Ever wondered who the man in the Panama hat is? You have come to shows, you have heard his voice and seen him dance. Now learn a bit more about, Michael Alexander, Grand Performances Executive Director Emeritus. This year Michael has been showered with recognitions and last week he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Western Arts Alliance (WAA). Please read the remarks by Tim Wilson (Executive Director, WAA) and understand why Michael has become so valued, a true treasure, for the entire arts community.

The Distinguished Service Award Celebrates the very best of Western Arts Alliance. It honors leadership that embodies the core values of our community: dedication, integrity, vision, passion, service, and friendship. Because it recognizes extraordinary achievement, the Distinguish Service Award is bestowed only rarely. Today, is one of those precious occasions.

“It is my honor and privilege to present the Distinguished Service Award to my friend and colleague Michael Alexander.

For me personally, there are a handful of folks that personify Western Arts Alliance. I want to share a little about why Michael is one of those people for me.

Michael is a pioneer. I don’t mean a colonist, or a settler, but a pioneer, as in someone who helps to open up a new path. Michael’s path was a bit circuitous. Biographies of Michael begin with his work at Aman Folk Ensemble. But by surfing–not the DARK WEB–but the twilight web, I was able to learn that Michael’s first professional work as a performer was as a clown for the City of Los Angeles’ Traveling Circus.

It was only after working as an itinerant clown that his career caught fire…when he joined Aman Folk Ensemble as a dancer in 1965. By 1969, Michael was managing the ensemble while the company was at the peak of their artistic and touring success. Michael produced Aman’s first Dorothy Chandler Pavilion performance, their New York debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and tours across the region including Alaska.

By 1982, Michael was company manager of San Francisco ballet. In 1988, Michael was hired as Performing Arts Director for the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs. It was in this capacity that he learned of California Plaza’s obligation to create a performing arts series in the public space. In 1990 he was hired as the Artistic Director of what would ultimately become Grand Performances. And the rest, as they say is Michael’s incredible history, and our good fortune.

Michal is an advocate. Out of necessity, but nurtured by skill, temperament, energy, and connections, Michael became one of California’s and the West’s most important and effective arts advocates. He immersed himself in the intricacies of legislative process, appropriations bills, live-work laws, and public policy, to become a go-to advocate, not just for touring and presenting but for all the arts. This leadership eventually led to him serving on and then chairing the California Arts Council.

Michael is a guiding conscience of our community. Long before DEI was an acronym, Michael was creating access and engagement for culturally-specific artists and audiences. He has been instrumental in the launching of festivals for Deaf Arts, Black choreographers, Filipino arts, and more. Under Michael’s leadership, Grand Performances has the most diverse audiences of any presenting organization in the country. For Michael, access to the arts is a right and not a privilege. Integrity. Conscience. Commitment.

Finally, Michael is our treasured friend. Like any good friend, he is always eager to lend a hand, to offer encouragement, ask about a spouse, or tell a joke. Michael is generous, loyal, steadfast, supportive, funny and warm.

Like I said. The very best of WAA. Ladies and Gentlemen, Michael Alexander, recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Service Award.” – Tim Wilson, Executive Director, WAA


A ticket is required for this event.


Cover Photo: Executive Director, WAA, Tim Wilson (left) Executive Director Emeritus, Michael Alexander (right)