Giordano Dance Chicago announces departure of Executive Director Michael McStraw
Giordano Dance Chicago (GDC) has announced that Executive Director Michael McStraw will step down from his post at the end of the 60th Anniversary Season. With 38 years of leadership in Chicago’s performing arts community, McStraw has served as GDC’s Executive Director since 2010 and was responsible for all aspects of administrative leadership and oversight, steady, planned organizational growth, and perhaps most importantly, successful navigation through the seismic loss and extended disruption of the pandemic.
In lockstep with GDC Artistic Director Nan Giordano, McStraw developed the internal infrastructure and administrative resources essential to supporting the organization’s ever-increasing reputation for artistic excellence. During his tenure, GDC has tripled its budget size, built unprecedented financial reserves and assets, increased, restructured, and strengthened staff, outsourced accounting, payroll, and IT services, and faced numerous administrative and organizational challenges, large and small. His solid leadership in Chicago’s dance community both strengthened and was made stronger by GDC’s extraordinary and singular place as America’s premier jazz dance company and one of the longest-running concert dance organizations in the world.
“Michael and I have been a solid, steadfast team for 13 years,” commented Nan Giordano. “His departure is met with bittersweet emotions. I shall always treasure our time together, and I have the utmost respect for Michael and his unwavering commitment to GDC from day one. Our partnership has been like no other, with belief and trust always in the foreground. A dear friend, with or without him by my side at the helm.”
During the pandemic, McStraw was relentless in pursuit of all federal, state, and local relief programs, and this doggedness secured two rounds of Paycheck Protection Program grants, a Shuttered Venues Operators Grant, an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, Employer Retention Tax Credits, and an IFF/MacArthur Line of Credit. In partnership with numerous Chicago foundations, project-specific grants were reassigned as general operating support. These sources of income and necessary yet painful reduction of expense kept the organization solvent through COVID-19. Bolstered by generous support from the Board of Directors and individual donors, such actions have ensured that GDC arrived in its 60th Anniversary stronger than ever.
“I am exceptionally proud of and humbled by the accomplishments we made – internally and externally – during these many years with GDC,” he stated. “It is astonishing to me that through the effort of so many – Board, staff, dancers, patrons, supporters, and especially in partnership with my dearest friend Nan Giordano – this modest but mighty organization has and continues to make its indelible mark on the art form of American jazz dance worldwide. Without equivocation, I hold these hard-fought achievements as the pinnacle of a long and extraordinary career. There are not many who have had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to impact the trajectory of dance.”
GDC Board President Kip Helverson concurs. “Giordano Dance Chicago has been fortunate to have Michael at the helm of the organization as Executive Director for 13 years. During Michael’s tenure the organization has seen tremendous growth and success, while weathering unprecedented challenges and obstacles. Michael steered the organization through the global pandemic, while he oversaw the creation of an Adaptive Strategic Plan process to ensure the legacy and success of the company for the next generation. Additionally, his strong relationship development and vision for the organization enabled GDC to secure the largest individual gift in the company’s 60-year history.”
“It has been a privilege for me to work closely and develop a personal relationship with Michael,” adds Helverson. “His passion and commitment to Giordano Dance Chicago instilled confidence in our staff and Board members to challenge ourselves and push the organization to new limits. Michael leaves GDC in solid financial health with a structure and model for ongoing growth. I speak for many when I say we are grateful for the work of Michael McStraw.”
In addition to his work with GDC, McStraw is Executive Director of Jazz Dance World Congress, has twice served three-year terms on the Illinois Arts Council Dance Panel, is past President and Board Member for See Chicago Dance, Chicago’s dance marketing and advocacy organization, has formally mentored young artists/administrators within Pentacle’s Help Desk program, and informally, has readily and freely advised untold numbers of colleagues across the sector. After serving five years as an ex-officio member of the Harris Theater Board, representing that organization’s Resident Companies, he was appointed as a full Trustee in June 2022. In recognition of his many contributions, Michael was named by the Chicago Tribune as the “2022 Chicagoan of the Year in Dance” in December 2022.
To ensure that future, the organization has engaged Creative Evolutions to undertake a national search for their next Executive Director. In accordance with GDC’s values and culture, the search process is inclusive of the perspectives of the entire company, will include financially compensating semi-finalist and finalist candidates for the value they bring, and will include the participation of three industry leaders from other organizations to build support for the Executive Director and GDC.
The primary application window is open from until April 24, 2023, and the organization encourages Chicago’s performing arts community to share the opportunity widely. A detailed statement with details on the support and expectations for the new Executive Director, a summary of current activities of GDC, and application instructions, is available at CreativeEvolutions.com/Giordano.