Donna Walker-Kuhne Biography
Acknowledged as the nation’s foremost expert on Audience Diversification by the Arts & Business Council, Donna Walker-Kuhne, an accomplished arts administrator and adult educator, has devoted her professional career to increasing the accessibility and connection to the arts by our Nation’s rapidly growing multicultural population. “I firmly believe that the arts are the only pure vehicle we have in today’s society that cross cultural and ethnic barriers and allow people to transcend their differences.”
Since 1984 Ms. Walker-Kuhne has been President of Walker International Communications Group. She conducts seminars and workshops while providing marketing consultation services to arts organizations, performing and visual artists, dance companies, Broadway and off Broadway productions, and non-profit groups. Among her clients are major multicultural performing arts organizations including, The Romare Bearden Foundation, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Baby It’s You ,Stick Fly the Broadway production of THURGOOD starring Laurence Fishburne, , August Wilson’s Radio Golf, Carribbean Cultural Center, The Apollo Theater, The Sphinx Organization, Sony/BMG Music, WNYC Radio, the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities, and Dance USA. She was recently an Associate Producer for the critically acclaimed production of George C. Wolfe’s Harlem Song at the world-famous Apollo Theater. She was honored in 1998 as the first American invited by the National Arts Council of Singapore to teach a week-long marketing workshop.
In 2003 she was the first American invited by the Australian Council on the Arts to do a three-city lecturing tour on the topic: Ethnic Diversity for Arts Organizations. She was invited back in 2007 for a six-city lecturing tour on the same topic. In 2004 she was honored with the Pioneering Women in Theater award by the Black Public Relations Society of Greater New York , proclamation from the Manhattan Borough President, C. Virginia Fields, City Council Citation from Brooklyn Council member Yvette Clarke and Certificate of Recognition from 11th Congressional District, Brooklyn from Member of Congress, Major R. Owens.
In 2009 and 2010, Walker International Communications Group, Inc was awarded grants from the Theater Subdistrict Council to implement projects to diversify Broadway. Impact Broadway is a socially and technology driven audience development initiative serving 300 African American and Latino students throughout the 5 boroughs of New York City. These students have participated in Broadway productions, social networking and participation in seminars and lectures.
Walker International Communications Group has expanded its expertise into real estate development and Ms. Walker-Kuhne was recently Media Director for The Lenox a luxury condominium in Harlem. In fall of 2008, Ms. Walker-Kuhne was appointed Publicist targeting the African American community for the release of George C. Wolfe’s film, Nights in Rodanthe starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane. She also provided media support for the opening and closing ceremonies of The Middle East International Film Festival.
From 1993 through 2002, Ms. Walker-Kuhne served as the Director of Marketing and Audience Development for the New York Shakespeare Festival/Joseph Papp Public Theater located in New York City (The Public Theater). She originated a range of audience development activities that positively affected thousands of children, students, and adults in multicultural communities through the five boroughs of New York City. Her successful outreach programs include “Conversations with…” intimate Sunday afternoon panel discussions with actors, writers, directors and community activists; “The Public Theater’s Annual Open House,” and the “All-Borough Ticket Distribution for Shakespeare in Central Park.” Her work to reach New York City public school students includes a successful group ticket sales program that has enabled over 8000 students to attend performances in The Public Theater, and she received several grants that have funded projects bringing Shakespeare to public schools via specially designed workshops and performances. Through all these endeavors, she met her local objectives of embracing an ever new and expanding family of audience members. These cultivation efforts not only targeted audiences by ethnicity or nationality, they include all non-attendees—thereby creating “a true common ground where people of all histories and backgrounds can join together in appreciation and respect for the arts and each other.”
Donna Walker-Kuhne has completed a national, 32-city tour of Bring in ’da noise, Bring in ‘da Funk as the Public Theater’s National Coordinator for Community Outreach. She effectively increased audiences across the country by more than 20% with her community-based marketing campaigns in over 25 urban markets. During the tour she developed ”Bring in ‘da Kids,” an innovative outreach and educational project that increased attendance by 20,000 children and also involved 33,000 students in a variety of related programs. By increasing the show’s staff with new African American members, a more committed effort was put forth by the company. Also, aided by this simple, yet fundamental staffing increase was a permanent point of entry for communities and a cultural aura around all marketing and promotional efforts.
