finest in Broadway musicals, concerts, dance and vocal artists. The Ordway serves thousands of children each year through its education programs and presents the annual Flint Hills Family Festival. Known as the most comfortable place to catch a show in Minnesota, the Ordway includes a magnificent 1,900-seat Music Theater, a state-of-the-art 1,100-seat Concert Hall and spacious lobbies. The Ordway aims to reflect the communities it serves and address barriers to ensure everyone can experience the power of the performing arts.


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