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An Announcement from CEO David Lee

by David Lee on Sep 7, 2022
An Announcement from CEO David Lee

Dear Friends,

I’m writing today to let you know that after three years of leading Imagine MKE, I am departing later this month to pursue a new leadership opportunity in our community as the Chief Philanthropy Officer for the Ascension Wisconsin Foundation. As I reflect on my tenure with Imagine MKE, I am filled with pride and awe for all that we have accomplished together. 

It has been the honor of my life to lead Imagine MKE at this unique time. Milwaukee’s arts and culture landscape has changed dramatically from when we launched in 2019, but with that change comes continued opportunities for this sector to transform our city and its economy. 

No one could have imagined what we would accomplish together during the pandemic. The Milwaukee Artist Relief Fund was created in response to the pandemic in 2020. It was among one of the nation’s first relief funds of its kind and one of Imagine MKE’s most meaningful contributions (the video celebrating the completion of the first round still gives me chills to this day). 

All told, and with your help, we raised $290,000 to distribute to 500 artists. These grants helped our community’s artists and creatives have some help to address their immediate needs, giving them the breathing room to continue working, living, and dreaming in this community. We also secured and distributed $700,000 in pandemic relief through Milwaukee County that otherwise would not have been available to sector nonprofits. In total, through our shared advocacy, we were able to leverage about $9 million in relief funds to Milwaukee arts and culture organizations. 

Measuring, articulating, and leveraging the value of arts and culture has never been more needed. I am confident that Imagine MKE is well positioned to continue this work alongside our community. I encourage you to remain engaged as Imagine MKE evolves. We are only as strong as the community of arts advocates who partner with us in the work. 

I have been inspired by the passion and resilience of Milwaukee residents, who are the beating heart of the city’s arts and culture scene—arts administrators, artists, creatives, leaders, patrons, and entrepreneurs. There is no limit to what the creative sector can accomplish together, and as the arts and creativity strengthen our capacity for empathy and our connection to one another, this work is vitally important for our city and region. 

My next chapter at the Ascension Wisconsin Foundation will give me the opportunity to work to ensure that all of our friends and neighbors have access to quality and compassionate care. While it is bittersweet to leave Imagine, I am also looking forward to supporting the work and the creative sector by making the connections between the impact of arts and creativity on our community’s health.  

I look forward to tracking the impact of the organization in the days ahead as a fan and supporter, and am pleased to share that my work will be transitioning to Lindsay Sheridan (previously our Deputy Director) as Interim CEO. Please be in touch with her at 

Once again, I’m grateful for your engagement and continued support—and for imagining a better future for Milwaukee’s arts and culture.  

With immeasurable gratitude,




David Lee 

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