Janice Sinden: 'We are going to take arts and culture to the next level'

DCPA CEO Janice Sinden

Photos from Janice Sinden’s introduction as the DCPA’s new President and CEO. Here she is flanked by DCPA Chairman Daniel L. Ritchie, left, and Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock at Tuesday’s press conference. To see more images, click the ‘forward’ arrow on the image above.’ Photos by John Moore for the DCPA’s NewsCenter.

New DCPA President and CEO Janice Sinden is a quintessential Coloradan who hikes, skis and recently took in the Michael Franti concert at Red Rocks. She lives in Evergreen and often can be found hiking Bergen Peak. She recently scaled Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, an experience she said was “one of the most important things I have ever done for myself.”

Sinden was born in Steamboat Springs, where her father, Roger Sinden, ran the town’s first Grade-A dairy farm. When the family moved to Wellington, her father worked for a Northern Colorado water conservancy district. Her mother’s family owns many dryland farms in northeastern Colorado that are “spread out from Brighton to Yuma and everywhere in between,” she said.

Janice Sinden quote Sinden grew up playing the piano and attending the theatre with her mother, Arleen Brown, as often as possible. Sinden remembers seeing a production of Annie Get Your Gun at Fort Collins’ Lincoln Center that turned her into a theatre-lover for life. Brown remembers having to force her single-minded daughter to leave the piano and come to dinner “or else she would never eat,” she said.

“We didn’t have a lot of money,” Sinden said. “But my mother was always exposing us to theatre, and that was a wonderful part of growing up. My mother made sure I could play the piano and swim – and I am grateful for both.”

Brown says her daughter announced her candidacy for the presidency way back in the fifth grade. Sinden officially attained that goal on Tuesday, when Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock’s Chief of Staff was chosen to lead the largest non-profit theatre in the nation.

“But she was talking about THE presidency,” Brown clarified. You know … of the United States?

First things first.

Sinden loves live theatre, she said, because “it presents us with an opportunity to tackle a whole lot of issues and experiences we are facing as a community in a way you can’t get from television or film.”

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

Sinden graduated from Rocky Mountain High School and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley before completing the Executives in State and Local Government program at the Harvard Kennedy School.
 She attends theatre and other arts performances as often as time allows. She loves to experience theatre with her 5-year-old nephew, who still talks about seeing The Lion King here.

Most recently, she frequented the DCPA Theatre Company’s DeVotchKa-infused production of Sweeney Todd, and her response offers some insight into what kind of programming might most appeal to her at the DCPA.

“I loved Sweeney Todd because was risky,” she said. “And that’s exciting, because theatre should be risky. If we weren’t willing to take risks, we’d just show Cats over and over again. This organization is clearly progressive.

Janice Sinden enjoys her big moment on Tuesday, when her appointment as new DCPA CEO was announced. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

The DCPA employs up to 1,000 full-and part-time artisans and administrators each year to produce Tony Award-winning plays and present Broadway’s best musicals. John Ekeberg and Kent Thompson, the executives who lead DCPA’s artistic programming, are two of the most respected in the industry and will remain in their central roles. Sinden’s job, she said, is to be a connector, a facilitator, a fundraiser and – as she puts it – to be one of the organization’s vital organs.

“It takes an experienced chief executive to effectively, efficiently and expertly manage a $55 million a year business,” said DCPA Chief Marketing Officer Jennifer Nealson. “But more important, it requires an individual who is attuned with the needs, values and changes in our community so that the DCPA remains relevant and critical in our cultural landscape. The Board could not have found anyone better suited to take the DCPA forward to meet the ever-changing demands of our ever-changing community.”

Sinden has served as the mayor’s Chief of Staff since 2011. And Hancock teased Ritchie and his DCPA colleagues on Tuesday for luring Sinden away.
“I once counted you all as good friends,” Hancock joked. “Once. But you have selected the very best person for this job.”

Sinden, 44, oversaw 26 city departments with more than 11,000 employees and a budget of more than $1.5 billion. Before that, she ran Colorado Concern, an alliance of more than 100 of Colorado top business executives. Sinden has been a valuable political ally to Hancock and businesses in Colorado. As a registered Republican, she formerly worked in Washington, D.C., for Sen. Wayne Allard. Sinden describes herself as a “politically ambidextrous person who votes on issues, not people.

“Senator Allard was a rural, conservative Republican, and now I’ve worked for a black, urban Democrat who’s pretty progressive, so my political pendulum has swung in both directions,” said Sinden, who was appointed by two governors to serve as a member of the Colorado Council on the Arts (now known as Colorado Creative industries).

Hancock barely knew Sinden when he became mayor five years ago, but he now counts Sinden as both a friend and a partner he could go into the foxhole with. “Who would have thought this young lady from rural Colorado – a Republican – would join this moderate Democrat from the state’s capital and form a team that would not only bind us through the challenges and opportunities of this great city, but also would form a friendship where we would laugh till we busted a gut together?”

While the DCPA fielded inquiries for the CEO position from around the globe, Ritchie said Sinden’s intimate knowledge of Colorado and its most powerful business leaders will uniquely situate her to succeed.

“Denver is not like New York or Boston or L.A.,” Ritchie said. “Janice doesn’t need to learn the culture here – she is already part of it.

“Frankly, we were blown away by the number of immensely qualified leaders who wanted this job. But after careful consideration, we couldn’t find anybody better suited than Janice Sinden.”

Tuesday’s press conference drew Denver Police Chief Ronald White, Denver Sheriff Patrick Firman and dozens of city and DCPA staffers. “I am surrounded by love, said Sinden, who thanked her mother, Ritchie, Hancock and the entire city team. “You have moved me beyond words,” said Sinden.

Hancock offered the staff of the DCPA a personal sense of what they are getting in Sinden, calling her a hard worker and loyal team player.

“She is going to be the most nurturing, maternal leader you have ever had,” Hancock said, with a warning: “She never sleeps – So don’t expect that you will either. She is everywhere – so try to keep up. She has an insatiable appetite for the details. So come prepared.”

For her part, Sinden told the gathered crowd: “We are going to take arts and culture to the next level. We are going to get it into every kiddo’s head that they can be whatever they want to be. Innovation and creativity are what drive our children to be successful, amazing adults.”

Some material in this report was taken from a Denver Post story by John Wenzel.

John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.

Janice Sinden listens to comments from Mayor Michael B. Hancock. Photo by John Moore.
Janice Sinden listens to comments from her former boss, Mayor Michael B. Hancock. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.