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Welcome John Robinson — New Meany Center Advisory Board President

October 3, 2021

John Robinson is a semi-retired investor and managing partner of a private equity limited partnership. He still dedicates himself to building wealth — in particular specializing in managing and building a wealth of opportunities for numerous arts and culture organizations in our region’s diverse and thriving arts ecosystem.

“I’ve been active in the arts world as an advocate, performer, supporter and audience member for as long as I can remember,” John says. “One of my friends calls me an ‘arts instigator.’”

“Active” might be an understatement where John is concerned. “I attend as many performances as will possibly fit on my calendar,” he says, and that might be an understatement.

As a child he trained as a classical pianist before branching out to performing on percussion, guitar, mandolin and even Indonesian Gamelan. His interest in the arts doesn’t stop at music, however — he is also an avid supporter and fan of contemporary dance, live theater, film production and avant-garde performance. 

Over the years he has served on many non-profit boards and for many arts projects and productions including (but not limited to): Emerald City Music, Seattle Chamber Music Society, On the Boards, Washington Ensemble Theatre, Base Experimental Arts Center, Zoe|Juniper — and these are just some of the Seattle-based organizations he supports. John is also involved in projects as far-flung as New York, Hawaii, Los Angeles and Vancouver, B.C.

This year he adds President of the Meany Center Advisory Board to the list. John joined the board in 2017 and has been serving as treasurer since 2020. “I was caught by surprise when asked to be president,” he says.

But maybe he shouldn’t have been. After all, John’s relationship to Meany goes back decades to the early 1990s, when he first arrived in Seattle. He and his wife Maya Sonenberg (author and professor in the UW Department of English) immediately began subscribing to Meany. “We wanted to see everything,” he remembers. “Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, Bill T. Jones, Tuvan throat singers, the Kronos Quartet…” One of the performances that stands out in his mind was seeing modern dance icon Merce Cunningham — well into his eighties — still dancing with his company on the Meany stage.

So what are some of his goals that he and the Meany Advisory Board will be working towards this year?

First and foremost, he says, “Every UW student should know what happens here at Meany and want to attend our performances and use our spaces.” He wants to see Meany develop a larger presence on campus, on UW social media and across academic departments, not just the performing arts units.

“I would love to have a video streaming sign outside Meany Hall announcing upcoming events and performances,” he says, “so that students and everyone walking by know what is happening inside this building.”

He hopes to encourage outreach and accessibility to our community partners as well, especially those serving under-represented communities on and off campus, by offering better, easier access to performances and spaces, and by increasing opportunities for visiting artists to connect with local artists and community members.

To that end, he sees increasing board diversity and inclusiveness, and expanding our partnerships with both local and national presenting arts organizations as key to Meany’s future success. 

John steps into his new position on the Meany board at a precarious time for the world at large, and the arts in particular. He knows how fortunate we have been over the past 19 months to have such loyal and committed supporters — which is why one of his priorities is to make sure we continue Meany’s tradition of encouraging our donors’ connection to and participation in live performing arts on our stage and in our community.

We have no doubt you’ll be seeing John at a Meany performance (or, more likely, all of them!) this year. Be sure to say hello and ask what he’s instigating now.