G. Wayne Clough
Secretary, Smithsonian Institution
Management 2.0: The former civil engineer and head of Georgia Tech took over after a firestorm of criticism over his predecessor’s management style and spending habits. Modern History: Clough has overseen the placement of the entire 137 million-object collection online, and enlisted video gaming experts to collaborate with curators.
General Director, Washington National Opera
Met our Match: The famed tenor can do no wrong, whether he is singing or directing for a company that has achieved world-class status since he took the helm in 1996. Less is More: Recession era budget cuts have mandated less lavish costumes and sets, along with the November postponement of the much-anticipated Ring cycle.
Artistic Director, The Shakespeare Theatre Company
The Bard of DC: The erudite director/teacher has created a world-class theater for Shakespearean and other classical works, often featuring Kevin Spacey, Dame Judi Dench and other serious stars. Standing Ovation: In the past year, Kahn directed Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, Congreve’s Way of the World and Noël Coward’s Design for Living, and scored a coup by snaring Helen Mirren to star in a production of Phaedre.
President, Kennedy Center
Artmeister: An impresario in every sense, Kaiser never fails to uphold the Kennedy Center’s reputation as a major national venue for music, theater, and dance. Busy Year: A cultural ambassador for the State Department, Kaiser put on the country’s first major Arab cultural festival, revived “Ragtime,” and simultaneously published a book and launched “Arts in Crisis” to help arts organizations.
Music critic, The Washington Post
Critical Eye: The former New York Times writer has attracted attention for her influential, opinionated, and occasionally controversial coverage of the classical music scene. Expansive Scope: Midgette wins plaudits for fresh style, trying to educate less erudite readers, and for reviewing smaller groups, not just biggies like the Washington National Opera. (She thinks Placido Domingo is overextended).
Earl A. “Rusty” Powell, III
Director, National Gallery of Art
The Showman: Only the fourth director in the gallery’s 72-year history, Powell has presided over his fair share of acquisitions and exhibitions – blockbuster and otherwise – since his arrival in 1992. Working On: Rehabilitating the gallery’s infrastructure, reinstalling the permanent collections, redoing the web site, and continuing to target new donors is an art in itself.
Roger and Victoria Sant
Co-Founder, AES Corp.; Chairman, National Gallery of Art (respectively)
Name Recognition: Examples of this couple’s generosity dot the city; most notably the Smithsonian Natural History Museum’s spectacular, 23,000 sq. ft. Sant Ocean Hall. Great Minds: A former power company exec, in April 2009 Roger joined the board of Powerspan, a clean coal tech venture whose investors include George Soros.
Artistic Director, Signature Theatre
Acting up: Theater lovers gladly drive to the wilds of downtown Shirlington for a Signature fix that often competes with the best offerings in the metropolitan area, the Kennedy Center included. Recent Kudos for: Audaciously re-staged revivals of works by Stephen Sondheim and a dramatically downsized version of Les Miserables that earned multiple awards at this year’s Helen Hayes Awards.
George and Trish Vradenburg
President, The Vradenburg Foundation, and author/playwright (respectively)
Different Strokes: The former AOL exec and consummate insider has breathed new life into The Phillips Collection, but he’s equally at home in high-level Middle East strategy sessions with the likes of Madeleine Albright and Vin Weber. Multi-Media: The couple publishes a well-respected progressive Jewish monthly arts and culture magazine, Tikkun; editor Michael Lerner is Trish’s brother.
Artistic Director, The Washington Ballet
En Pointe: D.C.’s top dance man has made his mark after 15 years at the helm by focusing on the company’s signature mix of classic and modern works (many his own creations or collaborations with other choreographers). Next Step: Webre continues to expand the subscriber base, hire increasingly better dancers, and experiment with a program that is often brilliant and irrepressibly “Webre.”