These 12 Individuals Lead the Way in Westchester’s Arts Scene

ArtsWestchester Gallery | Photo by John Vecchiolla

Many believe the soul of a community lies in the role that art plays within its culture. In Westchester, these 12 people are doing all they can to make sure it’s a starring role.

Ian Driver

Ian Driver
Photo by Trevor Burch

Education Director, Performing Arts Center at Purchase College

As education director, Ian Driver has been called “a visionary educator and arts administrator, devising and implementing programs that release the creative spirit.” Driver manages the arts and education programs for the large performing-arts venue at Purchase College, including administering residency programs; overseeing professional development for teachers and teaching artists; developing grant opportunities; working on fundraising, marketing, and development; and overseeing paid staff, interns, volunteers, and teaching artists.

Janet Langsam

Janet Langsam
Photo courtesy of ArtsWestchester

CEO, ArtsWestchester

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ArtsWestchester, which supports nearly all of the arts in Westchester County both financially and promotion-ally, is headed by CEO Janet Langsam. She has spent 23 years at the organization and has helped it grow from a $1 million to a $4.5 million agency that strives to make the arts more visible, diverse, and accessible for all. Langsam led the purchase and renovation of an abandoned nine-story historical bank building in Downtown White Plains, as well as a major rebranding of the organization. She was named one of 914INC’s Most Influential Women of Westchester in 2012.

Mary Jo Ziesel

Mary Jo Ziesel
Photo by Lynda Shenkman

Executive Director Jacob Burns Film Center

Mary Jo Ziesel assumed the role of executive director of the Jacob Burns Film Center on September 7, 2021. She joined JBFC after two decades of leadership at American Ballet Theatre (ABT), where she developed a $7 million innovation center that serves more than 20,000 students. Ziesel helped launch summer intensive programs, the ABT National Training Curriculum, the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and William J. Gillespie Schools, a national network of ABT Certified Schools, and an ABT/NYU master’s degree. She also championed diversity, equity, and inclusion at ABT.

Kathleen Davisson

Kathleen Davisson
Photo courtesy of WPPAC

General Manager, White Plains Performing Arts Center

As general manager of WPPAC, Kathleen Davisson handles the day-today operations of the theater, focusing on client services, event production, security, maintenance, and housekeeping. She handles contracts, manages the front of the house during events, develops relationships with area organizations, and supervises all house staff. Davisson has been with WPPAC since 2003, holding positions as house manager, event manager, and in marketing and communications.

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Masha Turchinsky

Masha Turchinsky
Photo by Toshi Tasaki

Director, Hudson River Museum

An art museum veteran with more than 20 years’ experience leading cultural institutions, Masha Turchinsky became director of the Hudson River Museum in January 2017. Under her leadership, the museum earned the 2017 Excellence in Public Programs by the Greater Hudson Heritage Network. She is now leading the museum’s West Wing strategic capital improvement project, which broke ground in fall 2020. The project includes dedicated special-exhibition galleries, a sculpture court, a 100-seat tiered auditorium, more art storage space, and a climate-control system.

Tracy Fitzpatrick

Tracy Fitzpatrick
Photo by Stefan Radtke

Director, Neuberger Museum of Art

Tracy Fitzpatrick, the director of the Neuberger Museum of Art since 2014, is an associate professor of art history in the School of Humanities at Purchase College. Fitzpatrick has written, curated, and taught widely on American art of the 20th century. She is responsible for numerous exhibition catalogs and books, including the museum’s first in-depth study of the Roy R. Neuberger collection, When Modern Was Contemporary: The Roy R. Neuberger Collection, an exhibition of 50 works by Milton Avery, Willem de Kooning, Alexander Calder, and others.

Marc & Livia Straus

Marc Straus, arts scene
Marc Straus | Photo courtesy of HVMOCA
Livia Straus, arts scene
Livia Straus | Photo courtesy of HVMOCA

Founders, Hudson Valley MOCA

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Formerly known as the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, Hudson Valley MOCA was founded by Marc and Livia Straus in 2004. Marc, a poet and oncologist, and Livia, professor emeritus at The Academy for Jewish Religion and former adjunct professor of theology at Fordham University, have been collecting contemporary art since age 20. Considered to be among the top art collectors in the U.S., the Strauses have seen their collection showcased in no fewer than 11 museum exhibitions.

Edward J. Lewis III

Edward J. Lewis III, arts scene
Photo by Ken Gabrielsen

President & CEO Caramoor Center for the Arts

Edward J. Lewis III has almost two decades of experience in performing-arts leadership. A violist and founding member of Baltimore’s Soulful Symphony, as well as a former member of the Dallas Opera Orchestra, Dallas Chamber Orchestra, Santa Fe Pro Musica, Sphinx Symphony, and Toledo Symphony, Lewis is working to diversify Caramoor’s programming to include everything from classical to contemporary, world, folk, and jazz. He is taking the helm after Caramoor’s successful Inspire capital campaign, which raised more than $40 million, quadrupling its endowment and allowing for major investments in the 80-acre estate.

Bjorn Olsson

Bjorn Olsson, arts scene
Photo courtesy of Tarrytown Music Hall

Director, Tarrytown Music Hall

Olsson became the first director of the modern-era Music Hall in January 2003. A professional singer and actor in his native Sweden, as well as in Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, and the U.S., he and his wife, Karina, began volunteering at the Music Hall in the early 2000s. Since becoming director, he increased the operating budget more than twentyfold. Olsson is in charge of day-to-day operations and is leading restoration efforts of the 1885 Music Hall, which hosts more than 200 events and 95,000 visitors each year.

George De Feis

George De Feis, arts scene
Photo courtesy of George De Feis

General Manager Paramount Hudson Valley Theater

Paramount Hudson Valley Arts provides diverse performing arts and arts-in-education, including art enrichment, music master classes, play performance, and charitable events at the Paramount Hudson Valley Theater. George De Feis’ vision for the Paramount Hudson Valley Theater is to create a hub for all the arts in the Hudson Valley with programming for a diverse community. As GM, De Feis supervises about two dozen employees for the $2.4 million organization.

Bruce Wheeler

Bruce Wheeler, arts scene
Photo by Geoffrey Tischman Photography

General Manager The Capitol Theatre

Bruce Wheeler became GM of the Cap, which hosts 120 events a year on average, in August 2019, after serving as director of production for two years before that. A 30-year music industry veteran, he previously worked as general manager of Central Park Summerstage; as an independent production manager for Regina Spektor, Cage the Elephant, and Jimmy Fallon; and with record labels. Wheeler is responsible for all aspects of production and management for the theater, including its “Family Tile” program, which allows fans to support the venue and renovate the entrance.

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