Todd Duesing Takes the Reins of Hennepin Theatre Trust
As the newly appointed CEO of Hennepin Theatre Trust, Todd Duesing knows he has big shoes to fill.
On Monday, the downtown Minneapolis arts organization announced that Duesing will start his new role as president and CEO on July 10. He’ll take over for longtime CEO Mark Nerenhausen, who’s revered both locally and nationally for his leadership in the arts. Nerenhausen “is a legend in our industry,” Duesing said in an interview late last week.
“I’ve had the pleasure of being mentored and working under people that Mark has taught, mentored, and guided along their way,” said Duesing, who’s moving to Minneapolis after years leading the Cincinnati Arts Association in Ohio. “I’m following in a legacy that starts at the top with Mark.”
Hennepin Theatre Trust has made several strides in the last few years, even after pandemic-induced setbacks. Last year, Hennepin Theatre Trust refinanced its debt and paid off $14 million of city-backed bonds. The move gave the trust full title to its theaters, and the freedom to pursue new programming. At the time, Nerenhausen told the Star Tribune that the move would be “good for us, downtown, and the city.”
That certainly puts Duesing on good footing, but, like many arts organizations across the country, Hennepin Theatre Trust is still finding its way back after Covid. In its 2022 fiscal year, the Hennepin Theatre Trust reported over $20 million in ticket sales. That’s an improvement over the prior fiscal year, which coincided with the early months of Covid. But it’s still short of the organization’s ticket sales in the pre-pandemic era. Earlier financial statements show ticket sales of more than $44 million in 2019, for instance.
But Duesing only sees opportunity. In his view, the key to filling seats is to embrace downtown’s future as a destination. He hopes to turn the Hennepin Theatre District, in particular, into the “go-to” destination for art, performances, dining, and more.
Hennepin Theatre Trust oversees performances at the State, Pantages, Orpheum, and Dudley Riggs theaters in downtown.
Duesing also aims to double down on the organization’s partnership with Meet Minneapolis, the city’s tourism bureau. Duesing pointed to his past job in Cincinnati, where he worked with the local visitors bureau on a successful bid for the World Choir Games in 2012. Large-scale events like these can “lift up the whole city,” Duesing said. As he sees it, arts events can be just as high-profile as major sports events.
“The arts are a consistent business,” Duesing said. “In the arts and theater, we’re consistently activating our venues, which are regularly driving people to restaurants and shops.”