Ben Johnson Announces His Departure

November 30, 2012

November 30, 2012

Dear Northrop Friends and Colleagues,

I write to announce that I am departing the University of Minnesota as the Director of Northrop Concerts and Lectures as of January 1, 2013. I am excited to inform you that I have accepted a new position in Los Angeles as the Director of Programs for the United States Artists Foundation ( In this position, I will administer the prestigious USA Fellows program, which awards major $50,000 grants annually to 50 artists who work in film, theater, dance, music, design, visual arts, literature, and American craft. I will also be directly engaged with USA Projects, which is an online micro-philanthropy platform for artists to raise funds for the creation of new projects. I will be actively engaged in the LA art scene, as well as working on a national level in all 50 states. This opportunity to serve artists so directly, and at such a scale, is at the center of my greatest passions and career aspirations.

Naturally, the decision to depart Northrop was incredibly difficult, as this historic organization and program has been instrumental in my arts career. I will be eternally grateful to the committed and hardworking staff of Northrop for their tremendous skill, energy, and enthusiasm. In particular, I would like to thank Sally Dischinger, Sarah Thompson, Cari Hatcher, Justin Burke, Mike Damman, and Holly Radis-McCluskey for their passion and commitment to the arts. But everyone on the staff needs to be thanked profusely, and I have full confidence that they, along with Christine Tschida, the new Director of Northrop, will lead this organization into a tremendously successful grand reopening of Northrop in April 2014.

There are many people who need to be thanked and publicly acknowledged, and the first is Dale Schatzlein, former Director of Northrop Concerts and Lectures. Dale was the first person I ever met to find out “how to get a job in the arts,” and he gave me great advice as a young arts professional.

I also want to thank each of the following people who were my biggest advocates and supporters. I will be eternally grateful to Priscilla Pierce, Mira Akins, Sage Cowles, Emily Maltz, David and Desiree Abele, Judith Brin Ingber, Pamela Espeland, Cathie and Jerry Fischer, Regent Patricia Simmons, Ron Lotz and Randy Hartten, Rich Bonnin and Paul Kaminski, and Ellie Crosby. Your consistent and unfaltering support of a bigger vision for Northrop and the arts in Minneapolis will not be forgotten.

I want to thank my wonderful colleagues in the University and community that I have worked with over the years. In particular, I would like to thank Ann Waltner, Ananya Chatterjea, Jim Sheeley, Philip Bither, Michèle Steinwald, Kate Nordstrum, Jeff Hnilicka, Barry Kempton, Adrienne Dierks, Paige Ware, Dawn York, Kathleen Spehar, Tom Hoch, George Sutton, Carl Flink, Emilie Plauché Flink, Emily Johnson, George Sewell, Lise Houlton, Morgan Thorson, Karen Sherman, Kenna Cottman, Ranee Ramaswamy, Patrick Scully, Toni Pierce-Sands, Uri Sands, Gülgün Kayim, Minneapolis City Council Member Gary Schiff, Arlana Vaughn, Camille LeFevre, Consul Ana Luisa Fajer, Christina Bouzounia, Kristin Van Loon, and Laurie Van Wieren.

I would also like to thank the extraordinary support and leadership of our local funding institutions, most notably Sue Gens, Minnesota State Arts Board; David Fraher, Arts Midwest; Sharon DeMark, The Saint Paul Foundation; and Vicki Benson and Laura Zimmerman, The McKnight Foundation.

Lastly, I want to thank all of the wonderful and supportive lovers of dance, the Northrop patrons, the Friends of Northrop, the hundreds of artists and organizations who have crossed the Northrop stage, and the gifted artists and passionate administrators who reside in our state. Minneapolis is an extraordinary arts community, and I will always be indebted to your love of Northrop Dance. The list is too big to mention everyone, but you know who you are, so my final thanks is to the many wonderful choreographers, dance artists, writers, and historians who live in our community - Please don’t stop your extraordinary work! You are all witnesses and participants in this glorious golden age of dance in the Twin Cities.

As you can imagine, Northrop and Minnesota will continue to hold a special place in my heart, and I will be back often to visit friends and family and attend performances. I look forward to seeing you all again soon. It has truly been a wonderful pleasure to serve you all!

Sincerely yours,

Ben Johnson

A note from Northrop Director Christine Tschida

Ben Johnson has been an admired and trusted colleague for many years. His wonderful presenting skills, curatorial acumen, and vision for the new Northrop have inspired me as I have worked alongside him these past few months, and he has coached me as I’ve assumed my new role. Like you, I will miss him terribly. But I am grateful that he has been instrumental in laying so much of the groundwork for the grand reopening, the 2013-14 season, and many special projects in years to come. 

I understand that Ben’s new position, working directly with artists and providing them with resources and support, is a role that he is uniquely suited for, and an opportunity he simply could not pass up.

Ben’s legacy has been a great one at Northrop Concerts and Lectures, and, in the exciting seasons ahead, I know you will see his influence - and also his smiling face, in what I hope will be frequent visits!

I know, also, that you will join me in thanking him, and in wishing him the very best in his new position.