Prior to her position at The Public, Donna Walker-Kuhne was the Director of Marketing for The Dance Theatre of Harlem (1984-93) where she created and implemented the highly successful public relations and marketing campaign for their unprecedented tour of Johannesburg, South Africa (1992), and also all marketing and audience development for the Company’s tour in Cairo Egypt.
Other Professional Endeavors:
While with the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Ms. Walker-Kuhne increased box office sales by a remarkable 45% using innovative marketing campaigns and audience development techniques. To aid in this endeavor, she originated and guided the Dance Theatre’s “National Audience Development Task Force.” Then during 1992, her skill in marketing significantly contributed to a successful New York season at Lincoln Center and Brooklyn’s Academy of Music. Ms. Walker-Kuhne’s entry into professional arts administration was for the Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center in Brooklyn, NY, as their Managing Director.
Interestingly, her career began as an Assistant Corporation Council for State of New York while she danced professionally on a part-time basis with the Najwa Dance Corps. She credits her law background for her uncanny ability to carry innovative programs to successful outcomes. Ms. Walker-Kuhne received her Juris Doctor from Howard University School of Law, Washington D.C., and Bachelor of Art Degree from Loyola University in Chicago.
Ms. Walker-Kuhne is an Adjunct Professor instructing in Marketing the Arts at Brooklyn College, Columbia University, and New York University. She has been nominated for the Ford Foundation’s “2001 Leadership for a Changing World Fellowship,” to expand funding for an intensive certificate program she developed and offered at Fordham University entitled, “Arts Marketing and Program Development for Multicultural Arts Administrators.”
She is a keynote speaker for numerous national organizations including Dance USA, Theatre Communications Group, Coming Up Taller Leadership Conference, Grants Makers in the Arts, The Wallace Foundation Convening and the Arts and Business Council. She has presented her strategies at Harvard University, Yale University, University of Berlin, California Arts Presenters and the Canada Council for the Arts. Ms. Walker-Kuhne conducts staff development diversity workshops for theater, dance and arts administration programs. She was the 2009 Commencement Speaker for Watkins College of Art and Design.
Authorship and Recognition:
In the summer of 2005, Ms. Walker-Kuhne’s first book, Invitation to the Party: Building Bridges to Arts, Culture and Community was published. It has become a top-selling, invaluable resource for today’s non-profit arts’ marketer, producer and student.
She was awarded one of the 2002 Dynamic Women Awards by Councilman Nick Perry in Brooklyn, New York and received the 3Graces Theater Company Amazing Grace 2007 Award. In 2008, she was the recipient of The Network Journal’s as one of the 25 Influential Black Women in Business, the Outstanding Pioneer Award from the 35th Annual Vivian Robinson AUDELCO Recognition Award , Brooklyn College Managers for the Arts Salute Award and the 2011 Vanguard Award. She is also a recipient of the SGI-USA Liberty Award. She has received many other impressive acknowledgments, and also devotes time to sitting on committees and boards involved in the arts and culture including The Theater at Riverside Church, the Brooklyn Arts Council, The International Theater and Literacy Project and Dance USA. She is vice-chair of The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Arts, Culture and Entertainment Committee and is co-chair of the Spence-Chapin African American Parents Advisory Committee. Ms. Walker-Kuhne is a volunteer with the SGI-USA, a world wide peace organization serving as Vice Director for New York and a licensed Minister of Ceremonies for New York State.
Donna Walker-Kuhne utilizes her passion to see the arts flourish within our modern society. With her combined work of institutional marketing and her company, WICG, she has raised over $13 million in earned income promoting the arts to multicultural communities. She ensures the artistic visions of arts organizations are experienced by the artists and multicultural community, thus, increasing the growth of a diverse audience for the 21st century.