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Bringing WOW Hall in the 21st century.

Byline: Serena Markstrom The Register-Guard

During her first week in the top job at the WOW Hall, Cindy Ingram overheard a co-worker's 9-year-old daughter ask when the next children's show was. She asked the girl what she meant.

"You know, something that is good for kids and there is no swearing," she told Ingram.

"It kind of reinforced this idea there needs to be a little bit more for families," said Ingram, a 34-year-old mother of two. "It's not my idea. I think that's what everybody wants."

Now that Ingram is the general manager, she'll be doing a lot of listening to what other people want. Her ability to listen, connect people, motivate and make things happen is what helped her get the job at one of Eugene's oldest cultural institutions, colleagues say.

Ingram made her mark on the local music scene quickly, starting her own promotions business, Cindy Ingram Booking and Promotions.

In the past year she's coordinated the Grrrlz Rock and Kidz Rock series, became the official promoter of the Emerald City Roller Girls and helped manage the Eugene Celebration. But Ingram's professional background with social service organizations made her stand out for the job.

To take on the additional work at the WOW Hall, she is scaling back on small gigs and concentrating on larger events, such as Grrrlz Rock 2007, which kicks off Nov. 2 with a month's worth of shows.

Since starting the job at the end of September, she's been getting to know the WOW Hall staff, which had operated by committee since previous general manager Beth Grafe died of cancer almost a year ago.

When the WOW Hall board initially opened the position, it didn't think any of the candidates was the right fit. Ingram was in that pool, but she responded by becoming one of 945 members of the Community Center for the Performing Arts, the nonprofit that governs the WOW Hall. She attended monthly board meetings and became more familiar with WOW Hall staff.

"I think she is pretty charismatic and very, very bright, and those two qualities alone will go far in the world," board Chairwoman Janice Dunn said. "She is a solutions person.?... We had to go through a process,"

People with whom Ingram has worked describe her as a capable and creative leader who's a good communicator and effective bridge-builder with a knack for seeing the big picture.

This year, Big Green Events hired Ingram to help manage the Eugene Celebration. Back when she still worked in social services, she coordinated the event's Community Causeway.

Bob Jensen, owner of Big Green Events, said he believes Ingram's efforts to include more people in the celebration have begun to pay off.

"I think there was a difference," he said. "She clearly had a positive impact."

Expanding mind-sets

The WOW Hall is preparing to launch a capital campaign for building renovations and an expansion. The board also is talking about starting an endowment.

Last year, the Community Center for the Performing Arts completed the purchase of its back lot from the city, making way for the remodel.

The first major project is to soundproof the hall before tenants move into the affordable housing units under construction next door.

One of Ingram's most important tasks, and a project started by Grafe, will be to rally community support for these efforts.

"I think she is probably one of the best fundraisers I have ever meet," Dunn said. "She is very adept at seeing a need in the community, and I think the community needs the WOW Hall."

Ingram shares Dunn's enthusiasm for bringing in new partnerships. She said she believes the WOW Hall is positioned to be more than a hall for seeing shows.

Besides increasing family programming, Ingram wants more workshops and educational opportunities, and for more community groups to use the space for meetings.

"I think it has the potential of reigniting people's idea of community and the performing arts," Ingram said. "I think people just need to be reinvited to be a part of it."

Leading up to September's Eugene Celebration, she said similar things about that event. With no intention of alienating those who already participate and contribute to the WOW Hall, she said she wants more people to join.

The WOW Hall's longest term employee, Bob Fennessy, who is in charge of publicity and membership, said in an e-mail that members gave $26,332 out of a total operating budget of $436,934 during the fiscal year that ended in May.

Ingram's role will be to help each staff person do their job more efficiently so the organization as a whole can do more.

She will continue booking acts for the Wetlands Brew Pub and Sports Bar until December, and she'll remain as the booking person for Diablo's/Downtown Lounge.

Troy Slavkovsky, owner and general manager Diablo's, said Ingram shares his vision for strengthening the music scene as a whole and for businesses to work together.

"It was pretty amazing to see how quickly her name got around town," Slavkovsky said. "I think she has had an impact on the music scene."

For the WOW Hall, Ingram will work 30 hours a week. She'll make $2,250 a month and not do any booking.

Immediately she'd like to spruce up the place to make it more inviting.

"I don't want to turn it into the Shedd," she said. "That's a wonderful niche that they have, but that's not my goal.?... It doesn't mean it's going to be, `Oh be careful. Use a coaster.'?"

There is no hot water upstairs at the former Woodsmen of the World lodge. The ceiling leaks, and the hall needs an architect who can design improvements while respecting the historic character of building and not charging too much, she said.

"It's a huge project," Ingram said. "I have never embarked on such a huge project. It cannot be done by ourselves.

"The community needs to step up, but it hasn't really been invited to."

Making connections

The WOW Hall can rise to the next level by addressing the needs and desires of the board and staff, and getting the right people in place to help do the job, Ingram said.

"I think I do a pretty good job making friends," she said, "I naturally network.

"That's how I function. That's how I think."

Jensen, of Big Green Events, said Ingram is calm and diplomatic in stressful situations. And she is constantly looking for solutions.

"I`ve been around here for 20 years doing live music and things," she said. "Good leadership always has a role.

"I think it's a perfect fit. I think it's going to be (good) for our community."

Another rare female in the world of booking, Linda Dievendorf, said she's enjoyed watching Ingram's "meteoric rise" in the music scene. The two worked together coordinating the energy stages at the Oregon Country Fair, and Dievendorf has been the talent buyer for the Eugene Celebration.

"She's so creative. She's not just going to make change for change sake," said Dievendorf, who owns L'Dieva Artists and Promotions. "She just jumps into everything 150 percent whatever she does.

"She says that I am her mentor, but she is teaching me things."

Leading and organizing has been a longtime pattern for Ingram, she said, whether as a youth volunteer, putting herself through college or in launching nonprofit women's organizations.

"The work I've had is because I love it and not just because it's a paycheck," she said. "It becomes very personal.

"If you try really hard to do stuff, gosh look at me, it's pretty easy."
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Title Annotation:Ticket; New General Manager Cindy Ingram comes aboard at a crucial time for the 32-year-old arts center
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 19, 2007
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