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Donald Driver Named First Cultural Ambassador Of Milwaukee's Marcus Performing Arts Center

Courtesy of Donald Driver
Donald Driver was named the first cultural ambassador of the Marcus Performing Arts Center in June 2021. The four-year partnership aims to make the performing arts more accessible to underserved youth, families and communities of color throughout southeastern Wisconsin.

Donald Driver is known and loved for many things here in Wisconsin — perhaps most notably for being the Green Bay Packers' all-time leading receiver and a Hall of Famer. But Driver has done a lot of philanthropic and community work since stepping off the football field, and his newest title is cultural ambassador for the Marcus Performing Arts Center (MPAC) in Milwaukee.

Driver is the first cultural ambassador in the organization’s history. The four-year partnership aims to promote the power of the arts, culture and community engagement by making the performing arts more accessible to underserved people throughout southeastern Wisconsin.

This new position was developed in part out of MPAC's REDI Action Plan, which aims to create a more racially representative and equitable culture on and off the stage.

READ: Marcus Center Sets Goals To Bring More Diversity To The Theater

"You know I've always said I wanted to see change," says Driver, "and the Marcus Performing Arts have allowed me to be the voice and the face of that change."

"We want to see more African Americans, Latinos and brown people in the seats in the Marcus Performing Arts Center. As we all know, the culture of that performance center has been stagnant for a very long time, and we know that there’s a kid that lives right down the street ... that wants to one day walk in those doors, and we’re going to try and give them the opportunity to do that," he adds.

Even with being ingrained in Wisconsin for 21 years, Driver admits the first time he stepped foot into the center was to meet with MPAC CEO and President Kendra Whitlock Ingram about this position.

Driver says, "I've been down to Milwaukee millions and millions of times, just never have felt the need to walk in there. And after our initial conversation, I felt that it was a time to see something a little bit different than what has always been. I’m a huge Broadway guy, I felt like I was always welcome in New York, but I always said, 'Why not be welcome in your own backyard?'"

"I’m a huge Broadway guy, I felt like I was always welcome in New York, but I always said, 'Why not be welcome in your own backyard?'"
Donald Driver

Driver says he was drawn to Whitlock Ingram's motivation to create change. "I saw her heart, I saw her passion. I called her and said, 'We have to talk,'" he recalls.

Initially, Driver's involvement with the organization was going to be as a member of the board but they realized it needed to be bigger than that.

"I was willing to accept the challenge because this is what I want to see. I think every kid, every adult should have the opportunity to experience something that they've never experienced before and we're going to be able to do that," Driver says.

Throughout this partnership, Driver will work with MPAC to create connections between the performing arts and the community through educational content developed with artists during the Marcus Center Presents season. This will include a residency with Hiplet dance company to exchange ideas on dance, community, athleticism and breaking down stereotypes in dance.

Future seasons will include more artist collaborations and a co-commission of a new First Stage play based on Driver's Quickie children's books series.

Driver admits that this position is brand new, so it will take some time to shape the model and the mission they want to accomplish. But he's confident it will make positive changes in the community and let everyone know they're welcome.

"It's going to be some unique things that I get to do that I've never done before, but I think it's going to allow other people to see that if Donald Driver can do this, than I can do it too," says Driver.

Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.
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