Two managing directors of Glendale Arts, the nonprofit organization that has managed the iconic Alex Theatre for years, were promoted to high-level executive roles this month and together will lead the group, starting Aug. 1.
Nina Crowe, who presently handles fundraising and special events, will be chief executive officer, while Maria Sahakian, who manages bookings, marketing and messaging for the theater, will be chief operating officer. The Glendale Arts Board of Directors unanimously approved the promotions.
It was with a different sort of fanfare that the Alex Theatre celebrated its 95th birthday this year. There was no party, per se, no gala or soiree complete with the latest in ballroom fashion, trays of wine or special performances in the historic theater. In fact, since March, there’s been little-to-no action in one of the Jewel City’s greatest, well, jewels in its collection. Save, of course, for the virtual telethon that served as the marathon birthday party for the venue, where its operating body served up $100,000 in donations to help the landmark soldier through the trials and tribulations of the coronavirus pandemic. While historic theaters throughout the nation, including elsewhere in Los Angeles County, face an uncertain future, the venerable Alex is already planning its centennial birthday five years ahead of schedule. “Since COVID,” explained Elissa Glickman, executive director of Glendale Arts and, therefore, the Alex Theatre, “obviously we haven’t been able to do live performances and our effort has been focused on, how do we maintain our staff, maintain our 95-year-old building and how do we remain relevant?” On top of the six-figure fundraiser from the birthday telethon, Glendale Arts has continued to otherwise seek prominent donations and funding. Federal coronavirus assistance and the Small Business Administration provided early loans and grants to help keep staff paid. In terms of relevance, the organization has endeavored to support its artists by launching an artist assistance program. “We significantly ramped up our fundraising efforts,” Glickman said. These efforts position Glendale Arts with the tools that will be necessary if they want to successfully pivot the Alex Theatre’s operations in the post-COVID era.
The heat was on at the Alex Theatre on Saturday, when the venue’s nonprofit management company Glendale Arts surpassed its $95,000 fundraising goal in honor of its 95th birthday milestone, which was celebrated with a 12-hour program presented in a telethon format and livestreamed and telecast on multiple platforms. At the close of the Alex95 event, $98,339 had been raised for the preservation of the city-owned Alex Theatre and the programs and services offered by Glendale Arts, with donations continuing to come in from supporters. The performing arts and entertainment center has reduced its staff since the mandated lockdown took effect in March, but it remains committed to its mission of bringing the community together through the arts and entertainment while continuing to maintain the historic building. Alex95 hosts journalist Palmira Perez-Najarian, former NBC4 weathercaster Fritz Coleman, and comedians Alonzo Bodden, Mary Basmadjian, Matt Kirshen and Michael Rayner entertained viewers throughout the program, sharing the wonder and promise of the Theatre with their own special connections and memories. Program highlights included a guided tour of the Alex, video greetings from performers and artists, and familiar faces from the community, including honorary committee members and area elected officials, including Congressman Adam Schiff, state Sen. Anthony Portantino, Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, Glendale Mayor Vrej Agajanian and City Council members Ara Najarian, Paula Devine, Ardy Kassakhian and Daniel Brotman. “We’re thrilled with the outpouring of support for Alex95, which reaffirms the community’s love for its iconic cultural and architectural landmark,” said Glendale Arts Managing Director Nina Crowe.