Arkansas Repertory Theatre
City: Little Rock
Category: Nonprofit Executive of the Year
Robert Hupp has led the Arkansas Repertory Theatre for the last 12 years, seeing it through the world premiere of a play about the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School, “It Happened in Little Rock,” to an expansive renovation of the theater’s facilities in downtown Little Rock.
In February 2011, Hupp announced that The Rep had raised enough money in its capital campaign — more than $5.4 million — to qualify for a $600,000 Kresge Foundation challenge grant. The successful drive allowed the theater to improve seating, sightlines and acoustics.
Hupp called that fundraising campaign, in which the Rep also raised more than $1 million annually for operations, one of his greatest accomplishments, coming as it did in the midst of the Great Recession.
Hupp, who has been involved in theater for 28 years, grew up in rural Delaware, in a town of 1,600 residents. But “I always had a passion for the arts when I was young,” he said.
His passion took him to New York City, where he managed a theater for 15 years. During this time, “I experienced what a theater can mean to a city, what the arts can be.” He also saw how a theater can expose people to new experiences.
Hupp points with pride to the Rep’s education work, in which it performs not only in Little Rock but in smaller communities throughout Arkansas. In some of these towns, some members of the audience are experiencing the performing arts for the first time.
His management philosophy emphasizes collaboration, which he calls “the key characteristic of our art form,” and applying collaboration to every facet of the Rep’s business model.