Pamela Tatge, an experienced performing arts leader with deep academic roots, has been named the executive director of Jacob’s Pillow, a National Historic Landmark in Western Massachusetts that hosts the country’s longest-running international dance festival.
Tatge, 53, who currently serves as director of Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts, replaces longtime Pillow executive and artistic director Ella Baff, who announced she was leaving the organization last summer. Tatge will begin her new position this April, two months before the Pillow commences its 84th festival season. She will have the same responsibilities as Baff, including artistic programming and initiatives.
“I can’t wait,” said Tatge. “It’s a big moment in my life. I’ve had an incredibly wonderful run at Wesleyan, but it’s going to be great to be in this new setting with this incredible organization.”
At Wesleyan, Tatge oversaw programming across a broad array of art forms, including dance, theater, and the visual arts. During her 16 years at the school, she organized cross-disciplinary programs using the arts to explore issues such as the environment. She spearheaded the creation of a community arts center aimed at neighborhood revitalization, and she enhanced the school’s contemporary dance program, including a performance series that presents innovative companies from the US and abroad.
“I have a track record in terms of thinking about dance across disciplines and integrating dance into non-arts areas of our campus,” said Tatge. “I’m really intrigued by taking that cross-disciplinary work into a community that is outside a college campus.”
Mark A. Leavitt, chair of the Pillow’s board of directors, said Tatge’s academic and cross-disciplinary experience wielded a lot of influence in the board’s unanimous decision to offer her the job.
“She had done a lot of collaborations with different disciplines within Wesleyan that effectively expanded the audience for people interested in visual arts, and performing arts, and the dance area,” said Leavitt, who added that the international search at one point included as many as 50 “serious” candidates. “She’s very creative about using education and collaboration as a way to expand and attract new audiences, which had real appeal for us.”
Leavitt added that while the Pillow, which was awarded a National Medal of Arts in 2011, is on sound financial footing with an expanding membership, there’s always room for improvement.
“That’s a challenge for all arts organizations: How do you broaden your audience? How do you attract a younger audience?” he asked. “We think her background is perfect for doing that.”
Tatge, who praised the board’s “edge of their seat” dedication to dance, said she was interested in expanding the organization’s educational programs. She added, however, that one of her most important responsibilities will be to bring exciting and important choreographers — as well as identifying emerging talents — to present their work at the festival.
“To keep that very important edge of Jacob’s Pillow going is a very big part of my charge,” said Tatge. “I’m very interested and intent on serving the artists and giving choreographers enough residency time to develop their work.”
Describing Jacob’s Pillow as “legendary” in the history of dance, Tatge added that she had no reservations about accepting the job.
“The minute I understood the scope and the potential impact this job and this person can have on the field of dance, it was something I really wanted,” she said. “It was not a difficult decision.”