Sharing the Magic

Jessie Wright works to make the arts accessible to everyone

Portrait of Jessie Wright, manager of major gifts, New York City Ballet
Jessie Wright (MBA ’17)

Jessie Wright (MBA ’17) knows there’s a moment of magic that happens between an audience and performers on a stage. It’s a moment that shows how the arts can bring people together in a unique way and enable them to see the world differently. Wright’s passion for the arts has followed her from childhood hobbies to working in arts nonprofit organizations. She’s motivated to make that experience accessible to as many people as possible, which she does today as manager of major gifts at New York City Ballet.

Wright grew up in the Twin Cities surrounded by the performing and creative arts. Throughout her childhood, her parents prioritized artistic experiences and encouraged her to be involved in theater, orchestra, and other music groups.

“I got to be a part of a lot of live performing groups in music—through school and through my church,” says Wright. “What really hooked me on the arts and propelled me to pursue a career in the arts are those moments of magic when you’re part of a group creating something together.”

Wright’s affinity for the arts motivated her throughout college and her career. After getting a degree in foreign affairs and religious studies at the University of Virginia, she worked in nonprofits and arts organizations. Although she found her work fulfilling, she realized she was missing out on opportunities to think more strategically and believed she could do more with the skills she had.

Jessie Wright speaks with staff from the Madison Public Library
Jessie Wright speaks with staff from the Madison Public Library
Jessie Wright (MBA ’17) got hands-on experience and contact with arts and nonprofit organizations while studying at the Wisconsin School of Business. (Sitting) She learned from staff at the Madison Public Library about their community programming. (Standing) She spoke with David Mallette (left) a recruiter for Management Consultants for the Arts and Ted DeDee, president and CEO of the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison.

The MBA program through the Bolz Center for Arts Administration at the Wisconsin School of Business gave Wright a path to pursue her passion.

“When you search online for academic opportunities for arts administration, the Bolz Center is the first thing that comes up because it’s a unique program that offers an MBA alongside a concentration in the arts,” says Wright. “It turned out to be the perfect fit.”

During her time at WSB, Wright worked as a development project assistant at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, writing grants, securing donations, and researching potential donors and partnerships. The experience taught her how a combination of storytelling and financial analysis contributes to the success of any arts organization.

One of the most powerful agents of community is the arts, whether that’s performance or visual arts or having young people participate in the creative process. The arts build community, and I don’t know a better or more fun way to do it.

Jessie Wright (MBA, ’17),
Manager of major gifts, New York City Ballet

“When you’re raising money, balancing a budget, and figuring out the best plan for sustained and responsible growth, financial analysis is a great tool to get across what your goals are and really understand where you’ve been,” says Wright. “I got so many tools from the MBA program and learned how to analyze numbers to tell a compelling story.”

Wright regularly draws upon these tools in her job as she connects with donors and engages supporters of the ballet. For her, it’s the perfect blend of strategic thinking and relationship-building.

“One of the most powerful agents of community is the arts, whether that’s performance or visual arts or having young people participate in the creative process,” Wright says. “The arts build community, and I don’t know a better or more fun way to do it.”

For Wright, community-building is an important part of her job. That might mean reaching out to new donors and finding a way to connect them to the ballet company, or getting new audience members through the door and finding ways for them to experience all that the ballet has to offer.

“Whether it’s in my job description or not, I see a large part of my role as finding new ways of expanding the circle of who gets to be a part of this beauty and magic that we’re all so fortunate to have,” Wright says.

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